MY PHILIPPINE ADVENTURE by Karen L. Haycox (Departure)
Head back home. Go to Cagayan de Oro airport….yeah….this is the Cagayan I remember. The airport basically resembles a bus terminal. They do have air conditioning, but there are stand-alone industrial units that are held together with duct tape. No really. As I check in for my flight (which has a layover in Manila on my way to Hong Kong) am told I would not have to pick up my bags (thank God) but would have to switch terminals. They have a highly sophisticated process for handling this transition. Its called a sticker. No, really. I am given a sticker to prominently place on my shirt so when I land “someone” will escort me to the transfer area.
Head over to waiting area. I have 2 hours to make my flight from Manila to Hong Kong. I know I’m pushing it given the PAL reputation. Notice the terminal does not have a clock. This is not a good sign. Wait and wait. The flight does finally take off but is (shockingly) severely delayed.
Arrive in Manila, eagerly flash my sticker and look for my “escort”. Nothing there. Follow other passengers to baggage claim. Still nothing.
The sticker system proves a sham I tell you, a total sham.
Do find the information booth for PAL. Explain my situation. The attendant was highly helpful, but what was interesting was, he wasn’t shocked that there was no one to meet me. He was shocked that I was TOLD there would be someone to meet me. He personally escorts me to transfer section. I am beyond stressed at this point as we are closely approaching takeoff for my flight.
Thank God he escorted me, as there are NO signs to explain where you are supposed to go (this from the woman that again, took 45 minutes to find her way out of the Hong Kong airport).
As it turns out, the distance between the two terminals rivals that of Shanghai. Where I missed a flight as well. At least in that incident it was due to the driver dropping my off in the wrong airport. In this case it is all PAL. Finally arrive at the correct terminal. There is literally a line of 50 people to get into airport. No, really, I counted it. What was scary was there were two equally sized lines as you need to have your luggage screened before you enter the airport. Can’t help but think, maybe, just maybe, this system needs some tinkering.
I am beyond embarrassed to admit this, but yes, I become that person. My flight is about to take off imminently, so yes, I cut to the front of the line. Explain my situation and they let me in. The line for tickets (because of course I have to pick up a 2nd ticket even though it’s the same airline) is again 50 people deep and I double my self-loathing by again, cutting to the front of the line and again, explaining my situation. The woman proves very nice and gets me my ticket and tells me to relax. Clearly she doesn’t know the person I am.
No line for immigration, which proves a blessing as if I had cut line yet again I would officially achieve douche bag status.
However, my immigration officer proves highly difficult. She first cannot understand how I am single and unemployed, but traveling alone. Hello??? Isn’t that rather self-explanatory?? All my friends are busy working while I am unemployed…..hence… I am traveling alone.
She also can’t understand why I flew through Hong Kong to get to the Philippines. My explanation of unlimited access to ramen noodles just doesn’t fly with her.
I really do try to explain to her that I spent no time in Hong Kong other than as a transfer to the Philippines. I have the ticket receipts to prove this. But she somehow is convinced that I did all this as an elaborate ruse to spend unofficial time in Hong Kong smuggling in drugs and laundering money while visiting her country.
I don’t know what it is about my demeanor that gives her this impression. But then I realize, oh yeah, I’m wearing my Goldman Sachs baseball cap….that will do it.
Finally get through all the various barriers of entry to my flight to Hong Kong. PAL is nothing but consistent, for all my stress on making this flight, it is in fact, delayed. Hence why the ticket agent couldn’t understand my stress.
So, successfully make my flight from Manila to Hong Kong. With baggage, thank you very much. On flight over realize I haven’t eaten all day. PAL offers me two different dishes, unpronounceable pork over rice and unpronounceable chicken over rice. I can’t make up my mind. The steward proves highly kind and offers me both. I am that starving and go with it. The pork proves best by the way. But did come with two highly small eggs. God knows what bird that came out of. Or reptile. I choose not to ask. Or consume.
Land in Hong Kong. Successfully transfer to Cathay Pacific. Heaven, by the way, is the Cathay Pacific airport lounge. No, really. They have a full buffet, open bar and most importantly – showers. If you spent your whole morning at the Cagayan de Oro airport you’d by dying for a shower too.
After showering (which was heavenly) head to the buffet at Cathay Pacific, am a tad disappointed to see there are no ramen noodles. Finally work up the courage (the lounge is kind of fancy) to ask one of the attendants if there is in fact access to ramen noodles. This is is Cathay Pacific after all. He tells me I have to go to the noodle bar. I assume he means another pantry with a wide selection of cup of noodles.
Oh no. He means THE noodle bar. This is a full on kitchen with freshly made noodles with a wide variety of noodle types and flavors to choose from. And yes, they gave me chopsticks.
So basically this lounge has nice bathrooms, showers, internet, an open bar, AND a noodle bar?? I am wondering how long I can I move in for before they get the scam.
Finally, successfully, get on my flight back to New York. Do have a layover in Vancouver. We are all put in what’s called the “transit lounge”. Kind of feels like quarantine as we really can’t go anywhere. Do manage to score a bag of Doritos from the vending machine. This is more a laborious process than it should be as 1) I had to dig through my purse to find quarters, 2) I had to put my quarters in the machine and have them literally kick back in the form of Canadian coins and then 3) redeploy the Canadian coins to secure my Doritos. But I finally do.
So, there is this literally adorable Chinese girl who was maybe 4 (?) watching the entire process. She starts begging for one of my Doritos. I tell her I worked really hard for these things and don’t want to share. Turns out she knows no English. Her parents are right nearby, so ask their permission to give her one (less creepy on my part, right?) and they are fine with it. As a sign of how hard parenting is, these people had endured a 13-hour flight with a 4 year old and were more than happy to have a complete stranger take custody of their child.
Getting back to how feeding children is highly effective, the Doritos carry some weight and this girl takes to me as well. To entertain her show her pictures from my camera. When we get to my dog, she actually bursts out laughing. So my little 4 year old from China also recognizes that my dog is in fact, beyond deformed.
But me and my luggage do safely make it back to New York. Between returning to the Philippines, a country I absolutely love, spending quality time with my parents, experiencing the reunion and all the great memories that accompany it and getting to revisit my beloved Camiguin – it was truly the trip of a lifetime. And one I can’t believe I got away with.
Sh*t. Does this mean I need to send my former boss a thank you note for firing me?
On that note, I thank Ms. Karen Haycox for allowing me to post her highly colorful and entertaining story on this blog. We look forward to your quick return to the Philippines and Cawayanon, that place we all, one time or another, called HOME. — Bukidlife.com