Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Taking you back to 17th March 2007

Day 1

Current mood:hot
We arrived in the Philippines with a bump, jostling us awake from the first good sleep we'd had in hours.  Up at on the Friday to straighten my hair for the last time for 3 weeks, I still hadn't managed to get 40 winks, even on the 12 hour 45 min flight from Heathrow to Singapore. 

The journey hadn't exactly got off to a good start; almost as soon as we walked into the departure lounge at Heathrow, Grace heard a café staff member dressed as a clown telling people that everyone needed to evacuate the area.  Not exactly a very funny clown-like thing to say, Grace thought, and we carried on wandering through a crowd of people before realizing that the fire alarm was ringing and we were meant to be walking in the opposite direction to evacuate.  Shops were closing their shutters and I reminded myself that I really must listen to the messages they put over the tannoy.  People didn't seem to be panicking so we simply followed the crowd.  5 mins later of going in one direction, we stopped a woman who worked at the airport and she hadn't a clue that we had all been evacuated – I came to the conclusion that the fire alarm had probably been set off by burnt toast in one of the cafes.  So we went back and straight to our gate to avoid any further confusion!

So from Heathrow to Singapore we had gone and from Singapore to Manila – all without a hitch.  Singapore airport was more than immaculate, with a toilet attendant literally waiting outside my cubicle so she could clean it the moment I stepped out to wash my hands.  Didn't see lots of men with guns, as per a friend's warning but I did see free internet, free ESPN (not showing bball…typical!) and a sign pointing us in the direction of free massage chairs in the "Oasis" – unfortunately we didn't manage to go there as we were short of time but definitely a must for on the way back!!!

Manila is where the trouble started.  Knowing we had only 2 hours to get off the plane, wait for and collect our suitcases, find and get a taxi to a different terminal (in a language we can't speak – not easy!), check in and actually board the next plane, Grace and I were ready for action as if we were about to start a race!  As always, baggage collection seemed to take forever but we were getting into a taxi outside the airport within 45 mins.  Then we realized that the driver didn't have enough money to give us change from a 1000 peso bill for a 150 peso fare.  All of our money was in 1000 peso bills so it was the smallest amount we had!  The driver obviously didn't want to rip us off and take the money and people at the new terminal were no help – so we ended up giving him a 200% tip (350 pesos) but soon got over our feeling generous after realizing how little that is actually worth in sterling (1000 pesos is about the equivalent to a tenner)!

Inside the terminal, it seemed pretty clear – on the screen it stated our flight number and check-in desks 17-25 so we queued for desks 17-18 as they looked like the shortest queues.  At 14.55 we were finally at the front of the queue after waiting for about an hour (and the plane estimated time of departure was 15.10) we were informed we had missed the last call and had to go wait in another queue to speak to a girl in charge.  
Then baggage was overweight and Grace had to go wait in a THIRD queue to pay for it and wait for the check-in girl to write a long hand-written receipt, whilst  I stood my ground at the other check-in desk.  Finally given boarding passes.
Then we had to pay 200 pesos each at another desk, for some official reason that I can't recall. 
Finally dashed into the departure lounge to look at the screens to find out what gate to go to…
And the plane was delayed for another hour and ten mins.  After all that.
We actually had to wait for 1hr 15mins before we were even allowed to board!  In that time we experienced our 1st black out – it only lasted several seconds but after our panicking earlier, we could only laugh rather than join in with the collective gasp that sounded the lounge.

Being separated on the final flight wasn't worrying as it was only for about an hour.  I was sat next to an old Filipino lady (btw I was one of about 5 white passengers, not something I usually notice or care about but it's quite strange for me to see that many Filipinos all on one plane!).  The old lady did attempt to speak a few words of English to me – and the guilt that I had been dreading for weeks of not learning the language of the country that I'm visiting washed over me, it's pretty shameful that I can only say a couple of words and I hate my own ignorance…

At Tacloban airport we were accosted by several men who wanted us to pay them to dive into the crowd that was fighting to get to the heap of suitcases that had been dumped in the middle of the terminal – no baggage carousel here!  A sign saying WELCOME JOY & GRACE was held up outside in the dark, by Lorena and Natasha.  Introductions were made and then we were taken for our very first ride in a jeepney…


  1. haha! Oh, I remember the jeepneys!!! My brother and I went to Boracay in 2009, and when we got to the check in counter, they made us get on a scale! They weighed everyone getting on the plane!! Not only was I in shock, but I was really upset with myself for gaining so much weight on my holiday!