By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
MY first travel outside the country was with Cynthia Cabie, a friend of mine from Laoag City, who thought that we could buy things in Hongkong and sell them in the Philippines. I did not share that goal, I was curious about the place, about its culture and people. Since I was going to buy only essential things, I only had a carry-on luggage, with only the basic necessities and some clothes. I was travelling very light, carrying less weight than the limit allowed in the cabin.
We spent a week in Hong Kong, mostly on side streets, where a lot of Asian buyers congregate for bargains. Each day, Cynthia would neatly pack all the goods she bought in a very large suitcase, while I packed gifts for my siblings and some books about Hong Kong and China.
We both reached our personal goals. In addition to the big luggage she brought, she bought an extra luggage to fit everything she fancied selling, including toys for Christmas. I bought a luggage for my gifts and the books. When her baggage was weighed, the authorities declared that she had to pay for the extra weight, which she was unwilling to pay. She requested me instead to put them in my luggage, whose weight I carried in the airport as we moved around, waiting for our flight. I should have bought a bag with rollers. That would have enabled me to travel lighter.
I would forever cherish those moments with her, eating street food, haggling with the sellers, talking to taxi drivers in Mercedes Benzes (that smelled of Chinese restaurants), and at night, shared personal experiences. We shared our joys and our burdens. By sharing, even the problems seemed to weigh much less.
Moments with friends are precious. One of the many realizations I had during the lockdown is the fact that death is very real to anyone. I know that we all die, but COVID-19 had a way of ramming this reality down the throat. All my earthly possessions will not go with me to the next life. And I mean all: the paintings, the antiques, handwritten letters, books, kitchenware, the trees I planted. Even my body will remain on this earth. I somehow evolved a process of detachment from all of them, in order to travel light, to the next life. Or to live light in this life. Or create light. Become the light, to shine, to be happy, to illumine new paths.
The present world is fast receding, there is another world to be embraced, no matter how uncertain. We must let go with love and respect to present, and step forward with caution, but with an unwavering resolve to embrace a new world where very little is known. Arundhati Roy describes it succinctly:
“It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
you’ve got to carry
that weight no longer
where you go,
it won’t follow you.
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