Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thursday and Back in Cebu, by Cecilia Brainard

The domestic flights in the Philippines require check-in of at least two hours before departure, and even though one can arrive later than that and still make one's flight, I like to arrive with a lot of leeway. For one thing, Manila traffic can be incredibly unpredictable. Yesterday, for instance, I could see heavy clouds and knew rain was on its way.  And when it's raining, traffic goes haywire.  To be on the safe side, I got out of my place good and early and was at Terminal 2 before the two hour requirement.  It's all right; the airport facilities aren't bad, and so I had lunch and did a bit of writing.

Now, here's the interesting thing.  I was told, and my boarding pass stated, that boarding would be from Gate S5 at 3 p.m.  So all this time, I'm hovering near Gate S5.  By 3:10 p.m., nothing has happened and my antennae are up trying to figure out what's going on.  Fortunately I hear the announcement that the boarding gate has been transferred to Gate S7.  I and a few others bounce up from our seats to rush to Gate S7. "That's scary," I mutter to myself, and some fellow passengers hear me and laugh.

As I'm handing my boarding pass to the PAL fellow, I say, "Why don't you put up a sign in S5 that it's been transferred?"

"Ma'am, we've been announcing the transfer," he replies.

The fact is that in all the din in the airport, such announcements are easily missed.

It's only a one-hour flight, just enough time for a cup of coffee.  The pilot announces that the weather is good in Cebu, and when we land, I see that the ground is slick from rain. I collect my luggage, get into a Yellow Cab, which costs more than the regular white taxi, but I've been told this is safer, and after my experience of being kidnapped in Saigon, I'm paranoid about cabbies and try to be careful.

I'm in the taxi for maybe ten minutes when it starts to rain, and really hard, so traffic is gridlocked and streets flood.  The taxi driver complains that many domestic flights were cancelled that day and he had one other fare aside from me.  In other words, business is bad for airport taxis when it rains hard.  The squall or storm or whatever it is, is so bad, we even see lightning hit an electrical pole-- first time I've seen that sort of thing -- there's a shower of sparks that cascade down the struck pole, but nothing more.  It takes the cabbie forever to wade literally through the traffic.

Throughout all this time, I'm not really worried but am fascinated, looking around, being reminded of an anthill that's flooded and the ants going crazy.  Somehow through all that mess, I make it to my place.  When I get off the cab, I land in gutter water -- this is a serious matter in the Philippines; one can contract all sorts of germs and diseases -- so I rush up to my place to remove my sandals and scrub my feet and ankles with soap and water and afterwards dunk them in a bucket with water and a bit of Clorox.

In the midst of this hurly-burly, here appears Louie in our Oratorio de San Jose (St. Joseph's Chapel), getting ready for his weekly novena to St. Joseph.  With sterilized feet and ankles, I and two other residents join him for the most calming prayers in the Oratorio.  There's a brownout but the candles light up the chapel, and while saying the Rosary, the rain stops and we didn't even notice.

We spend the rest of the evening in my apartment nibbling salami, cheese, bread, almonds, and we polish off the Margarita and Dalandan juice.  The stories flow and it's past midnight when someone notices how late it is.

That was my welcome back to Cebu.

Do read the account about the kidnapping in Saigon. It's not to scare you, but to make you understand where my vigilance stems from.

Happy a great day, from Cebu,

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