The words "missing" and "can't be traced" ricocheted in my head.
My Tita told me me that her 11-year old daughter was supposed to arrive at 8:30 in the morning. The girl boarded the bus from their town at 7:00 a.m. to spend the weekend with her in the city. She's been doing it for some time now and has never been late for more than 30 minutes of her ETA.
As the hours passed, my Tita began to get more worried. She decided to go to the terminal to check if her daughter was there. But the girl wasn't there so she decided to proceed to the police station to report her missing.
I went with my Tita at the police station then at the bus stop where the girl was supposed to get off. We asked the vendors selling foods and beverages nearby if they saw the girl but all of them said no. We then proceeded to check one of the other few places her daughter knows about in the city but she wasn't there as well.
With the help of other relatives, we somehow managed to get hold of the bus number so we decided to go to the terminal to interview the driver. Someone informed us, after we've been waiting for over 30 minutes, that we should probably wait outside since the bus might not check in at the terminal anymore. True enough, we saw the bus on the side street about to turn a corner going away from the terminal. My Tita and I ran as fast we could and jumped on the bus as it was moving away.
It was already getting dark by then and we were pinning our hopes on the driver and conductor. We were both hoping they'd remember where my cousin got off. Unfortunately, both of them couldn't seem to recall much about her so the conversation was another dead-end.
By the time we finished talking with the bus driver and conductor, we were already running out of ideas as to what to do next. All the hours spent looking for her didn't bring us any clue that might give us a hint as to where my cousin went. Even the other relatives who went searching for her couldn't trace her whereabouts.
An hour later, however, I got an SMS message from my Tita's sister informing us that my 11-year old cousin's already home. Apparently, the girl got off the nearest town then boarded another bus going back near where she came from. She then spent the entire day playing games in an Internet cafe all the while oblivious to the escalating worries of her mom and other relatives who went looking for her.
After the initial flood of relief, I couldn't help but think that 1) there's nothing more difficult than finding someone who doesn't intend to be found and that 2) parenting could be, without a doubt, an exercise in patience.