Another version of Balikatan

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By Sandy Gil

Sunday Dunes

Saturday, May 17, 2014

REMEMBER Toni, the youngest among my three children? I have been deeply concerned - nay, downright worried and anxious - about her. One might ask why, when I know I should be proud of her achievements, having recently graduated magna cum laude and passing the Law Aptitude Exam at the University of the Philippines.

Well, conquering the country's prestigious national university, and armed with a potential degree to play around the country's Constitution are apparently not enough for Toni. She has decided to start life after graduation by going global... that is, by dominating the USA with her version of balikatan.



It all started during her junior year in college. Toni was part of a group project in one of her major courses. I recall how frazzled she was, conducting tedious field work in the darkest corners of Metro Manila with four other classmates. After months of stress (with which she had likewise infected the entire household), her group had successfully written a comprehensive study on gay senior citizens in the metropolis.

Then came her senior year. Late last year, Toni and her group mates decided - for fun, as usual - to submit their paper for an international conference to be held this May at Stanford University in San Francisco... not del Monte, but the one in the USA. About two months ago, to their shock and amazement, their paper was accepted by Stanford University to be read at the conference! The acceptance, of course, included an invitation to these five fresh graduates to travel to the USA.


When Toni ever-so-giddily informed me about the invitation, I brushed aside the idea of her traveling to San Francisco with others her age, and without an adult companion. Toni's siblings gently reminded me that, in fact, Toni is already an adult. I was and continue to be in denial. No, she is a child! Besides, Stanford University was not financing the travel. So where would Toni get the funds to embark on such an expensive trip? Ha!


To my surprise (pleasant as well as otherwise), for her graduation gift, my Mom funded Toni's round trip ticket to San Francisco. Toni's father paid for the renewal of her passport. She used my cash gift for her birthday to get her US visa. And having embarked on an intensive fund-raising campaign, she amassed more than enough pocket money (in US dollars) from my siblings and in-laws to last her an entire week in the US. I sometimes wonder if she will ever really need a job that pays.

Nevertheless, everyone - as in, every single relative and friend - has moved on, generously giving Toni advice and encouragement. I am the only one still in denial. My baby is going to the US without an adult companion!


It's not that Toni has not travelled outside the country. She has been to Hong Kong with the entire family. She has also visited Singapore with her best friend and her best friend's mother. In short, there were adults.

So why am I so worried? After all, she will be away for just a little over a week. I must be honest. I think I know why.


When Toni was in Singapore, she had texted me that there was an emergency and that she had to use the supplementary credit card I gave her. I took her word for it, and did not bother to ask what the emergency was. Eventually, when my bill for the credit card arrived, I discovered that the emergency was to shop for clothes!

Worse yet, Toni is such a messy child. She once pushed my panic button when she thought her credit card was stolen, only to find it the following day on a chair hidden under a pile of her dirty laundry.

I recently had a long discussion with Toni, so that we can both agree on a common definition of the word "emergency." Maybe that should assuage my worries, fears and anxieties.


Sigh. Watch out, USA, here comes Toni! Oh dear...

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 18, 2014.


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