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Due to the COVID pandemic and the community quarantine being imposed, it may take a while for us to travel abroad again and meet our families. It has been a year since I traveled to the United States with my mom, Amelia and older brother, Kuya Vigil, so I can't help but reminisce. Last September 27, 2019, my mom, Kuya Vigil and I, took a direct flight from Manila to New York City to attend the 50th birthday of my younger sister, Evelyn, who is a registered nurse based in New York. It was about fifteen hours until we arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport but my mom hardly slept during the flight. On the other end of the globe, my youngest sister, Sade and her two sons, Joaquin and Ethan, also flew from Heathrow Airport, in London to JFK, New York City. Our flights arrived a few minutes apart from each other from different destinations. Just as I was wondering how we can find each other amidst the crowd, I saw Sade and her two sons going out of the elevator. It was a great reunion at the airport. How many have been separated from their families to seek greener pastures? If you decide to live somewhere else and settle there permanently, it is always heartbreaking whenever you become reunited and eventually had to part ways after a short family vacation. But wherever in the world you may be, you can continue to establish family relationships and follow your dreams if you have these four things. HAPPINESS First is happiness. No better way to be happy and healthy when you share a meal with your family. You exchange stories and have a hearty laugh when you recall memories from your childhood. I can remember one instance during a family gathering with close relatives at Josephine’s restaurant in Cavite sponsored by my aunt who was a physician based in New Jersey, USA. My older brother, Kuya Vigil, who was then seven years old, drank pineapple juice but forgot to put sweetener. He got a teaspoonful of sugar and swallowed it. He then shook his body and told us that he was mixing the sugar with the juice inside his body. OPTIMISM Second is optimism. Upon our arrival in New York on September 28, we went to Manhattan after resting for four to five hours. Our first stop was the Central Park. On our way to the Manhattan Time Square Hotel to check in for an overnight stay, my nephew, Frederick, who was our guide, decided to stop and sat on one of the benches. The rest of us followed suit. I bought fresh lemonade and cotton candy for my other nephew, Ethan. After a few minutes, we renewed our trek and discovered that Kuya Vigil was nowhere to be found. We had no way to contact him because his cell phone was not on roaming. It was like looking for a needle in a hay stack. While I was in panic and went around looking for someone to help us find him, my youngest sister, Sade, had the presence of mind of walking through his possible route. She was positive that she can find him and prayed hard while calling all the angels and the saints to guide her. She finally saw my brother walking towards her and shouted “Kuya,” to get his attention. PEACE Third is peace. When Sade was just three years old, she used to come with my dad during summer in our gift shop in Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao, Quezon City. While my father and our saleslady were busy attending to the customers, Sade, went out of the shop unnoticed. When my father found out that she was gone, he was scared for my sister and thought about what my mom would say if she knew that he lost Sade. A concerned owner of an adjacent store informed my father that she saw my sister walking towards the exit. My father calmed down when he found my sister nonchalantly fanning herself. EMPOWERMENT Lastly, there is empowerment. Kuya Vigil has young onset Parkinson’s disease. He has fine tremors at rest, postural instability, muscular rigidity and slow movement. While at Central Park, we allowed him to walk alone since there was enough space for him to get his bearings while keeping an eye on him so he won’t fall because we wanted to empower him. Sometimes, you need to let go of someone so that he can explore the world on his own and learn from his experience even if it meant he has to get lost in the process. But with God’s grace, he can find his way back home. Wherever in the world you may be, or a member of your family is away from home, it does not matter because home is where the heart is. Love will continue to flow because you choose to have H.O.P.E. (Happiness, Optimism, Peace and Empowerment.)

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