FOR days I’ve been trying to look for the English translation of our Cebuano words yangak or danghag. The best that I can come up with is unwarranted carelessness.

I wanted to use the words “utter and uncalled for stupidity,” but I wanted to be more kind to myself. Actually our Cebuano terms are more explicit. My friend, Ching Villamor, of Blue Horizons, did everything humanly possible to make my return trip home from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York pleasant.

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She itemized my itinerary step by step and even gave me the local time per airport, since I was supposed to pass by Seoul again on the way home. She e-mailed the same list to my two daughters. On my way out, I also did my part while I was in Seoul. I memorized the locations of the transfer desks at Inchoen Airport, the check-in counter and the request for wheel chair counter. Oh! I thought I had everything under control! Fine! But I supposed I needed to be taught a lesson in humility. No one is really in control of circumstances.

Tucking my return trip ticket in my luggage, I let it lie until two days before departure time for home. When I pulled it out on July 2, I read the departure time to be “0.30.” Ah, I said midnight! That was a Friday. So we all said, “Oh my! We have to go early to JFK tomorrow (Saturday).” We even attended a party on Friday night.

Armed with my two pieces of luggage, we entered Terminal 4 of JFK airport only to discover that on their TV screen 0.30 was July 4! That was when we realized that I was left behind. It was only 8 p.m. then.

Asiana Airlines was fully booked and I was placed on stand-by. We all had to wait until 11:40 p.m., only to find out that I had been bumped off. It was then that I was told that the only solution was for me to be on stand-by every night because Asiana Airlines was fully booked up to July 15. There were around 10 to 15 of us who had been bumped off! The chance of getting a seat was rather slim, and July 16 was too far away. Another problem was the fact that my daughter and her husband were scheduled to leave for the Bahamas early July 4 to enjoy their honeymoon.

We spent the next two hours looking for an airline that would carry me back home. We finally found a Cathay Pacific flight with a connecting flight to Hong Kong. However, since it was immediate booking, the fare one-way back to the Philippines via Hong Kong was $1,502.15. I was glad to have that amount plus a little over $300 left in my pocket. Again I thought the problem was solved. The second lesson in humility came.

Money alone is not enough to solve things. My daughter’s flight was 8 a.m. at another terminal while my flight was at 10 a.m. at Terminal 7 of JFK. Somehow this, too, got solved. Arriving at the counter three hours before check-in time, I was told that I could not get two boarding passes.

The boarding pass for Hong Kong was given to me but I had to pick up the boarding pass for Cebu at the Hong Kong check-in counter, because I would only get my seat number there, depending on who left the plane.

I knew from my ticket that my arrival at Hong Kong was 2:10 p.m. and departure for Cebu was 4:20 p.m. Of course I requested for a wheelchair knowing that my bum knee would not bring me in time to the boarding gate at Hong Kong. Their gates there are so far away. Imagine me queuing up, looking at the clock with its hands ticking the minutes away. By 3:15 p.m., I was still 10 people away from my boarding pass for Cebu. My prayers must have moved the heart of Mother Mary because at 3:30 p.m., with pass in hand, I arrived (on my wheelchair, of course) at Gate 23 at the Hong Kong airport just as the announcement blared: “Boarding time now for Cathay Pacific flight 921 for Cebu.”

Oh, the joy I felt then! Good friends Dodong Gullas and Jay Aldeguer were surprised to see me in a wheelchair, but they both smiled with understanding (thank God, not amusement) at really my katangahan. I honestly want to call a spade a spade. We learn our lessons the hard way. Never again will I mistake the time 0.30 for anything else. Also, the reality of life is really such that happiness is really balanced with hardships. We cannot be sure of anything no matter how hard we plan or organize.

One thing, however, I am sure is that God in His generosity and love takes care of even people prone to “unwarranted carelessness!”