We haven’t written for three weeks.
An insane travel schedule — eight countries in two continents, kept me on the road for 26 days. Somewhere in there was one night in my apartment in Bangkok.
Carlo has been immersed in job interviews and teaching demos. Somewhere in there were the last days with a very special person, now overseas for over a year.
There’s a reason why there are no pictures in this post.
This week I was robbed on a train at Schipol airport, Amsterdam. I lost my clothes, camera, iPod and the usual suspects — credit cards, cash, ATM cards, keys.
And my personal laptop. With over 250 Gigabytes of digital pictures. Nearly 100,000 images, mostly of flying in the Philippines, going back to 2007.
My portable hard drive, with all my backups, was in the bag too — I backed up my files during the flight to Amsterdam
I once flew my Mom to Baler. We never made it. A dark, solid ceiling squeezed us down towards the massive Sierra Madre peaks rearing up from below.
We turned back. Above the foothills, near Laur, Nueva Ecija, my Mom and I spotted a bogie, two o’clock high. He glanced back at us several times, eyeing the range, planning his attack.
Sure enough, he pulled into a vertical left bank and swept down in high-G diving turn, long wings buffeting with the aerodynamic load. He was now pointed straight at us.
It was an eagle. Headed directly at our cockpit.
As I flinched from the coming impact, he pulled pitch and flashed over us. I craned my neck to watch him. He zoomed into a perfect chandelle, wings spreading outward, content that he had driven us out of his operating area.
There was no time to take a picture.
Months later, Carlo and I tried a different strategy to Baler — VFR on top. We never made it. Towering cumulus boxed us in at 9,500 feet, the cloud tops racing upwards much faster than the airplane could climb.
We fled, diving through a gap in the towering clouds. Down low, I flew gingerly up the Pantabangan river valley, to peek under the weather. Nothing but dark and forbidding rain, solid IMC. We turned back, finally, for home base.
Above the foothills, near Laur, Nueva Ecija, Carlo took a random, careless picture of the cloud-shrouded mountains behind us.
I looked at that digital photo weeks later. There, perched at our seven o’clock high, was the eagle from a year ago.
You will never see that picture now.
Nor pictures of Carlo flying IFR in a twin-engined Baron, like a bomber pilot from World War II, an insane grin decorating his face.
Nor any of the 1,200 digital photos I took of the Balloon Fiesta. Nor the pictures of Pinatubo’s crater on the clearest day ever.
Nor the pictures of Hermana Mayor. Yes, I finally got to land at enchanting Hermana Mayor. Not that I can prove it anymore.
Birthdays, Christmas, first solo anniversaries, PFSG fly-in.
Two years of flying memories, all gone.
There was also a small book given by Carlo — Missing You. And a Christmas card, dated January 17, 2005. That letter had gone with me around the world for four years. There is an intense personal story behind that dislocated Christmas. A story of a Dad losing his son for a while, a story of forgiveness and trust and forever friendship.
A dear friend told me not to mourn the lost memories, that the people are still here. That may be true. But as Carlo moves further into his own adult life, the loss of the letter, a time machine into a receding past, is twice as heartbreaking.
Posted from Manila, March 13, 2009.
If any of our readers would like to share pictures of the Balloon Fiesta, or any of the flights we may have shared over the past 2 years, I will gladly acknowledge your ownership in Flying in Crosswinds.