Sunday, January 29, 2012

Arrival

To end my trip to the Philippines, I will have to start with the beginning.

We left RDU around 12:30 Tuesday, January 10th. We would fly to Detroit to meet my mother, who was flying out of Memphis, TN.

Little did I know, she sat waiting for us at the gate to board the flight for the Philippines, with a stop in Nagoya, Japan.

She needn't worry too much. We got there 'just in time'. The flight was booked. When I got to the gate, Tim was like 'how are we going to find her?' because the entire gate was filled with filipino people. I didn't put two-and-two together, realizing that this flight would be full of people going back home.

But we found her easily and boarded. We apparently boarded on the business side, so I was ignorantly happy about the seats with TVs in the headrests. This was how our flight was to London (and back), which was a welcomed amenity to a long flight.

Alas, as we walked further and further to the back of the plane, the sad reality was that this would not be an amenity that Delta would afford us. Instead, we were stuck with one screen for all to watch: Tim, the girls and my mom being only two rows away from it; and me, able to see it but also in view, a teeny TV set in the aisle, that was more blue in color than anything else.

WTF is this? Delta stuck in the 20th century? Is it because we are flying to the Philippines? You treat minorities with sub-par planes? Well, whatever the reason, this particular flight SUCKS and I highly recommend NEVER flying this flight because there is zero luxury for the common folk. And unfortunately, this is what we had to look forward to on the trip back.

The flight itself felt like we were boxed in a can of sardines. It was packed. Once we were in-flight and coasting within the 13 hour flight time, people would just stand around by the bathroom areas, chatting. I was on an aisle seat, across from my family in the four middle seats, and the guy next to me would be gone for hours. But would come back at inopportune times, as I was sleeping.

There was one older woman who would waddle up and down the aisles. To where, or from, she waddled, I had no idea but it was smart.

I spent the trip wrapping up A Dance with Dragons, opting to skip out on watching Moneyball. I tried to watch it but I was more interested in my book and the few minutes I tried watching was utterly uninteresting to me. Even with all of it's Oscar nominations, I don't regret not seeing it.

The only movie I did watch with great interest was Jane Eyre. It wasn't great. It wasn't awful. But I was entranced by my remembrance of the novel, one of my favorite surprises of all-time. To watch the movie reminded my of the essence of the novel, and that, in itself, was worth watching around 3AM whatever-timezone-I-was-in.

Nagoya was short and not-sweet. We had to go through security but that required everyone off this big ass plane getting into a line and going through security.

Despite that, it was a really nice airport with very nice people. Me and the girls were most excited by the toilet in the public restrooms: there were a lot of buttons to be pushed. We spent way too long trying it out. Yes. That's what a mom and two daughters can do, if you are tsk..tsk..tsking me. I told Tim I want my master bathroom toilet to have one of these.

There were also charging stations and free wifi (not Public free wifi) to catch up on. Just another reminder that this piss-ass Delta flight offers no such amenity. I don't expect free wifi (that's not even offered to the low class on any flight) but nowhere to charge electronics for a 13 hour flight is just WRONG.

The last leg of the journey back to the Philippines was from Nagoya to Manila, a 3 1/2 hour flight. If you're keeping tabs: 1 1/2 hour RDU to Detroit, 13 hours from Detroit to Nagoya, now 3 1/2 to Manila.

I was excited, to say the least.

Finally. We arrive in Manila. We get off the plane and my mom calls for a wheelchair. This helps us get through the lines quicker (FYI: my mom has macular degeneration). Our first stop is through customs. We had been walking side-by-side with another man and his wife, who was also in a wheelchair. My mom was making new friends, as usual. We waited in line for customs and the customs officer called me up to the window. I happily go up, in my naivete, just in awe that I was here.

It is loud in the airport. This man is behind glass. And he talks like we are sitting right next to each other, on the same side of the glass. He asks me questions that I barely can hear and comprehend and I would ask what? to which he either answered or glared at me because _he_ couldn't hear me. The end result is: he appeared to be offended by me and I quickly understood his air to change for the negative. He thought I stated that my mom was not Filipino but American because she was a U.S. citizen. His question was worded incorrectly and I thought he asked if she was a U.S. citizen. After all, he was perusing through our passports. Instead, I hurt his Filipino pride and came off as a spoiled American brat, ashamed of her mother's native background -- which is furthest from the truth.

It is, however, something I am used to. There is a ridiculous minority of Filipinos that come to the U.S. and feign 'forgetfulness' of their language. It's a way to seem more high class in their warped minds. That has not ever been my case. I remember, if anything, shedding my "white" roots: when I was in school, filling out surveys had three options for Race: White, Black, Other. I *always* selected Other. I didn't want to discount my Filipino side.

But I never did learn the language fluently even while I lived there. I went to american-based schools (DoD schools) at Clark. My friends were all like me - military dependents. We spoke only English. I tried to speak with my relatives but as I am constantly reminded over and over and over (redundant, yes, but note the bitterness): I only learned enough to mislead the conversation.

So this MFer, holding my passport, and now spitting vitriol at me and his co-worker, humiliated me into silence. My elated-ness shaken to reality. I would turn back to my family, who seemed happily amused and ignorant of the hatred coming from this man's aura. I almost cried.

But finally, my suffering was over and we left. As we were leaving, my mom, my wonderful mom, felt compelled to say something to him after she sensed my sadness. I told, quite sternly, not to because I just wanted to leave and wanted no further delay by someone who had authority to. CJ noted that he was giving me the stink-eye as we passed him by.

Next up was waiting for our luggage. That would have been relatively simple had my mom remembered that the last piece of luggage we were looking for was black instead of dark blue. We were one of the last ones, as we watched the black piece pass us several times looking for a blue one.

Once we had everything, we headed outside to where greeters are divided up into groups by alphabetical order. Of course, this does not suit my family and the first person I saw was my Auntie Mher. My eyes welled with tears. I was so happy to see her. Then I saw my Auntie Cora. Eventually the rest of my family.

They were calling for the car when my mom asked to make sure we had our passports. I counted out the five passports and with intentions to give my mom back hers, discovered, in panicked horror, that I had someone else's passport. It was the gentleman that my mom had been talking to as we rolled his wife and my mom to customs.

OMG. We were outside the airport. Outside of the secured entry. With this stranger's passport. WTF do we do?

My auntie took us to a security officer, who kind of looked at us stupidly. We looked for the guy that helped us with our luggage, to see if he could locate the guy. And by sheer chance (is this seriously possible without some sort of divine intervention?), I saw the guy walking out of the airport. The guy who's passport I held in my hands. I ran to him, as I yelled to my mom "Isn't that him?"

H stood in stunned silence, as me, my aunts and the security officers ran up to him. We held out the passport, everyone yelling their own version of "you have the wrong passport!" He opened up one and it was his wife. He looked at us like: see, I have the right one. Not realizing it was his passport that we had, not his wife's. When he saw his image on the passport we had in our hands, it finally dawned on him and we made the exchange.

How's that for a welcome??? The yin and the yang: the glory of being there, greeted with family, to the agony of "oh shit. We are really screwed now".

We then climbed into the van and headed to Angeles City, which was nearly a 2 hour drive from Manila. I couldn't see the sights around me during the drive. It was well after midnight.

In the van, my auntie cora pats me on the arm and says "thank you for posting that picture; otherwise, we wouldn't have known you were arriving today." The picture at the beginning of this post was their alert that we were arriving. They had the dates off because, well, the departure dates in the U.S. don't coincide with arrival dates in this timezone. Apparently, my mom hadn't called to let them know and just by my instagram post, they were sent into a frenzy to try to find a van and hook up a driver to pick us up.  What a great story, huh? I love, love, love it.

Once we got to my Auntie Cely's place, everyone was asleep...but my Auntie Cely came out to greet us. I cried again. I was so happy to see her.

We chatted for awhile then was shown to our wonderful penthouse apartment.

And then, that morning, as I stated in my Day one post, I woke and looked out the bedroom window, and saw Mt. Arayat. My heart skipped a beat. I was home at last.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. You were crazy lucky with the passport!:-) Will you buy my next lottery ticket? :-P

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  2. Butcept, My advice: never fly an American airline if you can help it. Always fly an Asian airline for the long part of the trip - Even if it means more stops. (James Lamm)

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  3. Jim: Duly noted. I will never fly this airline to the Ohilippines again, if I can help it. I think, considering more stops, is one thing that would have never crossed my mind.

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