Maia has been a traveler ever since she was three months old. It was when she first crossed the waters to Mindanao, as we joined her father who had found work in Iligan City. When we lived there not a week went by that Maia did not go on a trip of any sort. Whether it was to Lian Hong’s for the weekly groceries, or Trendline for clothes and sundries, Maia always came with me.
First she was strapped in a baby knapsack to my chest, and when she grew bigger she would sit in my lap on the front seat next to the driver on the mulitcabs that plied the streets of del Carmen to Palao. For longer trips we would call Famous Taxi, which for P100 an hour would pick us up at the gates of our rented apartment and, while we rode in air-conditioned comfort in the back seat, take us anywhere within city limits. Everything in Iligan City was 15 minutes away from wherever you may be.
Maia and Mommy, 2004
More than once a month we would go on the hour-long trip to Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro, either to bring Sam to the airport or to fetch him from. There was always a pillow for Maia in the service vehicle, since she’d be asleep before we hit Sta. Filomena. She liked it when the vehicle was in motion. She hated stopping, unless it was time to get out of the car and go shopping or for an adventure on foot. One time when she was around 6 months old, the multicab we were riding had to stop at an intersection. Maia started bouncing up and down my lap, waving her arms agitatedly. When the driver asked me what the matter was, I told him Maia didn’t like red lights.
When we came back to live in Manila, Maia’s almost-daily jaunts came to an almost-stop. There was no more Famous Taxi to pick us up and bring us back to the house for P100 an hour, and the jeepneys and buses always made you hurry. They would hardly stop when you had to get on, and would start moving even before you had time to look for a seat. No longer the laid-back, polite and gentlemanly place that Iligan is, this Manila, and because of that I ceased taking Maia shopping.
Maia and Mommy, 2008
When my co-worker and kumare Arlene sent me double birthday invitations via text message early yesterday, inviting us to her housewarming and birthday party for her youngest daughter, I thought it was a good time to take Maia out again, on an adventure. Arlene’s house is in San Jose del Monte, Sapang Palay. That’s where she always came from to go to work, and where she always went home at the end of a working day. I figured I could do no less than oblige her invitation.
I dressed Maia up in white t-shirt and blue cargo pants and moccasins, packed up my small Hawk knapsack with extra shirts, water, face towels and my big red and black shawl, and my daughter and I went off to our first trip alone together.
There were luxury aircon buses that passed by the NAIA and into Sucat Road that went all the way to Tungko. Precious Grace was one of them. Since it was a Sunday we had the bus all to ourselves, almost. To make sure we had enough elbow room, I paid for both our seats. As she was when she was still a baby, Maia was asleep even before we hit Malibay. She woke up a little past Cubao and sat up straight–this was nowhere she’d been before, and she stayed awake all the way to Tungko, on the second of three hours’ ride.
We stopped for a bite at a Greenwich outlet across the street, enough time for a ladies room break and a celfone call to Kumareng Arlene for precise directions on what ride to take from Tungko to Sapang Palay. “Tell the driver to let you off at Sampol,” she said. “Sampol?” I asked, not sure if I heard that right.
When Arlene and I spoke again, I repeated everything she said to the jeepney driver. We were to alight in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo that fronted a Goldilocks outlet in Sampol. We did and there Arlene was, waiting in front of her house across the street, right beside the Goldilocks store. We barely had time for a quick meal because a good part of the afternoon had gone, and I had promised this good little girl who was so behaved on the bus a little side trip to SM Fairview as a reward.
Not her usual view
The bus trip back from Sapang Palay was more interesting for Maia. The bus was non-aircon, and Maia would stick her head out when she spotted anything interesting, which was all the time. I had to remind her time and again not to stick any extremity out the window as it was dangerous to do so, and she got used to the idea after a few kilometers.
We didn’t stay very long at SM Fairview. Apparently all SM stores were having a sale and there were far too many people for comfort. But even then Maia discovered where Toy Kingdom was, and we walked back to the bus stop with a pulsating magic wand with rotating lights for P100. We got on a Gasat bus this time, both driver and conductor in a hurry to get moving, and we may have been halfway to commonwealth before we plopped on an empty seat, the bus was moving that fast.
Maia on the Storyland Train, SM Fairview
This time we had M&M’s, crinkles from a bakery in Tungko and distilled water in the shopping bag that had augmented our backpack. With wand in hand and wrapped in my red shawl Maia cast spells on all the billboards we passed along EDSA, and the chocolate kept her awake till we arrived at our bus stop.
Having enjoyed the whole day traveling with my daughter further reinforces my belief in the old saying: “It’s not where you’re going, but how you get there.” Maia and I had a lot of fun. I hope there will be more trips like these to come.