I’ve always been the calm type in crisis, the “don’t panic because it makes it worse” kind of person, and it’s something I take pride in as a parent. The only time I’ve freaked out was when my son had an asthma attack at age two. My mother’s intuition kicked in and I knew there was something wrong with his breathing, so I took him to the ER. His breathing had become so bad, the doctor asked me if he had swallowed an object. Thankfully, he survived and is fine now.
Aside from that, panic and pandemonium is something that is rare to my nature. Until the Coronavirus pandemic that is.
In fact, last December (on Friday the 13th) a glass tabletop slid and basically shattered my husband’s toe. In the midst of his screaming and gushing blood, I immediately called my nurse friends for next steps, grabbed my sleeping children, and drove him to the nearest ER. He later asked why I wasn’t comforting him or seemed worried, and I simply replied:
“I had to get all of us safely to the ER (weather conditions were awful that night too). you were in pain and freaking out; I had to be calm.”
Anyhow, panic and pandemonium struck once again on Thursday, March 12th – the day after the President announced travel bans from Europe and the day before he declared a national emergency. I had just gotten into the office and received a text message from my mother-in-law,
“Allison, when is your dad getting back from vacation? The President of the Philippines announced a travel ban effective March 15th.”
My dad left in mid-February despite our travel concerns. He’s a retired, healthy, 70-year-old who likes to travel to his native country once a year for a month or two.
His flight home was scheduled for March 26th.
I quickly googled and yes – the travel ban said no traveling land, air, and sea starting March 15th. My heart sank and I called my mom (she skipped the vacation with my dad so she was home) and I started crying. I said,
“Dad needs to get home! If anything happens, he can’t fly home and we can’t fly there to be with him.”
I logged on the travel sites and started looking for flights home. The prices were ranging from $1899 to $5000 for flights from Manila to Los Angeles before the 15th. It felt like I was in the twilight zone due to this Coronavirus pandemic.
Flights back to the US were selling out in minutes.
Philippine Airlines sold out (the only direct flight provider) so I had to be strategic – if direct flights weren’t an option, where was the safest layover in Asia? Korea and China seemed too risky with possible cancellations due to the existing Coronavirus pandemic there, so I booked a flight on Singapore Airlines for $2042 for Saturday, March 14th.
Despite the price tag, I felt relieved. I felt like it was the best $2000 I had spent because my dad was going to come home. I texted my immediate family, my aunts and uncles and I said,
“Dad is coming home on Saturday!”
Fast forward a few hours….
Caveat: I hadn’t talked to my dad because it was the middle of the night in Asia when I booked the flight. So I call my dad and tell him I booked him a flight, please come home. But then he shocks me with his response:
“No! I’m not ready to go home. I have relatives to visit and I already have a flight home for the 26th, plus I don’t want to deal with the madness of Metro Manila right now.”
I beg and I plead,
“Dad, just get to the airport, get on the plane, and get home. there is a Coronavirus pandemic and you need to be home! You need to be home with your family.”
His answer is still NO!
I felt so unbelievably crushed and defeated – it had been a day of the highest and lowest of emotions: fear, worry, panic, relief, frustration, and now anger.
What does a daughter on the other side of the globe from her father do during the Coronavirus pandemic?
I couldn’t physically force him to get on a plane. There was absolutely nothing I could do, and it felt terrible. I felt like I did everything I could and it was for nothing.
That night I waited on the phone for an hour and a half to get a hold of someone from Singapore Airlines to cancel his flight. They were gracious enough to give me a full refund.
Later, I talked to my mom. She’s used to my dad’s stubbornness, and she seemed at peace knowing that even in these uncertain times, although my dad wasn’t home (here) in the States, he was at a place just as familiar. He was at the place where he grew up.
He was already home, in a sense.
I talked to my aunt (his sister). She too was familiar with my dad’s stubbornness and knew he wasn’t going to budge despite a global pandemic. She advised me that it’s important that he just stay healthy and avoid the masses.
Last but not least, I talked to my husband. He basically said,
“Your dad’s a smart man and you can’t control him. The stress to fly home in a day or two won’t be good and don’t assume the worst is going to happen!”
He’s right. My dad’s always made the best choices for our family, and he’s not a young child that needs protection. It’s funny how the roles have reversed. I’m sure my parents worried like crazy while we were growing up, especially in my early twenties when I traveled the world with friends.
The unknown is scary. The not being within arm’s reach (or within driving) with your loved ones during these times is terrifying. But the best consolation is knowing that our parents raised us, that they made good choices, and that at the end of the day the most important thing we can do is educate ourselves on what we can do to end the spread…and not PANIC.
So here’s my dad’s plan for flying during the Coronavirus pandemic:
My dad’s original flight home that he still plans on taking departs on the 26th out of Clark airbase (not Metro Manila) with a stop in Korea. If, for whatever reason, we learn of travel bans in Korea or additional risks – he’ll extend his stay in the Philippines. He’s out in the countryside at the moment. Not the best healthcare in that area, but also not heavily populated and currently has no travel ban (but no direct flights home either).
Do you have a loved one far away that you are worried about protecting from the Coronavirus pandemic? We hope they remain safe and healthy, and that you are able to reunite with them once this moment in history has passed.