My mother loved to travel. Her first big trip was probably the most important. Filomena came to the US based on a dream of a better life. It sounds cliche, but there was no internet to google "life in the US" or any websites to tell her what to expect. All her images of what her life would be like were based on rumors and speculation. But she had worked hard to earn her degree in Chemical Engineering from The National University of the Philippines, so she was never going to be satisfied teaching Spanish to young school kids for the rest of her life.
Her first attempt was an utter failure. She had worked hard to earn enough money to fly to the US. She gave it to a person who was supposed to set her up with the proper papers and flights, but he took off with the money. However, the amazing generosity of Osiem came to the rescue as people in her small barangay contributed to replace her losses and try again.
Fely arrived in New York City in the legendary summer of 1969. The tumultuous times of the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam protests were just background noise for a young immigrant exploring her new world. She found a couple of jobs, got herself naturalized and decided to continue her journey with her college sweetheart and my father, Jose, a few years later. A couple more, and I was along for the ride.
Early family trips were modest affairs. A road trip to see friends in Chicago. Sightseeing by station wagon up through New England. Visiting my dad's family in California. A barnstorming tour of caverns and caves through the South. Plus the requisite trips down I-95 to Disney World.
She loved the company of her entire family. She didn't stop with bringing my father with her back from the Philippines to the States. Next was her mother, Dolores. Then her brothers and sisters Aurora, Salvador, Laura, Manuel, George, Ramon, and Imelda. Many of them would start their American journeys with us, in our house, before moving on with their own careers and families. It didn't stop with them. There is a small cadre of young Filipino women in the US who got there start from the guest room of my parents' home.
She often took them and other friends on day trips back up to NYC and also DC. But as Fely was able to make a good living with a few different manufacturing companies, and then finally with the New York City Police Department Crime Lab, the trips got more ambitious. A bus tour through Europe. Then she discovered cruise ships. She took an early retirement after 22 years because "you never know what's going to happen."
No cosmopolitan center was beyond her interest: Istanbul, Hong Kong, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Cairo, Liverpool, Edinberg, Monaco, Monte Carlo, Venice, London, Brussels, Vienna, Dublin, Salzburg, Paris, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lampur, Phuket.
And countries that she had never heard of or didn't even exist when she was born as WWII ended like Croatia, Estonia, Mexcio, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Malta, Aruba, and Oman.
She saw The French Riviera. Italy from Venice to Sicily. The Rhineland. The commune of Taormina, and the islands of Hawaii. The Acropolis in Athens. The hard to reach monasteries of Monstserrat. Icebergs across Alaska, and The Great Pyramid of Giza.
Her favorite place was St. Petersberg. She loved the history and the architecture. The weather appealed to her as well. She didn't like the heat. She still loved the home she and dad built for their retirement in the Philippines, but she was smart to design it with copious amounts of A/C.
After she had surgery to remove her cancer last summer she was eager to go on another trip and visited Australia from Sydney to Melbourne.
Her next trip was going to be out of Barcelona again. She was a fan of the enormous ship for that cruise as she was of the itinerary which would take us around the Iberian Peninsula. She organized it around my father's and my own birthdays which are both in May, and was going to get nearly two dozen of her closest friends and family to join us.
She had pretty high hopes for going on that cruise even after she was re-diagnosed in January. She cancelled, but re-booked before chemo started in February. It only took a couple of treatments before she cancelled permanently.
She never stopped thinking of her family. One of her last conversations lamented why the visa application submitted to bring her last sister from the Philippines has taken so long to process. It was submitted in 1991. Virginia is still there.
She passed away this past Monday, surrounded by her brothers and sisters and their husbands and wives, while Dad and I both held her hands as she went on her journey to join her father, Francisco, her mother, Dolores, and her eternally youthful brother Loreto.
She will be taking one more trip back to her original home to be buried in Mangaldan. I wish this wasn't our last trip together.