The early morning air was thick with fog, and a hint of restlessness. The Guam International Airport was crowded with travelers wishing their loved ones a “farewell and safe journey”. I made my way through the sea of restless people as my dad and grandmother followed close behind me. Soon after, I found myself sitting on a cramped airplane, on my way to my homeland. As the final flight announcements ended, I looked out the foggy window and watched as the buildings and car below me began to look like tiny toys. I had officially left home, and there my journey began.
The island of Guam is eight miles wide and thirty two miles long, with a population of approximately 160,000 people. Everytime I watch the cotton candy skies set at night, walk on the white sandy beaches, or spend Wednesday nights at the Chamorro Village markets I am so grateful it has been my home for my sixteen years of life. However, I would have never been able to do so if it was not for the sacrifices made by my grandfather, Jose Ignacio De Egurrola III. In July of 1976, my grandparents left the Philippines with their children to live on Guam, in order to provide for them better opportunities. One of his biggest regrets was leaving behind his closest cousin and friend, Diego. Since then, they have not been back to their mother country, due to his phobia of flying after that traumatic event. As a result, he asked my grandmother, my dad, and me to reconnect with his family on his behalf.
Ten long hours of layovers and flying, and finally made it to the Cebu International Airport. As we walked out of the once again crowded airport, the warmth of the Philippine sun descended upon us like it never has before. My fair Chamorro skin stood apart from the sun-kissed complexion of my native people. The three of us were greeted by a somewhat familiar face, and we walked towards her with open arms. “Mabuhay! Napakatagal na!”, she exclaimed as she embraced my grandmother. The words that followed were once again unfamiliar to me, as she continued speaking our native tongue. “Ah, I’m sorry! I meant to say… Hello! It has been so long”, I smiled and awkwardly embraced her as well. The middle aged lady whose face resembled my grandfather’s almost exactly, was his cousin Helen De Egurrola.
We drove from the airport to her humble home, where we would finally reunite with our once separated family. I will never forget the tall and shiny corporate buildings, surrounded by tin shacks full of toddlers running around in their drooping diapers. Through underpasses lined with homeless families huddled together and toward a small hotel on the corner of a street, my “tita Helen” parked her car and helped unload our bags.
Ring, ring, ring. “Hello? Yes. They’re here? Salamat po.” My father hung up the phone and gestured my grandmother and I to follow him down to the lobby. Anxiety traveled through my bones, every step towards the lobby was one step toward meeting my family. Two more steps, and there they were. A man with a youthful smile, and his wife clinging to his side. It was him, Diego, my grandfather’s closet friend. Almost immediately I felt at home,with the people and the place I came from.
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