This trip didn't begin as the noble cause that everyone seemed to see.
And I am okay being honest about that. But it did end as a more noble journey than anyone could ever possibly know. Which is my reason for writing it out.
It begins with a ticket out of the country. A flimsy paper ticket that I present at the doorway of the plane boarding ramp. A lady scans my ticket, glances at my face, and then ushers her arm to the entrance door. And with that, my crumpled piece of paper is traded for access to a doorway of supernal and mighty destination. A passageway that will leave me changed forever.
I step through, leaving behind all personal identity, weight of past experience, and uninhibited by future expectation. Left only with a strong desire to serve, the need of my own self-preservation, and one tightly strapped backpack.
My best friend is close behind. I hear the ding as his ticket scans through the machine, and he enters the ramp behind me. Mace, which is his last name that I've always used as his first. His real name being Charles.
Mace and I met at a music venue two years back when an old friend from junior high invited me out with her friends for the evening. Mace was welcoming towards me as the newcomer, and I now see his personable demeanor makes everyone comfortable. After that night, we became best friends.
And now, two years later, we never would have guessed we'd be jumping on a plane, headed for the Philippines just after the largest typhoon ever to hit land swept through the country nine days ago.
It all started less than a week ago. We were at our friends' home for a dinner party. All of these friends had served their missions in the Philippines three years back, including Mace. During conversation, Typhoon Haiyan, known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, came up. The hurricane had hit the country five days prior, and the news flashed island after island of complete destruction. Mace began expressing his concern over the calamity, sharing the staggering statistics. Winds, upward of 195 miles per hour, annihilating everything in their path, the count of dead rising every day.
Mace informed us that the particular city of Tacloban was especially destroyed, as the most powerful part of the typhoon ripped apart that surrounding area. Mace then shared his love for the Filipino people, and his care was evident as he spoke of their needs. He then grew concerned as he discussed the delay of larger relief groups in assembling and arriving to places of crisis, as these people are suffering this very moment. Fearful. Injured. Starving. Dying.
He told us about smaller emergency relief efforts, as they can quickly assembly and arrive for immediate help. And he shared all the research he had been endlessly conducting since he first heard word of the storm last week - countless phone calls to friends in the Philippines, ensuring their safety, gaging the seriousness of the situation. And, he said, as the circumstances proved to be more and more horrific, he felt an increasingly strong desire to offer assistance. He determined if sending money to the Filipino victims for necessary food and water, or sending over manpower to physically assist, was more necessary. Manpower. So he made more phone calls to identify the ability of transportation to destroyed islands.
He expressed how badly he wanted to go over and help. Though he was unable to receive funds to support his trip because his parents viewed it as too much of a risk and still to dangerous.
There was a stark moment of silence, as we were all familiar with the stories on the news. Riots, stabbings, mob fights..
"I'll go with you." I interjected.
Shock ricocheted through the room. He looked up at me, from where he sat on the floor in front of my chair. Our eyes locked, as he quickly worked through the offer.
"Really?" he questioned.
"Yeah," I replied, lifting my chin slightly to show I was certain. "The call to help in the Philippines is louder than any call for me around here."
"Alright." he nodded. The others in the room still weren't breathing. "We'll need to begin planning immediately."
"Sure," I replied. "When were you thinking of leaving?" Truthfully, I was thinking it would be at least a couple weeks.
"Thursday," he said.
"Oh. Well okay."
And the decision was made. We were going to help.
That was a Saturday. Mace and I waited each day for his mother's approval to fund his trip. While we waited, Mace continued to research and scope out the transportation around the island. His mom continued to say no, but each day, Mace's appealed stronger. Finally, on Wednesday evening, Mace called me to say that we were likely not going to be able to go, as his mom didn't show any signs of budging, and he did not have the money right now.
"Our window of time is closing," he said, "because if we are to give emergency help, we would need to leave now."
"Well what if I just buy the plane tickets." I said. "Right now. We can figure it out when we get back."
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone.
"Yeah," he said, sounding far more hopeful. "When would you want to leave?"
"The soonest I can schedule our flights."
"Let's do it," he said.
And that's the story of how I ended up buying two plane tickets to the Philippines at 1:30 in the morning. Our flight was to depart 32 hours later, and we'd be arriving in the devastated country less than a week from when we first locked eyes on the idea to go.
And other than Mace's rough plan of what to do upon arrival, we were running off pure adrenaline. My heart was certainly pounding hard to serve. But it was also pounding with the need to get away from my life and inhale a deep relief. Is that behind some heroic lunges? To just gain personal breath somehow? And in that one finds a more courageous journey than ever could have happened otherwise? Either way, I was led with a sheer amount of blind bravery.
So, my journey begins, on the eve of my own transcendence.