CELEBRATION: Journey to 50

Fifty years ago on July 16, 1969, a powerful Saturn V rocket launched three men from Earth to the Moon where, for the first time in history, people walked on the surface of another world.

The historic Apollo 11 mission was a giant leap in a journey of exploration. Babies born about that time after the historic moment got their names after either the three astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins. Some got their names from the mission itself. Mine was a unique concoction of the names of the two men (Neil and Edwin) who were the first humans to step on the moon.

Growing up, I’ve always dreamt of becoming an astronaut. My greatest childhood motivation was getting a custom-made astronaut suit for being good — my father’s promise that never came. Or maybe I didn’t pass the good boy standards set by him. I have since submitted to the fact that I’d never be an astronaut nor fly to space or step on the moon. But I quietly told myself, one day I will be reunited with my ‘origins.’

Named after astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Neilwin Joseph Bravo didn’t’ get to be an astronaut but was able to fulfill a childhood dream – to wear a spacesuit – at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that landed on the moon.

That day finally came, right before I turned 50 myself. I made it at the vast Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, breathing in the same building with the massive Saturn rocket, the remnants of the Apollo 11, the monuments of the three great men. And yes, I finally got to wear an astronaut suit.

I have come full circle.

With a slight twist of Neil Armstrong’s famous Thank You speech, I say: I would like to give special thanks to my parents who built the spacecraft; who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into creating the person in me. Thank you to my children Magnus (whom I gifted with an astronaut suit as fulfillment of a father’s promise), and Jill (who I will celebrate same birthday with), and most especially, to my wife Paula for taking me ‘home’. This is as closest as I can get to being an astronaut.

Happiness has sent me floating in zero gravity.

(Neilwin Joseph Bravo turned 50 on August 17. Now based in Australia, he started his journalism career as editor in chief of the Ateneo de Davao University’s college paper, Atenews, from 1990 to 1991, joined the Media Mindanao News Service as stringer and later worked as correspondent of Malaya, sports editor of Daily San Pedro Express, Assistant Sports Editor of Mindanao Daily Mirror, Information Officer of the provinces of Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte and presently helps manage Edge Davao, online. Neil posted this piece on his FB page on 17 August 2019. Permission to publish granted to MindaNews)