Whenever my husband’s ship makes the round for Kalayaan Islands, the largely disputed islands of the country, the family knows we are in another round of waiting and longing.
Over the phone, Constancio announces his schedule for the next few days. His ship is bound for Kalayaan Islands in the West Philippine Sea. Yes, I worry but I put it aside and put my faith in my heart that all will be well. Having him at the West Philippine Sea means there will be no calls, no text messages, very limited communication. Whenever this is the case, I prepare the children at once and tell them that we won’t be hearing from their dad in awhile. The littlest one prods me more on details — what his dad is up to, what time will the ship undock from the harbor, what possible communication network there is in the West Philippine Sea. I patiently answer his questions. He settles whenever I tell him, “Your dad has to make rounds to give food and supplies to the soldiers in the faraway islands of Palawan. They’ll go hungry if your dad won’t go.”
As we go about our daily routines without any call from Constancio, there’s a whispered silence that hovers over our heads. When we get lucky, a call or a message creeps into our mobile phones, when cellular networks from Malaysia or Vietnam make it possible. I try to imagine how he goes by his daily life. I prefer remembering light and happy memories that make his navy life a little bit easier.
But I know it’s also not easy as its seems.
Every single time that he encounters deployed sailors in our disputed territories, I can feel how his heart is mighty proud of visiting them as his ship and crew delivers the little comforts that make life easier. He proudly sends me photos of scenery that I probably won’t ever come close to in my lifetime. As I absorb the scenes, I marvel at the beauty of the country. And yes, his rounds make us love the country more. As a family, we remain steadfast and strong too, understanding that our sacrifices of time and distance is a small thing compared to what our soldiers face at sea.
After a few days, the silence pauses because my son asks, “When will dad have signal? I want to talk to him?” or “Did you get a video of my dance? Send it to Dad now.” (Yes, my little, military son commands me that way.) And when I finally receive a call or a message, my heart is relieved. The silence is stopped. It is replaced by the usual happy chatter of love.