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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Traveling with Kimi to the Philippines

It was still 5 0’clock in the morning, but I’m fully awake already, making my final preparations for my trip to the Philippines. The cool February Thailand breeze was still inviting me to cuddle on my bed, but I resisted as this is the day that I was waiting for-the first day of my trip to the Philippines.

I’ve been teaching in the beautiful country of Thailand for 4 years, but as we all know, everything has an end. My time to depart my second home has arrived. I’ll be going home and traveling with me is my 1 year and 6 months old tea cup shih tzu named after the fastest F1 driver on the planet, Kimi Raikkonen.

I walked my tea cup shih tzu around my apartment that early, chilly Monday dawn-to empty his urinary bladder and colon-for the long trip that day.

It was a stressful planning and preparation that preceded this event. Bringing a dog to another country is not a walk in the park. There are tons of things to be considered-transportation, papers, health, convenience, and cost. All were in my head months before this journey. It was my first time to travel with a dog.

The owner of the apartment where I was staying in that beautiful riverside municipality of Muang, Ratchaburi took me to the train station that early Monday morning, February 10, 2014. I opted to take the train as dogs aren’t allowed to be in the public vans and buses going to Bangkok, taxis in this part of Thailand are non-existent, and renting a vehicle from Muang, Ratchaburi all the way to Bangkok is costly. The distance is 200 km.

Thais are very hospitable people. They’re very good and very kind. Upon informing them of my plans, they offered to take me to the station with their Mitsubishi Pajero. With 2 heavy backpacks and a crate with a dog, I definitely needed it.
State Railway of Thailand

I arrived at the train station at 6:20am. The surrounding was still dark. It is this time of the year where Thailand has longer nights. “Ticket to Bangkok please”, I uttered “and I have a dog too”. “Ok, 140 baht. 50 baht for your ticket and 90 baht for the dog”, replied the person at the counter with her Thai English.

At 6:30am my train arrived. It was a challenge carrying two heavy backpacks and a crate with dog. (When I was in the airport I realized that each of my backpacks weighed 11 kg. and my dog with his crate weighed 7kg.)
Cruising at dawn was very nice. I witnessed people from rural Thailand on board that 3rd class train. Beautiful country side scenery, rice paddies, rivers, mist, and the lovely sunrise were the sights through my window. Kimi, was relaxing beside me outside of his crate of course.

Our final destination was Hualamphong station, Thailand’s central station. It takes approximately 3 hours from Ratchaburi to Hualamphong.

As we were approaching Bangkok, I can sense that Kimi is beginning to get restless, and I knew it, his urinary bladder is full again. So instead of going to Hualamphong, we got off at Sam Sen, one station before Hualamphong. I walked Kimi in the station, and truly, he emptied his urinary bladder and large intestine. I always have tissue, alcohol, and small plastic bags with me for that reason.

A taxi driver approached us, “taxi?” “I’m going to Lat Krabang 40”, I said. “ok, 400 baht” replied the taxi driver. “No way, I want meter” I said with a disgusting voice. I hate taxi drivers who want to rip you off. After a minute, he agreed to use the meter and we were off to Ploykhumthong Boutique Resort, a pet-friendly hotel located 10 min. from the airport. My flight was still next day but I decided to be in Bangkok a day before my flight to minimize the stress for both of us. It’s good to be in a hotel near the airport to prepare for the stressful travel ahead.

The meter read 270 baht. That was after the old taxi driver failed to locate the hotel immediately even if I provided him the address and let him talked to the hotel receptionist via cellphone. But it was still a far cry from the 400 baht that he was asking awhile ago.

The hotel was so nice. It contains lots of vegetation, Thai-style houses/rooms, friendly English-speaking staffs, and my favorite-a lovely pool. We walked past the pool with Scandinavian ladies in bikini sunbathing and reading books. Kimi was so happy to be in a room again after hours of traveling. The air-conditioner, soft bed and pillows, clean toilet, mini bar, fresh towels and a balcony overlooking the whole resort, pool, and airplanes landing-It was paradise for me. It reminded me of my staycation days.  
After resting for awhile, I resisted the urge to swim because I remembered I still have some things to do before the flight. Kimi needs to go to a parlor first. This is very important so that you’re pet will be fresh when traveling and to minimize the heat in his body when in the cargo hold. So we called a taxi and went to Paseo-an outdoor mall about 10 min. from the hotel.

Paseo looks good and classy. And of course, the goods and services are also expensive. The normally 250 baht price for his grooming in Ratchaburi-that includes hair cut, bath, and trimming his nails-cost 350 baht  there in Paseo. I remembered I am in Bangkok, so expect a higher price. I just proceeded as I don’t have a choice. My flight will be tomorrow. 

While waiting, I ate lunch at a Thai restaurant and had a relaxation at a French restaurant, called Wine Connections. I just ordered soda water for 30 baht. I just want a place to relax with wifi. I also bought some dog food, alcohol, and tissue. I’m making sure everything’s in place for my trip to the Philippines.

We then proceeded to the hotel. The taxi meter read 60 baht. We then took a nap. The air-conditioner did its job well in making us comfortable in that warm Thailand afternoon. The soft bed, warm comforter, soft pillows made us had a 1 hour nap. After waking up and consuming the complimentary Lipton tea, we went to the pool. I just lied there relaxing while Kimi sat on my lap. Then when the sun wasn’t harsh anymore, I took a plunge. It was a lovely pool-nestled at the center of the resort with lots of vegetations. The Swedish girls in bikini were so happy with Kimi. They played with him. I had a chit chat with them, and just like that, we were instant friends. We shared stories of our travels. After spending time in the pool we headed to my balcony and watched the sunset and planes landing. It was a great and relaxing afternoon.
That night as I repacked my bag, my mind was busy thinking and rethinking of the things that must be accomplished the next day, the day of our flight. I was so worried for Kimi. He is a bradycephalic dog, a snub-nosed dog which is the kind of breed of dogs that has difficulty breathing and sensitive to heat. So they need enough ventilation all the time. The thought that he will be in the cargo hold-and according to statistics, most dogs dying in the cargo hold are snub-nosed dogs, like bulldog, pug, and shih tzu-made me worried. I prayed and God gave me a peace of mind, reminding me not to worry.

After more pool sessions, watching a show in NatGeo, and a quick shower, it was lights-off and we’re enjoying the comfort of sleeping in a hotel.

I woke up at around 2am and saw him sleeping soundly over one of the pillows on the bed, snoring. What a very lovely sight to behold; a teacup shih tzu cuddled on bed and snoring.

Breakfast time! This is one of my favorite activities when checking-in in hotels. But unfortunately this hotel doesn’t offer free breakfast, and their breakfast in their restaurant is so overpriced and crappy. So I just ate the food that I bought yesterday and drank the other complimentary tea. One night in that hotel cost 900 baht, plus a 500 baht/night fee if you have a dog.

Checkout is 12:00pm so I made most of my time that morning. I walked Kimi around the resort, read a book at poolside, and had some swimming laps. Breastroke. I befriended another Swedish girl who is traveling solo. She told me that her luggage is at Copenhagen. It was an airline mistake, so she’s waiting for her luggage that day. She was just sunbathing that day in her panty and bra as her swimsuit is in her luggage.

At 11:30 am I left the hotel and headed to Suvarnabhumi airport cargo area to get an Export permit. I arrived at the quarantine office at 11:40 and there was a Kazakh couple who were also getting an export permit. Then the officer told me that 12:00pm was their lunch break so I have to go back at 1:00pm. I asked them if I could wait in the office. They agreed, so I just waited there while reading Discovery Channel magazines.

When my turn came, they ask for my import permit, vaccination card, and health certificate from Kimi’s vet. They asked me what medicine was used for his deworming because it was not written in the card. I told them I do not know. They informed me that they need to have that information for my export permit. Good thing I have Kimi’s vet’s number so I just called her and the problem was solved.

They inspected Kimi, his body temperature, weight, height, and some physical health exam. After an hour, I had my export permit to be presented at the check in counter of the plane and in the quarantine office in the Philippines. The paperworks is what made it so long. I went outside and flagged a taxi going to the departure area of Suvarnabhumi airport. My bags were so heavy that walking on the sidewalk to get a taxi was a burden.

Arriving at Suvarnabhumi departure area at 2:15pm, and my flight will still be at 11:30pm, I had lots of time to kill. So I decided I will make use of that time to exercise Kimi, say my final goodbye to my friends via the internet and phone, print all necessary papers, and check email. So I was looking for a place with wifi. Suvarnabhumi is a very nice airport, but the problem is, there are no free wifi zones. Internet is very scarce. Unlike in LCCT terminal in Kuala Lumpur where they have free wifi in the airport. I also thought that if I will have a walk around and outside of the airport with Kimi, I need to leave my bag behind. But leaving your belongings in a non-secured place is so psychologically disturbing and there’s even a chance that your baggage might get lost or stolen. So I looked for a place where you can safely leave your things. Good thing I saw one at row P. It is a place called Chubb where you can leave your things. It is open 24 hours. The fee is 100 baht per bag per 24 hours. I handed them my two bags plus shown them my passport, signed forms and my bags were in the secured area. I just got my laptop and we’re off looking for a restaurant with wifi. I haven’t eaten lunch yet. We went to the B floor or basement floor where the Airport Link train is located. I found a Thai restaurant with wifi. Since it was my last day in Thailand, I opted for a Thai cuisine.  

While I was surfing the net reading emails and Facebook comments and messages, Kimi was so restless. He was yapping, wanting to play with the waitresses of the restaurant. He was so noisy. I asked him to be quiet to no avail. So I just continued on with what I’m doing. The manager was so upset with Kimi albeit not telling it, I can see it in his face. But the waitresses were so happy with him. “narak” they said. So they got Kimi and played with him and walked him around. They were so happy.

After eating and giving Kimi his last meal in Thailand, we were off again to some exercise. Walking and walking and walking. I also printed some documents for my school in China which needs to be scanned and send it there. It was due that day so I need to accomplish it. I printed it at a computer shop at the 4th floor-10 baht per page. I should have printed everything before. I learned my lesson.  
                
I was so tired. From carrying my heavy bags, getting export permit and quarantine, plus walking Kimi. He even defecated once in the airport. Good thing I am prepared with tissue, plastic bag, and alcohol. And because he’s eating pure dog food, his stool is formed, dry, and not smelly.

My check-in time was 8:30pm. At 6pm, I bought some food at 7-11, mostly DOLE Bananas, dried fruits, nuts, soya milk, and water. I’m a vegetarian now so these were my options. I was so tired and anxious then. My flight was getting near. I relaxed in one of the chairs at B floor and and called some of my Klement friends in Thailand to say my final “see you later”. The Thai-Chinese lady that I’ve dated called me as well as I informed her before, the date and time of my flight to the Philippines. We talked for 40 minutes. That felt great.

At 8:00pm, after another walkathon in and outside the airport, we proceeded to the 4th floor, waiting for the check-in time.

A lot of people were so happy seeing Kimi in the airport. A lot them petted him, touched him, greeted him, hugged him, played with him, kissed him-locals and tourists alike. “How cute”, “narak” were the words I heard from them. Kimi also loved it; he loves to play with girls and children. He was also happy when they go near him and play with him.

8:30pm, check-in time. I was the first one in line. I already told the lady at the counter that I will check-in early but I will let Kimi go in a few minutes before the boarding time. I showed them my Mabuhay Card (frequent flyer miles), weighed my baggage and Kimi in his crate. My bag weighed 11 kgs. and Kimi and his crate weighed 7kgs. I paid 2,695 baht for Kimi. Because dogs are considered excess baggage even if you haven’t exceeded your free baggage allowance-385 baht per kg. of excess baggage. So 385 baht x 7 kg.=2,695 baht. After paying in the Thai Airways office I went back at the counter and told them that I will put Kimi inside a few minutes before boarding time so that he not spend too much time in the cargo hold. They agreed, and told me that I must be there at the counter at 10:30pm as boarding time is 11:00pm and the queue in the immigration might be long. So we walked again around the airport. I bought some snacks just to get rid of my Thai coins (satang) because I won’t be able to use it anymore.

As I was going back to the counter at 10:30pm, I saw the face of the attendant at the counter looking worried and kept on checking her watch. She’s definitely waiting for me because it’s already 10:30pm. When she saw me coming, there was a sigh of relief on her face. I was nervous and anxious now. This is it. Kimi will now be placed in the cargo hold. I tied a rope around the door of his crate which will serve as a double lock. “Is it secured now?” said the attendant. I got my boarding pass and was told that I bring Kimi in the overzied baggage counter. So I went there. It was not busy anymore as it is nearing boarding time already. Kimi was barking, his separation anxiety was so obvious. He knew he’ll be separated again albeit temporarily. I watched him as they placed him in the x-ray machine all the way through the other side. “Ok, sir”, said the man in charge. Then they put him in a big stroller full of baggage. He was placed on top. He was with all those baggage. He was barking furiously, uneasy, wanting me to rescue him, get him and be with me in the cabin. I watched as they slowly transported that large stroller. I felt like witnessing a loved one on a stretcher on the way to the operating room. Then the door closed. That stroller was the final batch of baggage to be placed in the cargo hold. I prayed for Kimi. I prayed that everything will be fine. I immediately proceeded on. After passing my most hated part of air travels, the x-ray machines, I was in the immigration. Everything was fine then I went to Duty Free.

It has been my tradition that every time I travel internationally, I always pass by Duty Free and spray Calvin Klein Eternity For Men on myself-on my palms, wrists, earlobes, and my chest. This started in 2005 when I traveled internationally for the first time. That was from Manila to Frankfurt. I was with the San Beda Male Singers, formerly San Beda College Chorale under the tutelage of famous choral conductor, composer, and arranger Robert Delgado.  When we had a stop-over at Chiang Kai Shek international airport in Taipei, my co-members-most are seasoned travelers and have been to various cities around the world singing-went to Duty Free perfume area, selected their fave perfume, sprayed a little bit on their wrist, rubbed it and smelled it, then…. sprayed it all over themselves. Haha… whoa! Ok, I’ll do it too. I went straight to Calvin Klein section and looked for that yellowish liquid, when I saw the words ‘Eternity For Men’, I did the same thing. Calvin Klein Eternity is my all-time favorite perfume. We went to lots of countries and every time we were in international airports, we never failed to be in Duty Free doing that thing. While some tried different brands, I stick to Eternity every time. That continued on to our 2006 European and US tour. Our travel uniform, which is a suit or a dinner jacket, always smelled good. Since those are authentic perfumes, it lasts a long time.

Every time I smell an Eternity perfume, memories of our European and US tour flashback in my mind. You know how scents can bring back certain memories, right? Smelling that perfume reminds me of airports, dinner jackets, plane food and movies, Europe, sophistication, classical music, and camaraderie.  So when I traveled internationally again in 2009, I did it again and never failed to do it in my international travels until now. That scent gives me happy memories now and it helps make my plane travel more relaxed and comfortable. So when you meet me at the airport or on the plane when traveling internationally, expect that my sweat smells Calvin Klein. Haha…

After quite a long walk in the beautiful, comfortable, and classy Suvarnabhumi airport, I arrived at the boarding area. Just in time for boarding. My Klement friend Franz called me to say his final goodbye until I was in the tunnel going to the plane. I was greeted by an old woman. Most flight attendants of Philippine Airlines are old. I don’t know why. “Good evening sir, mabuhay welcome to Philippine Airlines”. I replied “May I talk to the captain please”. “sir, that’s not possible” said the old woman. “I want to talk to the captain, I will tell him that my dog is in the cargo hold” I insisted. “Sir, they know already, because they were informed beforehand about that. That’s our standard procedure”.  I wasn’t convince, “May you please remind him”. “Ok sir.” she replied. “No, I mean now, remind him now”. She was quite irritated because she is old. But she tried to hide it and mask it with a smile, but she weren’t able to hide her old facial muscles showing her irritation. “Sir, the captain knows it already but yes, I’ll do it later”. “Please, remind him,” then I went to my seat. I whispered a prayer then relaxed. 

I love riding planes, except for crappy budget airlines. 3-5 star flag carriers bring me happiness, excitement, and relaxation. The cabin ambiance, soft classical music, comfortable seats, in-flight movies, magazines, choices of music, hot meals, and unlimited complimentary drinks and snacks. Oh I love flying. I told myself to not worry about Kimi who is underneath our cabin but instead just relax and enjoy the ride. But I couldn’t stop thinking about him. So I again talked to one of the flight attendants who just finished helping a passenger put a hand-carry baggage in its place. “Excuse me, may you please inform the captain that my dog is in the cargo hold”. “Ok sir, I will”. She went and informed the captain, then came back, “sir, it’s ok now, I already told the captain, you need not worry because we are used to having live animals on board”.  “Were they OK?” I asked. “Of course! She said with a grin, “don’t worry” she told me.

As we took off, I stretched my neck to have a final glimpse of my second home-a country that I loved-as I was sitting on the aisle side, my preferred seat when traveling by plane. I used to always choose window side, but that changed because now, I prefer comfort than having a nice view.

Thailand was my home for 4 years. It was 4 years of many experiences. I really love Thailand, the convenience, safety, beautiful superhighways, comfort, cheap good and services, lots of tourist spots, pretty women, kind locals, abundance of fruits, and accessible travel, I’ll definitely miss Thailand.

After having a final glimpse of Suvarnabhumi airport and Lat Krabang disctrict at night, I relaxed and listened to Pinoy music though my headset. It has been 4 years since I haven’t listened to Pinoy music. Good thing the playlist of Philippine Airlines contains OPM. Christian Bautista, Yeng Constantino, and some other artists that I do not know belted it out as I relaxed on my seat with spacious leg room. I was seated on a “reserved” seat and the seat in front of me can’t recline because it is in-line with the emergency exit door.

A few minutes later, hot meal was served. I unfolded my table coming from the armrest of my seat. I pre-ordered a vegetarian meal when I called the airlines informing them about the dog. So I was served first, asking if I was Regin Reyno, then came my special meal. It was yellow rice, mashed potato, sliced tomatoes, vegetable salad, fruits, whole-wheat bread, and water. I liked it. I ordered fresh 100% orange juice and I’m enjoying my meal. I love eating while traveling. I thought of Kimi again, here I am enjoying the comforts of Philippine Airlines but how about him? What might be his situation there? I decided to stop worrying because I was reminded that worrying doesn’t change the situation; it just takes your joy of the moment. So I just ordered another orange juice and enjoyed the music, this time I listened to classical music. I also tried watching a movie but I didn’t like the movie showing in the main screen so just stick to the classical music and Pinoy songs.
Philippine Airlines' vegetarian meal
After 3 hours we were now landed at Manila International Centennial Airport, the exclusive airport for Philippine Airlines. I walked very fast. I want to get Kimi immediately. I was the first passenger who reached the immigration, then finally the baggage carousel. “You can get your baggage at carousel no. 6” I remembered announced the flight attendant on board. I waited for a few minutes, but still no luggage came out of the square thingy with black rubber curtains. I peep through it and I saw Kimi’s crate carried by one person. I was expecting they would bring it out now, but instead they just put it there beside the square thing where luggage came out. I don’t know what were they thinking. I inserted my head to that square thing and said “my dog, give me my dog!” “Oh the dog, the dog, give him the dog”, they were looking for it. “There it is” said one person and they immediately handed me Kimi in his crate. I immediately put him in a safe area, unlocked the rope that I tied around its door then quickly grabbed him. He was trembling. Poor dog, he was so scared. But I was so glad he’s alive. “Kimi, it’s ok boy we’re here now”. At first he wasn’t able to recognize me and his new environment, he was still trembling. Then after a few seconds, he was back to his normal Kimi actions. Tail was up again, smelling things around him, and running excitedly. Thank you Lord. We all arrived in the Philippines safely.

We passed by Philippine quarantine, handed them his paper from Thailand and his import permit. A Philippine Burea of Animal Industry personnel inspected him a little bit. Then after paying 350 php and handing the Customs slip that I filled out, we now went out of the airport. Although thankful that we’re now in the Philippines, I was reminded that we still have a long way to go for our final destination. Whew! It’s still a long way to go.  

My final destination was Bukidnon in Mindanao. I opted to take a ship going to Mindanao as I was afraid because of the stories I’ve read in the internet that snub-nosed dogs die in the cargo hold of the plane. Some airlines don’t even allow snub-nosed dogs to fly with them. The heat, change in pressure, little oxygen, noise, is too much for them so I decided to just take a ship because it doesn’t have the change in pressure and oxygen issues that planes have. The only downside is, it takes 2 nights and 1 day to reach Mindanao, whereas plane’s travel time is just 1 ½ hours. I hope I made the right decision.

I waited in the airport from 4am until 12pm. My trip going to Mindanao was still 6:30pm, that Wednesday, February 12, 2014. But I want to go to the pier early because I will still process Kimi’s quarantine papers for the ship and to avoid the afternoon Manila traffic. I waited in the airport-a terrible airport. I was looking for a place where a can sit, eat and surf the net, but the only restaurant in the airport is the crappy Jollibee. Damn! What kind of airport is this? I’m a vegetarian and even if I’m not, I’m not a fan of Jollibee and you don’t have any choices. Is this an international airport?  So sad. The Jollibee that they have don’t even have seats. Just tables were you eat your food standing. How pathetic. The only good thing about the airport is Globe, a telecommunications company, provided free wifi all over the airport.
I waited in the departure area of the airport because the arrival area has lots of people and Kimi wants to play with all of them. I tried blogging to kill the time but instead, I fell asleep while typing on my laptop. My mind can’t think. I remembered I haven’t had slept that night. So I put back my laptop on my bag, and lied down on the chairs and got some sleep holding Kimi’s leash. When I woke up, I realized Kimi’s leash wasn’t in my hand anymore. How stupid am I to not tie it in my arm. I panic, I searched all around the place but I can’t find him. I tried to ask the people who were near me, but they were busy chatting with each other. I was so worried. Then suddenly I saw him not far from my place just looking at some people at a distance. I immediately grabbed his leash. Oh… thank God.

Waiting in that centennial airport was so uncomfortable. I was outside as they don’t allow non-passengers inside. The chairs and surroundings were not the cleanest; the people were not that friendly to Kimi-unlike in Suvarnabhumi where lots of people, locals and tourists alike wanted to touch and play with Kimi. Here, they will just walk past him. Some will say, “so cute”, and that’s it. I also noticed that in Thailand they are more familiar with dogs. They will say, “oh what a cute shih tzu”. Here, they always ask me, “what breed is that sir”? I heard that question a million times upon landing in Manila. I missed Thailand that day. I missed the convenience, cheap and accessible goods and services, clean surroundings, and the beautiful and fashionable women that abound everywhere. I was having a reverse culture shock, honestly.

I was so hungry. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. Good thing I bought some dried fruits in Suvarnabhumi airport. I roamed around looking because I was so bored sitting in one place. I also bought a sim card.

Approaching lunch time, I decided I can’t hold my hunger any longer so I went to the arrival area to maybe find some restaurants. But lo and behold, they also have Jollibee there and a French coffee shop. After some more seeking, I found a small Filipino restaurant just beside Jollibee which serves authentic Filipino food. I looked at the menu and all they have are overpriced meat viands and combo meals. “Do you have any vegetables?” I asked, “We do not have sir, we only serve what’s posted there on the menu”. I’m not hitting the sweetest notes with my home country on the first day. This is so disgusting. I decided to maintain my good vibes and happy thoughts so I just kept my calm. “Ok, I’ll order that fish with broth”. (When traveling or in some situations, I can eat fish, eggs, and dairy products). As I’m about to come in, the server told me “sir we don’t allow dogs inside”. I can’t bear eating and enjoying my meal while Kimi is outside so I just left that restaurant. I ended up eating in Jollibee. I’ll be going to the pier with lots of heavy things to carry and I needed energy. So I just opted to eat meat as there’s no other choice. Plus, this is the time to taste this Filipino fast food after many years. I ordered their new garlic pepper beef. It’s similar to their burger steak. It’s beef braised in Filipino style sauce with lots of garlic-as their palabok and spaghetti contain pork. They have a small, acrophobic space for dine-in. It’s so small and not the most comfortable eating space, but I didn’t mind. I need energy. Instead of having guilty feelings because of eating that meat full of cholesterol, saturated fats, preservatives, and sodium, I just savored the moment. You’re there already so there’s no use worrying about it. Dr. Valter Weith once mentioned that instead of worrying, savor the food with all gusto.

At 12:00pm, I decided to go to the pier. My friend and batch mate, also a Klement, is waiting for me there to assist me. He’s working as a nurse in one of the ships of 2GO Travel. I tried getting a taxi on the 2nd floor in the departure area, but the traffic there is so chaotic plus it’s not registered in the airport so I went down again in the arrival area and took the yellow airport taxi. 70 pesos is their starting price. It’s more expensive but safer. “Pier ng 2GO, North Harbor, daan lang sa Roxas Boulevard or Macapagal”, I told the driver. Taxi drivers in Manila are one of the worst in the world so I tried to let them know that I know Manila, that I’m not a newbie there. “Where have you been sir”, said the taxi driver. He talked while the taxi was on its way to the pier. I noticed the meter was so fast. And just like that it’s already 350php and we haven’t reached the pier yet. I remembered my taxi from Sam Sen train station to Lat Krabang near Suvarnabhumi airport in Bangkok. That’s very far plus we got lost a lot of times but my bill didn’t even reach 300 baht. Here, the pier is not that far from the airport and it’s already 350 php.

I remembered when I arrived that morning at 4am, when I got out of the airport, some taxi drivers were waiting in the arrival area. These are not airport taxis. They will go near the arriving passengers and offer their taxi. One driver came to me, “sir taxi sir, where are you going?”. I tried to inquire so I talked to the driver, “I’m going to the pier, north harbor”. “Ok sir, I’ll take you there”, he replied. “How much?”. (I don’t take taxis without meter or using the meter, I was just testing him.) “How many baggage do you have sir?” In my mind I thought, does the number of baggage really matter? Only here in Manila was I asked how many number of baggage do I have, and they’re relate it to the price of the fare. Damn these Manila taxi drivers. “Ok I have three”. I said. “Oh that’s very far sir, north harbor, it’ll be 850 pesos”. Hahaha… I want to say “ulol!”. But instead, I said, “Ang mahal naman” and walked away. “Magkano ba gusto niyo sir?, he kept on following me, but I didn’t talked to him, I ignored him. These are one of the factors that destroy our tourism. I hate it. While I was resting on my chair that morning at around 7am, he went to me again bargaining his taxi, but I just ignored him.

When we reached North Harbor pier, the abnormally fast meter read 474 pesos. I was shocked. There was no traffic. I asked some security guards at the airport and their estimate if you’ll use meter to the pier is just 200-300 pesos. Anyway, I handed the driver 5 hundred pesos-one 2 hundred bill and three 1 hundred bills. What happened next was really annoying. After befriending me while on the way to the pier, he didn’t return my change. This happened to me a lot of times already in Manila. Taxi drivers don’t return your change. In Bangkok even if your change is just 1 baht, they will religiously return it. And now we are wondering why Bangkok has lots of tourists? O Manila, what happened to you? I know what the driver will say when I will ask for the change. He will say “I don’t have change sir, I just went out” (sir wala akong barya, kalalabas ko lang eh). Damn.  I heard it a lot of times in Manila already. Some will even say, “Pamasko mo na sa akin yon sir, salamat.” (Make that your Christmas gift for me, thanks). I mean, it’s OK to help, but not in that kind of way where they will force you. In Bangkok I always tip taxi drivers, and they’re so grateful about it. They won’t ask you for it, but if you give them the change, that’s fine.

In the airport that morning, when I paid for Kimi’s quarantine of 350 php, I handed the person in charge a 500 peso bill. “Sir, do you have smaller bill”? Ok, I am really in the Philippines as I haven’t heard this line for ages. “No I don’t, because if I do, I would have handed you the ‘smaller bill’”, I replied. “Sir, my change here is only 100 pesos, I don’t have 50 pesos”, he said. After thinking in a few seconds, I just said, OK, that’s fine, as I don’t want to be delayed arguing in that quarantine area.

Another scenario: This time in 2GO ticketing office in the pier. I paid for Kimi’s fare of 150 pesos. I handed the person 500 pesos. Same reply, “Do you have smaller bill sir”?  “No, I don’t”, I said. “Sir, we don’t have change for that”. He replied. What the… it’s already 2pm and still you don’t have bills in there? I said in my mind. I just stood there. He started looking for bills in the cash register, and then he handed me 300 pesos. “Sir, I lack 50 pesos, is it ok?” What a question. What will suppose to be my answer? Everyone’s in a hurry to board the ship and Kimi is now restless. Uh oh, what happened to my country?

I am not despising the Philippines. I am just telling the truth because I feel disgusted of what’s happening in our country. I haven’t noticed this mediocrity and poor services before I left exploring the world. And now, since I can see the difference, I am very disgusted because third world countries in Southeast Asia can even do better. I was in Yangon in 2012, and their airport is a lot better than that crappy centennial airport. So don’t be surprised if we lagged behind in tourism in the region. I pity those travel bloggers, DOT personnel, and other private sectors who strive hard to improve Philippine’s tourism, only to be ruined by the government and some ignorant citizens.

The Philippines is a beautiful country. It is. It’s just so sad that we have a lousy government.

I met Kim, my friend and batch mate. He helped me with Kimi’s quarantine, our tickets, and transport of our baggage. He used his connections to make my boarding easier. He has relatives in the ticketing office and we left my bags there while we processed Kimi’s quarantine in pier 8, about 100 meters from pier 4 where the ticketing office is located.

While waiting for Kim, I was approached by porters. Seeing my dog, they asked me questions. “sir does it have a quarantine already”? When I said we haven’t processed the quarantine yet, they started offering help. “sir quarantine is at pier 8, quite far from here”. “Can I walk?” I replied. “Yes, but it’s far. And you have to carry your dog, better take a motorcycle taxi, we can get a motorcycle taxi for you”. “How much?” I said. “300 pede na” (300 pesos will do) he said verbatim. Hahaha… I laughed. It’s really near, If not for the heat and for my dog, I have walked going to there because it’s not far. And here they are, offering to take me there for 300 pesos! Do they really believe that fooling people can get them out of poverty? How pathetic. I declined but they rebutted. “Sir balikan naman na po yon eh.” (sir that’s already round trip).

Good thing a few minutes later, Kim arrived and borrowed his cousin’s motorcycle. He took me there and we got Kimi’s quarantine. All for free.  Kim helped me in all my processes-my ticket, Kimi’s fare, and for my porter. I have 2 heavy bags plus Kimi and his crate. There’s no way I can carry of of those in going up the ship, so I need a porter. The minimum price for a porter in Manila is 150 pesos. Kim talked to one of the porters that he knew and made a deal so I can have a porter for free-a very kind person and batch mate indeed.

We proceeded to the waiting area. After paying my terminal fee of 30 pesos, and passing by an x-ray machine, we were queuing to show my ticket to enter the waiting area, or boarding area. I had one problem. They need a printed copy of my aunt’s scanned credit card with her signature. Good thing she sent it to my email but I wasn’t able to print it. Instead I just saved in my phone. I tried to argue to the personnel in the boarding area but they won’t let me in without the hard copy of the scanned credit card. I showed it to them saying that she’s my aunt and everything to no avail. Kimi is with Kim. They are now waiting for me in the boarding area. Kimi was barking restlessly. He is in the crate. Kim can access every place in the pier and in the ship because he is a worker of 2GO Travel. So he’s there in the boarding area with Kimi. I desperately want to be in the boarding area now as Kimi is now restless and I want to have a rest too. I’m already tired.    

After a few minutes, I asked them if I can access the internet in their computer as the scanned copy is in my email and we’ll just print it there. They tried to connect to the net but it is very slow. The slowest I have seen in years. It’s almost not working. Finally after few minutes, the login and password icons of yahoo mail appeared. I entered my login details to no avail. It says, I entered the wrong username or sometimes the wrong password. What’s the matter with this? I just accessed my yahoo mail in Bangkok using the same details. I was there for quite a time already and still can’t access my email after many tries. Good thing the personnel got an idea, “sir if it’s in your iPhone, maybe we can plug that in this computer and print that scanned copy”. I haven’t thought about that because since arriving at 4am that day until that hour, I haven’t seen a single person in Manila who’s using an iPhone or any Apple products, in all honesty. “Do you have a cord?”. My USB Apple cord was left in the hotel in Lat Krabang, Bangkok where I stayed. I always lost things while on the road. I checked everything before I left because I know this fact. Just when I thought everything was in its place, when I was in the plane to charge my iPhone in my laptop, there did I realized that my iPhone USB cord was not in the bag. Darn! I ended up borrowing one from a French backpacker on board. She played with Kimi while in the airport and we became friends. I saw her in the plane and she saved my day. I was able to charge my iPhone and was able to take photos in the plane.

Ok, back in the 2GO boarding area. “Yes sir, I have”, he said. It so happened that he has an iPod touch and it has the same charger as my iPhone 4. So we plug in their old model desktop, and voila! There it is, ready to be printed. He printed it. It took so long. Really long, like 5 minutes for that one piece of paper. The printer was super slow, noisy and you can hardly see the print. But that will do it for them, so we waited for it to be printed.

When I crossed that final ticket check, I immediately went to Kimi and took him out of his crate and carried him. He was so noisy. 2GO personnel told me that it’s not possible to take Kimi out of his crate. I told them that “If he is in his crate he’ll create noise and all your passengers in this boarding area will be disturbed, so let me carry him”. They agreed.

Kim stayed with us in the boarding area. We talked a lot. You know, when friends didn’t see each other for a long time… we had lots of stories. About work, life, Klement, love life, career, places etc. I bought some snacks as we waited there in the boarding area.

Kimi was on our side, playing with passengers who were also seated. Some liked it, some didn’t. He wants to play with strangers especially girls and children. If they didn’t play with him, he’ll bark loudly.

After so much barking, the ship’s personnel agreed to let me board the ship first. So I went to the shuttle bus going to the ship with Kim and boarded. Noisy dogs have some advantage. We went to my cabin, and there were my bags which the porter brought earlier. Then Kim toured me around the vessel. I just left Kimi’s crate in the cabin and carried him around.

We had a great time on the top most part of the ship. (I don’t know the name of that place, the one with the ship exhaust). It was overlooking Manila area particularly Tondo, the infamous town in Manila. Kim told me stories about his life in Tondo and in the vessel. I was glad he was able to venture out of his native Mindanao. I told him “You made the right decision; it’s good you’re able to travel a lot at that young age. That will make you perspective in life and your horizon broader”.

We enjoyed the sunset and the coming ships that dock at that pier. It was a great afternoon. But tiredness of Kimi and I can’t be hidden anymore. Kim noticed Kimi’s tired eyes. We departed my apartment in Muang, Ratchaburi, Thailand at 6am that Monday morning, and here we are on a Wednesday, 5:00pm still in Manila. We weren’t able to sleep that night during our flight. And I’ve dealt with 2 heavy bags plus Kimi and his crate, and my mind needed to be always alert and sharp during that travel. At around 5:30pm, Kim bade goodbye. Our departure was 6:30pm.
with Kim
The ship departed at 8:00pm. Yes, it was delayed. Kimi was supposed to be in the livestock area with other animals. But I know he’ll be stressed if he’ll stay there so I just brought him around with me. A lot of people were amazed at him. This time, many people wanted to touch him and pet him. And I heard again the question 10,000 times, “What kind of dog breed is that”? He just had a visit to the pet salon and I know his hair is short, so maybe that explains why. But in Thailand even if he’s wearing that short hair, people can still know that he’s a shih tzu. Because of Kimi, I got lots of friends in the ship.

I ate in the ship’s wonderful restaurant called Horizon-one of the best things in that ship. It was cozy and comfortable. The worse thing about that ship is, they won’t allow anyone to charge anywhere. There were no outlets anywhere. And if they were, they won’t allow it for charging your phone. Instead, they have a charging area where there are built-in chargers and outlets and you drop coins for it to work. A 5 peso coin is equivalent to a 10 minute charge. There are about thousands on board that vessel and they just have that small charging area with at least 5 stations. And they don’t even have a built-in charger for iPhones. What a stupid move by 2GO Travel. Their love for money became so obvious and their ignorance and lack of quality is showing.

Kimi was so tired now, so am I, so I just put him there in the livestock area for him to sleep. Dogs are supposed to stay only inside their crate in the livestock area. It was now 10pm. I went to my cabin and slept as the ship cruised along the calm Visayas water.

At 6am the next day, I hurriedly went to the livestock area. That area is terrible. I want him out of that place as soon as possible. Chickens were there, the ships’ garbage, one mini pinscher of one of the passengers, and the ship’s K9, a fierce Belgian Mallinois. I took Kimi to his delight. He was so happy to see me. Apart from the charging thingy, this is another thing that I despise about 2GO Travel. Their livestock area and garbage area is one. That area is also where the employees wash their clothes, hang their clothes to dry, and also storage of some of the carpentry’s work for the ship. Underneath, there are personnel who are constantly hammering on something. The noise is terrible. That place is hell! It’s noisy, smelly and dirty. Anyone can enter into it and there are no guards, no CCTV cameras. So I was thinking that anytime, anyone can get Kimi or if there’s a crazy person on board, he might throw Kimi overboard and no one would know it. So I decided I won’t put Kimi there again. So Kimi was with me every time, everywhere I went in that ship.

At 6pm, we docked in Cebu. It was the ship’s stopover. A lot of people went to the top of the ship to watch it dock. I went there too and enjoyed the view. I befriended a UAE national onboard that ship. His wife, a Filipino was so amazed with Kimi. That led me to befriend the couple. We had a good chat with that UAE national. I learned that he was able to explore a lot of places in the Philippines. He is taking her wife to Cebu to celebrate Valentine’s Day there. He’s wife have never been to Cebu. He told me that he is showing a Filipina the beauty of the Philipppines.

They are a generous couple. That night, I saw them at the ship’s bar, and they bought drinks to the people there, even to the singers. The wife even gave some cash to the singers. She was so amused with Kimi that she wanted to give Kimi chocolates. I told her that Kimi can’t eat chocolates. And she replied, “Ok, I think the owner can eat chocolates”, so she gave me a box of Toblerone.

The UAE national have been everywhere. We talked about different countries including Thailand where he was able to spend a vacation. It turned out he is also an F1 fan, supporting Scuderia Ferrai because he told me that an Abu Dhabi company Mubadala sponsors Ferrari. He’s one of the coolest persons I’ve met on the road.

He told me how awesome the Philippines is. He’s been to Ipil, Zamboanga, Basilan, Mabini, Manila and told me that he doesn’t have problems with safety in this country. The reason they took that a ship instead of flying to Cebu from Manila is because he wants to show his wife, a Filipina, how beautiful the Philippines is. I’m glad I was able to meet this lovely couple.
wonderful couple
It was my final night in the ship. I didn’t put Kimi back in that hellish livestock area. Shame on you 2GO Travel for having that rubbish livestock area. I will never take a dog to 2GO again. If you’re traveling with your pet dog, never ever take 2GO Travel. It’s not pet-friendly. I just took Kimi with me everywhere I go in that ship. And again, because of him I befriended a lot of people including this father and daughter who’s traveling from Dumaguete to Cebu and then to Hasaaan, Cagayan de Oro. It turned out that they are dog lovers too. And I learned that they don’t have enough money for their travel-because they weren’t able to book early, and this money-grabbing 2Go Travel increased the ticket price. They were short of budget even though their ticket is just economy. The humid economy rooms located at the bottom of the ship.
I told them to transfer to the air-conditioned area as no one is checking the tickets. So they did. I also bought them dinner because they haven’t eaten yet and they are short of money. They petted and played with Kimi. We had a great time talking to each other.  It really feels great to help someone who is need.

I tried sleeping in my cabin with Kimi but Kimi made noise. He wanted to play with my roommates. I am ashamed of my roommates because they might be disturbed in their sleep. So we just went outside, in the lobby of Horizon Restaurant and slept in one of the benches there. There are no people there so no distraction for Kimi. It was not the most comfortable sleeping area in the world, but it was an experience.
Tourist. 2GO Travel
At 5am, Kimi woke me up. It’s his routine. He wakes me up at 5am every day. It means he has to pee and poo. So even if I’m still sleepy, we had our morning walk. The sea was calm. The chilly morning wind was biting my skin. Then, the sun slowly rose. We watched it. It was beautiful. We saw lots of flying fish and dolphins playing.

At 6am, our ship finally docked at Puntod Wharf, Cagayan de Oro. Praise the Lord! I asked for a porter for 50 pesos to take my bags down and put Kimi in his crate. We were going down the ship. Finally, I’ve reached land. Our childhood ship travels flashbacked in my mind. This was the same pier where we always docked before in our travels to Mindanao.

Living in Isabela, Luzon, we always visited our relatives and spent our vacation in Mindanao every summer. We took ferries most of the time as plane fare was so expensive then. Aboitiz’ Superferry, Sulpicio Lines, William Lines, Negros Navigation, and Gothong were the ships that we took. This was during my elementary years-and that moment, it flashbacked in my mind. It was just as if yesterday when my family and I always took the ferries in going to Mindanao and always docked in that same pier. Now, I’m here again in this pier.

After a few minutes of waiting, my family arrived with our Hyundai Starex. I was so glad. Finally this is it-the last part of the trip. Kimi and I were exhausted already. Kimi was so glad to relax in that van with my family. Its air-conditioner protected him from the heat and humidity of Mindanao. We had breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant near the SDA Mission in Cagayan de Oro. My parents processed some documents in CDO, and at 11:00am, we left CDO for Bukidnon.
last leg of the trip
Passing my Malaybalay, we had luch at Sir Edward’s restaurant. This was where we always eat before as a nursing student who had duties in the nearby provincial hospital. It’s good to be back. We ordered stir-fried vegetables, sweet and sour fish fillet, and buko halo.The ambience was great. It was relaxing.

At around 3pm, we were in Valencia. We went to our house in Valencia because my dad will spend his vesper’s meeting at MVC Annex. So we rested at our house in Valencia first. It was able to meet my smart nephew. Kimi wanted to play with him but he’s afraid of Kimi. We had a wonderful dinner. I slept my tiredness away.

At 10pm, my parents woke me up because we will proceed to our final destination. Mountain View College, a college located on top of a mountain.

Finally at around 10:40pm, we’ve reached our house in MVC. It was home. Praise the Lord. I thank God for the protection all the way from Muang, Ratchaburi, Thailand until reaching our house in MVC, Bukidnon, Philippines. The blessings of God are overflowing and His grace and mercies are everlasting.  
enjoying the moutain
We left my apartment at Muang, Ratchaburi, Thailand at 6pm, on Monday, February 10, 2014, and arrived at our home in MVC, Bukidnon, Philippines at almost 11:00pm, Friday, February 14, 2014. That was a great journey-a journey where I had lots of experiences and witnessed God’s guidance, blessings, and goodness. I was so exhausted but fulfilled and happy.














2 comments:

  1. Nice account of your journey Regin. Now I know that you're from Bukidnon and you owe a lot to Lake Apo that a family from Surigao was able to visit the place ahead of you he he.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello. Thanks for dropping by. I was able to visit lake Apo in 2006 and 2007 but it doesn't have the canoes, kayaks, and pedal boats that was in your post. I'm glad you wrote about it. I wanna visit it again.

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