Where and Why.
It's still unclear on how old Gemma was when she
died. Mother says she was about thirteen, but her uncle, Pay Willie, says
that Gemma was closer to ten. In either case, had Gemma lived, she
would now be in her mid-thirties and not very much older than I am.
Still, I can only picture a tiny girl in a
threadbare dress, and dirty feet. She would have short, black hair and two,
bottomless black eyes. Basically, if you see an ad for
Feed the Children or C.A.R.E. and the ad features a
small girl, that would be Gemma.
No one really remembers what she looks like, and
there are no pictures of her. I have certainly never seen her, except in
Aside from the memories of her seven siblings, the
only proof of Gemma's existance is the letter that she wrote shortly
before she died of leukemia. Pay Willie says the letter is a
lament...Gemma's lament...and he refuses to share it with the family, especially my
mother who is riddled with guilt.
Gemma ghost doesn't whisper to me as much as it
cries to me. It begs me to prove she was alive; it begs me to read her
letter and to find her grave. It begs me to cross continents and oceans
to see the place where she lived and suffered and hoped.
While I've never really accepted that I am the
product of a nation so foul, I've always wanted to go there, to see my
mother's homeland...the Philippines.
It hasn't been until recently, during my battle with
suicidal ideology, that I've realized how little I know about myself.
And, it was only in the last few months that the direction became
clear: to follow the travels of my childhood, and to follow the travels of
I'm not sure exactly why it means so much to me to
do this. Perhaps, in proving that Gemma was a living, breathing little
girl, I can prove that my existance is meaningful as well.
Specifics. (In no particular order of
Traveling Buddy #1 would be my mother. It's so obvious. She's been
there for 99% of the firsts in my life, so it only makes sense that she
be there when I first lay eyes on my family. This will be an important
event for her, too; Mom hasn't seen her family since before I was
She used to have this dream of saving up so many thousands of dollars, stay in the Philippines with her family for a month, and feed & clothe them the entire time she was there.
I don't think that dream will ever happen, but if I should win the Links.net contest, at least I can scrape up the money for her airfare. This would be an opportunity too good to miss.
Looking at the year ahead, and taking climate into account, I would
probably need to travel late this year, around November or December, but
no later than the beginning of January. I don't mean to sound like a
jerk, but the further off I could put this trip the better ONLY because I
would need to round up the money for a trip this size. I am on a
receptionist's salary. Of course, I would plan to get funds together well
This would need to be fine-tuned, if I were to be the lucky winner.
J But I think the best thing would be to
follow a sort of itinerary such as this: DFW --> Tokyo --> Manila.
My only princess requirement is calling dibs on the aisle seat. J
And, gosh! Tokyo!! I would definitely make the best of these layovers, if they happen.
Hotels/Places to stay.
Again, I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself, but I would make Manila my "home base" and stay at one of the more (sadly) Americanized hotels in the heart of Manila. I have checked out several on the Internet already, but haven't done any hardcore study into it. All I really care about is cleanliness and safety.
I plan to stay in the Philippines for 2-3 weeks, splitting my time in Manila and the town called General Mariano Alvarez, where a majority of my mother's siblings live. If we can make it to my mother's birthplace of Rapu-Rapu, I want to make it happen. It may be too heartbreaking for her as there is an Australian company ravaging the island for gold.
For a decade, my mother and I have put off any thoughts of traveling to the Philippines due to the turmoil that seemed to only get worse after Marcos was booted out of the Islands. While I'm not worried for myself, even with my lack of knowledge in regards to Tagalog (one of the Philippines major languages), I'm worried for my mother's safety.
We would both be seen as "the Americans", and word would travel quickly once we got into our family's village. It's no joke that piratism (??) and kidnapping is practically seen as a business there with Americans
being "prime meat". To give you an idea of their way of thinking
("their" being a broad term), I'll use my family as an example: I am poor,
but I have a car and I live in a nice house, so to them I am rich.
Living in a house with real carpet and furniture is just beyond them. And
to have a car...well, that's just pure luxury.
I don't know how humans ever existed without the Internet. Personally, I feel blessed to have been born and living before the Internet, and now witnessing its toddler stages.
By luck, I came into having an old, but reliable ThinkPad which, along with a slew of other gadgets, would go along with me on the trip. I may get a Visor just to make things easier (plus, they're more economical.) I'll be my own miniature "Real World"--in still life & written words, posted daily to the Internet.
When I finally meet my family, pictures of Pay Willie, undercover shots of seedy bars...it will all go straight from my digital camera in the Pacific to your eyes half a world away.
A Random & Short List of Things to do.
- pack small gifts & bath items for family
- pack manicure sets for aunts
- check to see if we can send a balikbayan box to ourselves at hotel
- visit Pay Willie
- find out where Gemma was born/hospital when ill/buried
- scan Gemma's letter
- check out the former AFB
- check out notorious bar scene
- find out how easy it is to get a mail-order bride
- get pics of Marines & such
- get info on above from Dad/Mom
- find out touristy stuff
- go to Cultural Center
- visit embassy
- take a zillion digital pics (possibly set up a web cam??)
- post to web
- get clothing & plug converters from Magellan
Info on Manila/Philippine Travel
Brenda Marie Gainer "Brie"
11415 Summertree Lane
Dallas, Texas 75243