Saturday, April 7, 2012

So Long, Ilocos


I forgot to mention this when I talked about the flight going to Laoag, but when we boarded the plane, a man was in my seat, and we (I) had to get short with him to get him to go to his proper place, I mean it's a plane, it's not free seating and you can't just sit wherever you want if that isn't what you paid for. And also, I really don't get why people can't bear to be separated even by a few seats, unless they're with young children. I mean really, are you joined by the hip that you would displace the rightful ticket-holders? It's just dumb. If they want to sit next to each other, they should make arrangements with the airline beforehand, and not inconvenience other passengers! So typically Filipino. This doesn't just apply to tourists, this goes for most public places, like cinemas, where large groups of friends stall the ticket booth picking seats next to each other, and then when they're in the cinema they switch seats with no regard as to whether that seat is already (or will be) spoken for, and then they make a lot of noise. That gets on my nerves more than anything else. There's nothing wrong with having fun, but if it's at the expense of others, that's just plain inconsiderate. Like our neighbors in the slum over the subdivision fence who sing karaoke until the wee hours of the morning. If they don't want to sleep, that's their business, but they shouldn't keep people who want to sleep from doing so. Can urbanity be taught or learned?

Enough about that, suffice to say, we don't really fit the stereotype of Filipino tourists. I mean, in the company of foreigners we're obviously Filipino, but among other Filipinos we're like foreigners ourselves. It's like we don't belong, not really, anyway. It kind of reminds me of something we tackled in my Anthro 10 class last year, that highly epistemological notion of self vis–à–vis the other. Nose bleed much?

What I'm trying to say is, compared to other Filipino tourists my family never dilly-dallies, I wouldn't say we rush, but we keep time, and we never dwell or linger too long at any one place, and we don't feel the need to try six different poses next to every statue or landmark we see, so we tend to look around and take pictures as we go and move on, taking a few group pictures together every now and then. We don't dawdle. I mean, we're not kill-joys, but we (I) can't relate.

So what happened was we finished our day tours or sight-seeing a day early! We had covered everything in our itinerary with time to spare because we saved time during the tour itself. On our first day, the really boisterous group that we bumped into got there first, we don't know how much of a head start they had, but we left for the next spot before them, and we ran into them again, as we were about to leave the new spot, they had just arrived, just imagine how much time they must have spent taking pictures sitting on the antique chairs and making peace signs next to busts of Marcos' mother! Not cute. For the life of me, I will never understand the appeal of plastering your face next to every single thing. But then, I'll just have to deal. You'll recall our frustrations with other people's tardiness in my previous entries, but they'll always be late, and we'll always be on time. They have their way, and we have ours, I guess. It's no use butting heads with so-called Filipino values.

So on our last day we just stayed at the resort relaxing and chilling out before going to the airport. If we had known maybe we could have flown back earlier and saved a day of hotel accommodations, and to be honest we were getting homesick. Papa's back missed the orthopedic bed, my innards missed our toilet, forgive my crassness, but that always happens when I travel, somehow my rhythms get completely thrown off. We missed having internet and cable! But our AirPhil flight wasn't until 5:30 pm that afternoon. However check-out time was at 12 noon, what to do between then until our flight?

Mama talked it over with the manager who waived any overstaying fee until 2 pm since the resort was pretty empty, and besides hotel-airport transfers were part of the package deal. That way we would be at the airport before 3 with plenty of time to spare for all the battery of checks.  

Since we didn't have anywhere else to go, the sisters and I slept in until 8 while Mama and Papa went to the nearby market to buy more longganisa and other native delicacies to take home with us. We didn't have a free breakfast at the resort anymore, so while they were at it they stopped by McDonald's to buy us breakfast meals as a sort of brunch and some pastries from the local Marie's Bakeshop in case we got hungry on the plane. What came as a shock though was that the McDonald's hotcake with sausage meal came with three hotcakes! In Manila it's always been just two, so imagine our surprise when we saw there were three pieces! Unfortunately it didn't come with any extra syrup so they were a little dry.

After breakfast, we set out packing, showering, getting dressed, and tidying up the room. Yes, the hotel staff can take care of that, but we don't like leaving such a mess when we leave hotels, and being a family of five with about 7 pieces of luggage if we didn't do our own clean sweep of the room we might leave behind or forget some of our belongings and valuable.

Just an amusing tidbit, Papa's such a boy scout, or a seaman rather, and he knows how to tie all sorts of knots, so when we were re-packing, and they put the native garlic, sausages, vinegar, brooms, and chicha-corn (which all costs a lot more in Manila), in a box for check-in luggage, he tied this really secure series of knots. We're all girls in the family, so we're always in awe of manly displays of prowess like plumbing and fixing wiring, and in this instance, knot-tying.

We left the resort after doing all our double-checking, securing our luggage, and settling everything with the manager. We made a stop at Chowking and ordered food to go since our flight was later in the afternoon. Walking to Chowking from the nearby parking lot behind the Laoag Cathedral, I bumped into a man who made made a pass at me, "Hi, ganda" or Hi, pretty. I've experienced that when I used to commute, but I thought in the provinces men were more gentlemanly. Not so. I was wearing a summer dress, but it was much longer this time and reached past my knees, but apparently I'm always over-exposed in anything sleeveless. Which reminds me, it slipped my mind in my entry about Pagudpud, but at the lighthouse, while I was taking pictures, a man approached me and asked where I was from, and I thought he was a tour guide so I answered that we were from Metro Manila. Then he asked, where there, I was really bother and excused myself. Freakish men and inappropriate overtures!

Never mind all my encounters with the perverted kind of men.

I usually feel some kind of bittersweet sentiment when I leave places, wishing I could stay longer, but in Ilocos I felt that I really got the most out of it, so I didn't have any regrets, and I was happy with my whole experience, but it was time to go home. In any case, we made it to the airport at around 3 that afternoon, and said our goodbyes to our kind driver and tour guide Manong Jorge who assisted with everything, even with referring Mama and Papa to a market vendor of affordable sausage.

When we entered the airport, nobody was attending the X-ray machine by the door. No one seemed to be on duty, not even a security guard. It's an international airport, but it's relatively small and accommodates only a few flights arriving or departing on any given day, so the employees were pretty lax. Mama approached the AirPhil counter and they weren't even open until 3:30 and neither would there be an operator for the X-ray machine until then. So we just left our luggage there, and just sat inside the airport, no one minded, and we ate our take-out. Somehow Mama's and Papa's orders were misheard in the commotion at Chowking and they got Combo D instead of B. No matter, by that time we were all famished and ready to eat whatever.

At 3:30 there was no sign of life or movement or initiative to attend us, and other passengers were also beginning to arrive and we were just sitting around. Thankfully there was Wi-Fi at the airport, and that kept us busy, er... occupied I suppose. At around 4 some sheepish man turned the X-ray machine on, and started checking our luggage. We thought it was smooth sailing from there, but no. Apparently the local vinegar in any quantity, even if it's in plastic bottles and sealed tight, is no longer allowed in check-in baggage. So Papa had to unpack it and they confiscated it. It's no loss to me since I don't eat vinegar, but the rest of the family was really dismayed. What irked me is that we could have learned about the restriction sooner if they hadn't been on a ridiculously long "lunch break" if you can call it that, and also, why start checking only when a line's already forming, when it could have been less of a hassle to us and to them to perform the check the moment we arrived, like any other airport I've been to. So Papa had to unpack the vinegar and then re-seal the box, while there were other passengers undergoing their checks and it was all stressful, when that could have been avoided altogether if they had done their jobs. Oh, Philippine airport authorities, when will you ever learn?

IMG_0470After that debacle, we settled into the waiting area, but browsing the internet, listening to music, and watching the airport TV can only keep you entertained for so long. We were getting pretty impatient when it was already 5 and still no sight of a plane. A little later, the AirPhil counter staff approached us and informed us that the flight was going to be delayed since the plane had only just left Manila. Boo. But there was nothing we could do but wait. At least the air-conditioning kept us comfortable even when the sun was streaming into the waiting area.

So cam-whoring ensued. I am only a girl, after all. I can't resist camwhoring on my cell phone when I'm bored. Photo0314Photo0316







Eventually the plane arrived, and it didn't take long for the passengers to get off, and for us to board. I managed to take a few pictures of the beautiful sunset as we were walking to the plane. The perfect goodbye to Ilocos, a lasting memory of the glimmering sky.









The AirPhil plane was a lot smaller than the Cebu Pacific one going to Laoag and there were fewer passengers. There was a moment that we passed through an air patch or whatever that was that caused the plane to dip suddenly and I swear my stomach did a somersault. Additionally,  I was not comfortable at all because my ears kept popping due to the fluctuating cabin pressure  and I begged Mama for us not to travel by airplane next time if there's a land travel alternative.

We made it to Manila at last, sometime around 7 that evening and the feeling was indescribable. We weren't home yet, but simply touching down on Manila was such a relief. Also it didn't take us long to collect our baggage and get to our car, safe and sound in the overnight parking. At last! But as I've mentioned previously, going home from the airport, we were met with such heavy traffic, and it wasn't until well over 9 pm that we finally got home.

Home sweet home! There was kaldereta waiting for us because our helper was expecting us for dinner, not withstanding delays and traffic. We just reheated it and ate like the home-starved people we were. That night I lay in my bed, and snuggled into my pillow and I knew that all's well that ends well.  

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