A grandma’s globetrotting tales

By: Katy Viacrucis - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 10,2023 - 08:12 AM

I turned 60 a decade and a year ago, and started kicking my heels to the tune of Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood.” I’ve also been enjoying the benefits of a senior citizen, like the 20-percent discounts on medicines, fare, food, and entertainment. Being footloose, I’ve gone places from southern Luzon cities, to towns in the Visayas, and several cities in Mindanao.With my youngest daughter’s perks as an international airline employee, I’ve had the privilege of traveling on weekdays during off-season to avoid being bumped off in a foreign country. My first time to travel abroad was my 50th birthday gift to myself. I traveled to Bangkok with my sister who was unimpressed with our destination and disappointed that the tour guide assigned us was a harelip who could hardly speak English! Katrina wore a long face when I insisted we tour Hong Kong in 2003, relying only on the map I had picked up at the airport’s arrival area. She lightened up, however, when we reached Victoria Peak and other tourist sites on our own.

In 2005, an overzealous immigration officer at Changi airport in Singapore almost ruined my one-week vacation with my family, with the man suspiciously looking at me from head to foot, and asking why I stayed for only three days in that city-state, proceeded to Kuala Lumpur for two days, then returned to Singapore. Weird!In Australia, I realized that the national capital was Canberra, not Sydney, and that I could hardly understand Aussie English. But I had a good time walking barefoot on New Year’s Eve in 2005, while watching the famous fireworks in Sydney’s popular harbor bridge.My first time to set foot in the United States was in 2007, where the kind crew, my daughter’s Finnish boyfriend—now her husband of nine years—upgraded me to first class two hours before touchdown. The black immigration lady at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport asked me only one question, “How long do you intend to stay?” I replied, grinning, “Six weeks, maximum!”

On a bullet train to Fort Washington, Maryland, my seatmate was a Filipina octogenarian with whom I exchanged stories throughout the four-and-a-half-hour ride. She proudly told me she’s been in the US for three decades with her married son. When I was about to get off at Union Station in Washington, my poor kababayan realized that she was supposed to get off one stop ahead of me. She frantically called the train conductor but could hardly speak straight English. I had to escort her to the next train back. It was a case of a transient ably assisting a long-time immigrant! At Minneapolis-St.Paul airport for my flight to Chicago, my carry-on bag was suddenly frisked by three burly men. It turned out I had absentmindedly transferred from my checked bag to my carry-on the three large bottles of lotion that someone had asked me to bring home for her friends! I felt like Nora Aunor being interrogated in the US. It was traumatic. Enough of liquid padala!

In 2009, a cousin in Germany toured me in Heidelberg, Cologne, Bonn, Frankfurt, Worms, and other big cities, where I wanted a snapshot of us in each one. One day, I asked a young passerby to take our picture and spoke intentionally in Bisaya, “Pwede pahulagway mi nimo?” while demonstrating what I wanted him to do. He readily obliged and took a lot of pictures. “See? The German boy understands Bisaya!” I told my amused cousin.

I did the same thing when we toured Basel, Switzerland, a few days later. In Paris, we met fellow Filipinas who gamely took our pictures with the Eiffel Tower as background. Not a single souvenir shot though at the Louvre, the largest museum in the world, because my new digital camera’s battery had discharged! No thanks to time zone miscalculations, nobody picked me up at Toronto airport the first time I set foot in Canada in 2009. My cousin instructed me to take a limousine and show the driver her address. But I had forgotten to drop by the foreign exchange counter so an argument ensued with the discourteous driver when I paid him in US dollars. Bienvenue!

In 2010, a Hamburg-based cousin drove me and another cousin to Copenhagen, Denmark. When he was about to park his car, he asked me to remember the street name so we wouldn’t have a hard time locating the car when we return. Easy, I told myself. When we returned at dusk, we could hardly find the car. It turned out that the name I had kept in mind was not a street name but a street sign: Einbahnstrasse, which means “one way street!” Fully covered Arab women gave me sharp side glances when I wore puruntong (loose cropped pants) while shopping at the Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall in 2010. I was properly dressed the next day when I went up Burj Dubai, now called Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure.

A three-day side trip to Taipei and Taichung meanwhile gave me another chance to go up Taipei 101, Taiwan’s tallest structure.

Lucky me! I’ve also experienced being “Sleepless in Seattle,” as I spent overnight at Atlanta’s huge airport for my connecting flight to Monroe, Louisiana, spent another overnight at Hong Kong’s airport and twice in Incheon, Korea! No big deal! I carry books as my travel companions.

I was once seated at the plane’s emergency “jump” seat from Frankfurt, Germany, to Chicago, Illinois, a long-haul flight crossing the Atlantic Ocean. I was undisturbed except at meal time. I slept tight on Cloud 9! No problem. It’s part of the adventure!


Katy Viacrucis, 71, believes that there are more days behind than days ahead so the day to enjoy life is today, the moment is now.

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