It really hit me more today, than it did yesterday...but this memory will forever be engraved in my heart. I posted this as my Facebook status but, it was just a short summary due to character capacity. So here it is in semi-full detail...
APRIL 2001: Going back home to the Philippines for the FIRST time in 14 years. I was really afraid to go back, I've heard stories about the Philippines both good and bad, I was excited, scared, and sad all at the same time, I didn't want to miss out on 2 weeks worth of upcoming events, 2 weeks worth of school and I was really going to miss my friends. With all those emotions dwindling, it was still a great honor and privilege to be one of chosen Ministerial families as the FIRST batch of Ministerial families to go back for our Dad's conference and Balikbayan Day.
I think we left our apartment in Eagle Rock around for LAX around 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, The Rivera's, Caparas', Lola Mommy, Brinas', Ramos', The Long Beach Uncle's were there, and a few other brethren who I can't remember were also there to help us with all of our luggage and send us off. When we got to the Airport, I realized that I forgot one of my carry-on's, Kuya Alan and Lola Mommy went to go back to the apartment to pick it up, thank goodness it was still early when I realized this.
Once we landed in Manila, a rush of emotions took over me, excitement, fear, nervousness, etc. The heat was different, the people were different, it was a whole new experience. We were then greeted and escorted by a few of Tatay Erdy's own body guards. We stayed at one of the pastoral houses in Quezon City was it? and reunited with the other Minister's families that we haven't seen in years; Cayabyab's, Serreno's, Salanga's, and San Gabriel's. We all did the whole tourist thing, go around the shopping malls, ride the jeepney's, taxi's, and buses, visit family we haven't seen since we've left the Philippines, hang out together basically almost every other day, but the most anticipated days were being able to worship at the Templo, the Tour of New Era, the Tour of the Central office, meeting all of the other minster's of Central, Museum trip, and most of all meeting Tatay Erdy once again after so many years.
The day we all finally got to reunite with Tatay Erdy was one of the MOST MEMORABLE days of my life. This part of our trip I remember like it was yesterday... For my sister and brother, and a few of the younger Minster's kids, this was their first time meeting Tatay Erdy. I met him once when I was maybe a year old, and this was before we moved to Daddy's first assignment in America; Milwaukee, WI. This was also the day we had a tour of the Central Office, Ate Thea, Me, and Ate Ivah even got interviewed by the radio station. Sitting in the waiting area seemed so long, I could feel everyone's excitement and anxiousness. I remember my parents telling us what to say when we meet Tatay Erdy, "Tell him how old you are.", "Don't forget to say Opo." and so on and so forth. Finally, we were all called in by family, I was so nervous, when it was our turn, I just remember seeing his gentle and kind face. When he greeted me he still remembered my name after all those years, he said to me, smiling "Ang dalaga mo na, Arianne... haha Naiintindihan mo tagalog?" And I said, "Opo, kaunti, po..." and he just laughed and he shook my hand.
After that, all of the families went to the cafeteria to have lunch together, and all of us kids were super excited and pretty much speechless. We took pictures of our hands that we shook Tatay Erdy's hand with, and were just pretty much in awe.
Thank you for one of the BEST memories, You'll forever be in my heart Tatay <3