A visit from the lady in a black abaya
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have just been cleared to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. This is our final descent. Please make sure one last time your seat belt is securely fastened. The flight attendants are currently passing around the cabin to make a final compliance check and pick up any remaining cups and glasses. Thank you.” the captain said on the teleprompter. I sighed in relief as I see the view outside from the plane I was sitting from. It has been 3 years since I went home. Finally, I am home. Well, almost. I sat nervously as I rub my hands gently on the seat. “I am almost home,” I tearfully whispered to myself. As clouds begin to disappear I reminisced a memory about exactly a year ago.
It was a hot Friday afternoon. The clock says 12:05 noon. After the guards checked for our attendance, the ladies started to form a line for lunch. It was crowded and the girls are all eager to fall in line first. Still no word from the outside. I was feeling calm this morning but still worried about the status of my case. I joined the line unenthusiastically not planning to eat anything but just to buy a drink to last the whole day. I walked across the cells sweeping my hands into the rustic jail bars into the raucous cafeteria and surveyed the crowd towards me. All different facades, each with their own burden and hopelessness.
Friday is an official weekend here, I realized that this will be another empty day for me. Nothing mattered any more than just for me to know the status of my father’s health. I walked back to the quarters slowly but noticed the guards are sitting on the door outside. Suddenly, I heard them call a familiar name, “Rahada!, one guard shouted, I wasn’t paying attention but glanced at the guard outside, “Rahada!!, she repeated. I then realized it was me she’s calling. I faced her, there was a lady beside her, petite, wearing a black abaya, standing under the scorching sun, I looked again and she was somehow familiar, I paused and noticed her eyes in melancholy, it’s as if she has a heavy weight on her shoulders, a mourning eyes. Right there and then, I see right through her. I walked towards her and realized she was my employer. I remembered her father passed away a few days earlier. “Come”, she signaled to me gently. I walked towards her with tears in my eyes, as if I’ve seen my mother. She hugged me tight, it was soothing, but I can feel her despair. I can imagine her devastation since we have been caught and her father’s passing all in one. I felt her sorrow and her pain.
She held my hand tight and said to me, ‘Please don’t lose hope, we are doing our best to get you out. I just wanted to say that all your papers are finished and you can get out tomorrow.” Tears fell down my eyes with relief but with empathy for what she is going through. I felt that it was not easy for her but still she did not forget about me. It was as if there was a sudden ray of hope for me.
I have only been with her for 6 months, and never did I imagined to have a bond with her. I felt that she has been a family away from home. I realized she could’ve neglected me and let me rot in jail and be deported like all other detainees there. But she did not. She has been good to me ever since and despite all the trauma that I’ve been through the past few days, it doesn’t matter anymore. It was all gone. It was as if I felt safe and I have felt she will not let anything happen to me.
I was brought back to reality by the voice of the captain saying, “On behalf of Philippine Airlines and the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you on board again in the near future. Have a nice day!” The crowd cheered happily as we the plane landed to the Tarmac. The seatbelt sign was turned off. I beamed hopefully, “I am finally home.”