February 27, 2013

Hot Air Balloons, Rats and Family Trips

We almost didn't make it to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. This trip, which my sisters and I have been raving about for weeks, almost did not push through. Our car refused to start-up, just when we were about to leave the house at three o'clock in the morning to get an early headstart to see the hot air balloons take flight at dawn. But the sound of the engine not starting spelled "O-oh" big time. ABS was flashing on the dashboard. My sister, who was completely clueless as to what it meant, scoured through the car manual, and announced nervously, "All Brake-System Shutdown".  Ziki (yes, we are quite fond of naming inanimate objects), our six year-old, well-maintained car, has never had these kinds of episodes before. So it was quite baffling to all of us what could have possibly caused this very unfortunate event, and of all times, it had to be on the day of our Hot Air Balloon Fiesta trip.

The culprit - RATS. Yes, it was something I thought was as preposterous as "My dog ate my homework" story. But unbelievable as it was, this happened for real, much to our disappointment. After much investigation, my dad found out that all the cables of the break system were chewed clean.

It took us a while to get over the is-this-seriously-happening moment, to assess our real situation. So, it's 3 a.m. and we had no way of getting to Clark without our car. Nope, we're not giving up our trip that easily. My dad, who is thankfully an electrical engineer, started to tinker with the car cables. I and my sisters googled for a rent-a-car website, hoping that we could find one who would be willing to rent out a car to us on the last minute. (Yes, we were desperate, and no we were not thinking straight. But surprisingly, there were 24-hour rent-a-car providers that were more than willing to entertain our calls, but sadly, and quite understandably, are not willing to rent out their car to a shady lady who would call in the wee hours of the night and demand that she gets the car in the soonest possible time. And commuting was definitely not an option, especially when we're travelling with mom.)  Borrowing a car from a friend was our last resort, but it would have to wait later in the morning.

So we surrendered to the fact that we would have to miss seeing the balloons take flight, but would still push through with the trip, half-consoling ourselves that there would still be the fireworks and the grand lighting of the balloons in the evening. It was better than nothing.

We made the trip. And we have sunburns to prove it. The Hot Air Balloon Fiesta wasn't as glorious as I imagined it would be. It was a classic reality falling short of expectations. Maybe because we missed the highlight of the event. That means I just have to come back next year, and hopefully, rats won't sabotage that trip. It'll take a true aficionado to tolerate hundreds (maybe thousands) of people scattered on open grounds under the scorching heat of the sun, taking refuge in the rows of tents from food stalls, sharing a few portable toilets, leaving traces of tumbleweeding trash all over the place.

But you just have to appreciate the intense artistry of the kite exhibitionists as they effortlessly made the kites dance to the rhythm of the wind. Be captivated by the wonder and the beauty of the ultralight aircrafts parading through the runway, one after the other, and finally taking flight. Get entertained  by the remote-controlled rockets wriggling through the sky accompanied by a ridiculously emo song you'll end up singing along, worse, getting stuck in your head for hours. And of course, just between that brief moment of day turning to night, when the oppressive heat of the day is all of a sudden overtaken by the cold breeze of the coming night, the baskets towed on trucks enter like fire-breathing dragons with their burners, demanding everyone's attention, and effectively drawing in the crowds. In a few more agonizing moments of waiting, the hot air balloons would arise slowly, as if a giant waking from a deep slumber, and grandiosely cover the sunset sky. The night sky is suddenly magical with the glow of the hot air balloons. And just like that, you don't mind having a sunburn or a borderline heatstroke. You waited for this moment. And it proved to be worth your time, inconveniences and all.

Or perhaps, I'm just being sentimental. Because, really, the magic is coming from somewhere else, some place deep. Family trips can be dreadful or magical in a sense. Depending on how you see it. It either manages to squeeze out the worst in your family or it has a way of making you appreciate what you normally wouldn't with your parents and siblings. Thankfully, this particular family trip turned out to be magical and allowed me to see each of us in a totally different light.

This was the day I saw Daddy as a gallant hero, triumphing over the evil rats by fixing the car. And then he transformed into this wide-eyed big boy upon setting foot into the vast wasteland that was to be his playground. He excitedly flew a huge kite, unmindful of the afternoon heat. I could have sworn he was beaming with sheer joy in his face as he was showing off how high his kite was up in the air. He tugged and held on to the kite string for as long as he could, battling the strong winds to keep his kite afloat. Until it finally dove down on top of a tent roof. For a moment he was sad that he could not recover his kite anymore. But he walked away with a satisfied smile.  

Mommy was unusually at her best behavior that day. On her normal days, she would complain about everything - the heat, the crowded places, her dizziness, her eternally hungry self. But not this day.  Thankfully, we were able to find our sweet little corner at Yellow Cab's stall.  It was her haven from the heat for the rest of the day. She stayed there, not lifting a foot to even take a glimpse of the different sorts of exhibitions happening at a distance. She literally camped at our table for hours. Nope, she didn't even go to the portalet. I guess my mom has a big bladder or she has this special ability to hold it all in. She sat there like a queen, or as they say, like a boss, and every now and then bid us to buy her royal highness a drink or snack. She kept herself entertained by talking to people. I love that about mom. She comes across as this unapproachable person especially when she's not smiling. But it's amazing how she could strike up and engage a conversation with anyone -- across  any age, economic status, race, culture. (I suspect her brightly colored hair has to do something about it!) And then she'll tell us all about her conversations with these strangers.  And always, she would talk about us, her three daughters. Sometimes, I wish I could eavesdrop into these conversations and know what she's telling on us. For now, I am content to know that we make her proud.  

In between everything that was happening, you'll be fascinated to see trigger-happy photographers, some professionals laced with their fancy cameras, majority amateurs posing as pros donning their impressive DSLRs, one of them, my older sister Shy. Only, she's using a point-and-shoot camera. Of the three of us, she's the artist. And I envy that about her. I was watching her the whole time, walking by herself, from corner to corner, crowd to crowd, with her camera on hand. And  she was just shooting away, on stealth mode, pausing to take a look at her shot and smiling a fulfilled smile to see her masterpiece. And I could almost sense her excitement to share her photos in her photoblog, to let people see the world through her eyes.  

Of course, there's my younger sister Charm. We could always count on her sarcastic comments to say in the open what we could dare not say. She takes after mom, the unapproachable aura, only hers is multiplied to the nth power. But she was always the caring daughter. I guess it comes with the territory of being the youngest child. By default. Because I and Ate Shy refuse to do it. And Charm would take her accustomed place by Mommy's side, assisting her in basically everything mom needs. Sometimes, even dad's. She was Daddy's sidekick when he was fixing the car. She assisted to hold the flashlight for him, for what seemed like eternity for someone who barely had some sleep. Sometimes still, even ours. She always seemed to be ready to wait for our instruction what to do next, or what to hold for us, our designated sidekick.

And I am always the muser. If I wasn't taking charge, leading our pack where to go, or deciding what to do next, I am busy with my thoughts, documenting every moment in my mind. Looking beyond the surface. Musing. Etching a memory. And this day was one of those days when thoughts needed to be turned into words. Lest it passed by like another ordinary day, forgotten in oblivion. Thus, this blog entry.

At the end of the day, this family trip was not as we planned. Thankfully. God intervened. He intended that, more than seeing hot air balloons (and "everything that flies") defy gravity, we see how our family can defy all odds, if only we rest in Him.

"Sometimes God has to interrupt our plans to make way for something better, to make way for Him." (David Bonifacio) So I would gladly take another family trip, rats and all, if only to bask in God's presence.



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