I’ve actually been here a couple of days, just taking things slow and trying to enjoy the down time. While I was just here in April to attend a wedding, this time it was a spur of the moment decision we had made for Angelo to finally get his long-requested summer stay in Manila. We had always timed our trips to coincide with the holidays, and that meant arriving for his vacation with a homework packet. It was understandably a dampener to what would have been a period of fun and relaxation.
The flight home. For the first time, I flew our national carrier, Philippine Airlines — and while I had wanted to fly my usual airlines (KoreanAir, Cathay Pacific), I had to adjust to the travel arrangements Angelo already had because he had flown 5weeks before I did. (Long story short, I didn’t get to choose this flight.) I had flown PAL many times before domestically, and even as recent as last April when we all hied off to Cebu for that beautiful wedding where I stood as godmother. I liked that trip, but this last one left much to be desired.
It helped that I had set my expectations low, so I wasn’t surprised that the plane seemed to be old and worn. I have complete faith in the crews that fly PAL, so I told myself, as long as they get me to Manila, I’m fine. And get me here, they did. So I am grateful to the professionalism of the two crews who flew us first to Vancouver, and then the second crew who actually brought us home.
The food was typical PAL, and better than most served on American flights. My two favorite airlines, though, are favorites, partly because of their inflight dining menu. Give me the KoreanAir Bibimbap anytime! (And they do give it at every meal.. which means a two-time serving on a long haul each way.) I arrived okay — not starving — but we don’t fly for the gastronimic experience.
Yet, all was not lost, and this is the reason I decided to devote a good portion of this post to the flight. Kudos to the crews that flew on PR127 from New York to Manila via Vancouver on July 31, 2015. You are the saving grace of this airline. I got efficient and courteous service (expected), and very generous help when requested. So forget that the control panel on my armrest kept falling out (no, I did not get electrocuted and it WAS working even if hanging by the wires, literally.), and that there was this tiny screen hanging from certain vantage points on the plane. Blame it on being spoiled by every other airline I’ve flown in recent years who had individual screens in front of me — whether I was flying state to state or overseas. (Even Aer Lingus had this!)
Whether I went to the galley to request for a drink, or ask permission to open the porthole by the rear door to snap a picture, I got my answer with a smile. Even my water was poured with such grace I couldn’t help but wonder if they had practiced that motion during training. No matter that the menu offering had to be repeated to every person on every row, the question as to your meal of choice was asked with a smile, and without the smirk that made you feel like you were being stupid for asking him something about the meal. (Meal service, apparently, is not a favorite chore among most flight attendants..) I wanted to tell them all that they did a good job, but I was busy lugging my luggage down the very narrow passageways and trying to wish the pain in my behind away — grateful I was finally home.
NAIA Terminal 2 – hmmmmmm… All these years, I’ve flown in and out of the same international airport in Manila — and it was an experience I almost dread, but not because of the fact that the airport was really dated. This particular airport is not a happy place for me except when I arrive — so I have mixed feelings about plopping down into unchartered territory, landing in Terminal 2.
First, there was the immigration line which was always a coin toss between having “long lines” and “VERY long lines”. I guess I was lucky my flight didn’t arrive with everyone else, so while there was a wait, it wasn’t unbearably long. A couple of years ago, I got caught during the automation switch of the Bureau of Immigration, and I had to agonize through a two-hour wait with Angelo in tow before we were cleared for the gate. He was probably 2 or 4 then, so I was actually in line with a young boy on a stroller. We inched slowly to the front and when I was finally there in front of the Immigration officer, I painfully watched him try to navigate the system.
So you can imagine my surprise when I landed with an older immigration officer who not only processed me with speedy efficiency –but he also rendered courteous and friendly service. That I am actually raving about it here should prove how impressed I was. I even sent a direct message to the current Commissioner to make sure that I got the praise recorded officially.. Thank you, Immigration officer Tabao.. Job well done! We always hear about the “bad eggs” — it’s good to hear about the good ones from time to time..
I walked through the new arrival lanes to the baggage claim area which looked new and promising, until I found myself waiting for my luggage which didn’t come out until after an hour. Thank God, Immigration sped me through — I had happy memories to keep me preoccupied while I twiddled my thumbs as I lay in wait for the carousel to start showing us bags. I got to meet an OFW from Vancouver who was hoping his luggage would come out before his wife’s flight from Hong Kong arrived. (I think he beat her arrival by a few minutes.) I met a nun who was home for the first time in 15 years, but sadly, to attend her brother’s funeral. We spoke to each other quite a bit and had a few laughs, and then I saw one of my bags appear and I excused myself. (Second and third bags appeared almost a half hour later.) I would’ve met more but my brother started pinging me he was near.. where will he get me? I suddenly missed the lettered zone in the old airport.
I found the “Bays” and let him know where I was. (very short spans, though.) I got into his car and his first concern was whether or not I was hungry — and thanks to the Chicken Tocino from PAL, I was good.. I didn’t realize that the trek home to San Juan would take 3 — YES, THREE – hours.. so you can imagine, I was famished by the time I got home and gave everyone else a hug. I knew I was back in Manila — traffic and all.
No matter what the hassles and how my behind kept reminding me throughout the trip how long a journey it was, I am always happy to be home with friends and family. And as they say now, it’s always more fun in the Philippines!