At the airport before the New Year

Terminal 3. December 30, 2011. 9:20 a.m.

So I just got bumped off my 9:30 a.m. flight to the one at noon, voluntarily. The catch? I get a free round trip ticket to anywhere in the country within the next six months.

“We are calling the last Naga-bound guests to please board the aircraft now through Gate 133.”

Someone called out my name. A Del Socorro. Oh, my second name is someone else’s family name. People always suspect it to be a surname. In my grade school, my classmates called me by my last name, until I told them I wouldn’t respond unless they learned to call me by name. They were as startled as I was; they had always thought ‘Socorro’ to be my family name.

Another ‘last call’ for my original flight. I should have been boarding. No regrets. A free flight to anywhere? A travel buff like me didn’t have second thoughts, only a twinge of regret at going home late.

How will I spend the next two hours and 15 minutes? I can think of ideal stuff that I want to do with it: Read Ken Robinson’s “The Element”, which I left at home in Naga, or surf the Internet or type this entry into my laptop, which I left behind in my apartment. I obviously came unprepared to wait. All I have in my dependable hiking bag are my dirty clothes that I plan to wash at home and my cough and allergy medicines.

Where to spend my free flight?

“Once again, calling Cebu Pacific passengers bound for Tagbilaran…”

Hmmm…Bohol? My second favorite Philippine island. I haven’t checked out Balicasag, Pamilacan, the dolphins, and the tarsiers in Corella’s conservation site, where they should be viewed.

“Passengers bound for Cauayan, please board now through Gate 131.”

Isabela? Then, take a trip to Santiago and board a bus to Mayoyao to see the World Heritage rice terraces.

Mountains. I have been dreaming of them since last year. I miss all that green, all that walking, and even the gasping for air. I should do that again this year. Definitely. It’s been too long.

“Requesting all Singapore-bound passengers, please board the aircraft through Gate 117.”

Singapore? Nah. Domestic flights only.

I am getting sleepy. Blame it on the all-nighter “Flash Forward” marathon. I wonder what I’d do if I could see my future six months from now.

May 30, 10:01 a.m., a Wednesday. Would I be in the office? Somewhere traveling? At home on leave? Would I be feeling content, lazy, confident, afraid? Looking forward to the CDO trip? Would Cagayan De Oro have fully recovered from Typhoon Sendong by then?

I wouldn’t really want to see anyone’s future, much less my own. In the TV series, people either became hopeful or terrified about their lives, and everything they did became self-fulfilling. Did their futures happen because they were meant to, or because knowing led them to make decisions that shaped their tomorrow?

As for me, I would rather have that Q.E.D. ring on if a two-minute and 17-second global blackout strikes.

“Legazpi. Boarding!”

Definitely going to Legazpi this year to go see the whale sharks in Donsol again. But not using my free flight on this one. It’s going to be by bus on a weekend.

One hour and 27 minutes to my flight. The elevator, about 15 feet in front of me, opens and an old couple in wheelchairs come out. They must be over 70 years old. The man is wearing a felt hat and the woman has her hair tied up in a bun on her head. Now that’s a future that no one can avoid–getting old–unless one dies young, of course. I wouldn’t mind having in mine what this couple have–the strength to still travel by air, albeit having to be wheeled in, and being together.

One hour to my flight. I just finished the last 30-second radio script. Time to check out the stalls in the airport.

Twenty-seven minutes to my flight. I come back to the departure area, closer to my flight gate this time.

Ate two pyramids from the huge Toblerone chocolate my sister gave me last night. Bought a P30, 350 mL bottled water. Expensive, but need it to take the painkiller medicine before the flight. It’s a precaution against the searing sinus pain I’ve had in about three prior flights.

The Naga gate is just packed. Not a seat in sight. When did it happen that people suddenly want to go to my hometown? No wonder the city is booming. Lots of new businesses and a sprawling central bank branch. Naga has become important to other people. I’m happy for the city, of course. But I’m just there to be home.

“Flight 5J-523 bound for Naga is experiencing delays due to air traffic congestion. Please stand by for further announcements.”

Twenty minutes later, I board the plane, which would sit 45 minutes in the tarmac before taking off.

The price I pay for a free flight.

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