Monday, October 01, 2007

Philippines Trip Report: Day 4, Tickets and Tears

Epril came to the hotel at 8:00 with Dimple and Doreen in tow, and her cousin carrying her infant baby J.M. I checked out (price for one night: 1500 pesos... a little expensive for what I got), and we all walked the 5 minutes back to Epril's family's house.

There was a bit of breakfast to eat, but it was mostly pork (from last night) and rice, and I'm really not a big eater of breakfast... especially when it is greasy. Instead, I settled for a nice cup of coffee.

Epril and Dimple and I went for a walk around the village, and we walked up through the hills into the thick jungle where Epril showed me two more of those "pool resorts" nestled in a small valley under the dense canopy. Boy, it really is beautiful here, and it is such a surprise when one of the people come out of their houses and start speaking very good English to you.

After our walk through the rural outskirts of Jassan, Epril and I borrowed a neighbor's scooter (the same as they drive in Thailand) and drove into the downtown area, and I ordered 2 pizzas for lunch (family size, 130 pesos / 100 baht / $3 each). From there, we drove around town, and Epril chatted with some of her friends. Then we went to the local high school where we picked up Epril's 16-year-old sister, Ednil, and sat down in the open-air teachers' lounge and chatted with Epril's old teachers. Hmm... is it every balding, aging, chubby man's dream to go to the local Catholic high school and have all the cute teeny-boppers in their little school uniforms walk by and smile and make eyes and giggle and wave... or is it just me? Well, check that one off my list.

We picked up Ednil, then went and picked up the pizzas, and then went back to the house and had lunch. The pizza started off as really yucky, but the more I ate of it, the more I enjoyed it. Funny thing: Of the two most memorable pizzas I have had in my life, one of them was 20 years ago in the Philippines. This one wasn't as good, but it was prepared in the same weird, indescribable style as 20 years before: White and yellow cheddar, a ketchup-like pizza sauce, and lots of vegetables. (I know... it sounds awful.)

After that, I had a nap. I woke up to find little 7-year-old Dimple fanning me with a woven reed fan.

Then, the van came and it was time to leave. All the family piled into the van to see Epril and I to the airport. Epril's mom had already gotten a little bit of practice crying last night, and she ramped it up again now: Her first child was leaving the roost.

We drove to the airport and got to the Cebu Pacific counter. They refused to let me on the plane... they decided my tickets were invalid. Why? Well, you remember that back on Wednesday, I mentioned how Cebu Pacific wouldn't accept American-issued Visa cards, so I used Stan's card. Then, I needed to bring along a photocopy of that credit card to validate the purchase, so Stan and I scanned in his credit card and I put the image of the credit card into a Microsoft Word document, and then printed it out. Unfortunately, when I put the card's image onto the page, I enlarged it so that it would be easier to read. The airline people in Bangkok had no problem with that. The airline people in Manila had no problem with that. Some pissant low-level functionary in Cagayan de Oro decided that since the photocopy of the card wasn't the original size, it wasn't a valid copy, and therefore I wouldn't be flying.

Well, obviously I needed to fly, and although this little mo-fo decided to take 40 minutes to mull over his decision about the photocopy, and wait until 30 minutes before the flight before telling me his decision, I headed out to the nearest ATM (about 10 minutes down the road) to get the 4,000 pesos necessary for the purchase of 2 tickets. (No, silly, of course they wouldn't accept credit cards at the airport.)

All of the ATMs except for 1 were out of service.

That one was out of cash.

I was about ready to admit I was well and truly screwed when I realized that there was one source of cash for me to turn to: My driver. I had just paid him 5,000 pesos for his weekend of work. Without the slightest hesitation on his part, he handed back every penny he had earned to me so that I could buy my tickets. (The fact that he personally knew Epril's father, of course, was probably more a factor than blind trust, but it was still a gracious and day-saving act.)

We went back to the airport, and with minutes to spare, purchased our tickets, checked our luggage, and met Geoff and Honey May in the waiting area. (In case you didn't read from before, Geoff is another expatriate from Pattaya who coincidentally flew to Mindinao to meet an online girlfriend, named Honey May, and take her back home on the exact same days I flew to meet Epril.)

After being covered in sweat from the thought of missing my plane, and from running around trying to avoid the same, I needed a soda. I went over to the concession stand and what were they selling? Mountain Dew... my favorite soft drink, not available in Thailand... one of the things I always wish for, search for, and hope for when I go food shopping in Pattaya. It was as if, minutes prior to boarding my plane and leaving, The Philippines was putting up one final, simple, meaningless-but-spectacular example to show me that this is the better place.

With the low prices, the low language barriers, the acceptance of foreigners, the 16-month tourist visas, the fun night life and good shopping and restaurants, and the fact that this is where my new adopted family lives... it was a can of Mountain Dew that cemented it for me: I'm going to live here someday soon.

We made our way up to Manila, were stamped out of the country without the slightest hint of a problem, caught our plane back to Bangkok, caught or taxi back to Pattaya, and were settled in for a good night's sleep by 3:00 a.m. Back in Pattaya... but not as much "back home" as I would have thought before taking this trip to the Philippines.

1 comment:

spiiderweb™ said...

Choosing to live in RP (Republic of Philippines) is a good choice.