Travel is more accessible to people these days. Flying domestic has become more common, more affordable. But not everyone can claim that they have flown– standing up. Or, yeah, sitting down…without a seatbelt… on top of the cargo boxes.
The first time I experienced a Hercules C130 ride (military cargo plane surplus from the US military) was right after college on our way to Zamboanga where my father was assigned in the Naval Forces South, like some hmmmhmmm years ago.
My mom, my brother, sister and I were at the Villamor Air Base at the wee hours of the morning. I guess it was on a ‘first come first serve’ basis then. Seeing that huge squatty plane painted in green and brown like a soldier’s combat uniform, made me feel like, dude, are we going to war?
Some soldier who had the flight manifest was distributing stubs and when my mom asked what the seat numbers were, he snickered: what seats?
We finally boarded after waiting for hours, being asked to line up along with hundreds of people like war refugees. The cargo and baggage were dumped in the middle and people were asked to squeeze in and stay at the sides. There were some collapsible seats available at the sides but mostly it was up to you to find a cozy corner for the whole duration of the flight which was about two hours. And if you weren’t innovative enough to use your luggage and what-have-you’s for your makeshift seat, well, sorry you, you have to remain standing.
Fortune favored the tiny so I got to sit. On top of the cargo. Blending in along with the rest of the cargo. The standing people, including my family were asked to squeeze in some more, like being in the MRT during the rush hour. The whirring and buzzing and other noise that the plane made and the thick fog from the air conditioning made me think of being gassed like a Jew during the Second World War while on the way to a concentration camp. It was one of those times that saying ‘you get what you pay for’ was fitting. The C130 was for cheapskates like us who were unwilling to cash out for some personal space.
On our trip home, there wasn’t much cargo to sit on but there were even more people, so I was standing… with some guy’s armpit in front of my face…for the whole duration of the flight. There was a coffin shoved vertically in one corner. Seethe.
Throughout the years though, and because of my previous work in the Defense Department, I’ve gotten the hang of it. There were times when I had to accompany the Secretary of Defense on his trips all over the country. And there were times when we were told only the night before that we were going on such trips: Palawan, Zamboanga, Cebu, General Santos City, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio, and back again. Sometimes we stayed in one province for just a few hours. Those rides felt like they were going to be the last rides of my life but I have to admit, I was starting to enjoy them. It was a free ride and a chance to see the rest of the country even for just a bit. Who was I to complain?
My2nd to the last C130 ride: A day in Zamboanga
My very last ride was a trip to Palawan/Cebu. I thought, hey, I will finally have the chance to go to the infamous Spratly Islands. That was the original plan. But I was bumped off because some envious and conniving b**ch employee complained that I hadn’t the right to go. My being the daughter of an Undersecretary was not a valide ticket to the islands so there I was, stuck in the Western Command in Puerto Princesa all day doing nothing but seethe and then when we got to Cebu, was conveniently disregarded and shoved in the Central Command quarters while the military officers enjoyed the luxuries of that first class hotel in Mactan. Seethe.
Those days were definitely a total waste of make-up. No wonder I looked like a boy in my cargo pants and Nikes.
Hence it had been my greatest pleasure to announce my resignation to everyone. Bye, bye, suckers.