Almost Famous in the Philippines
“We have to go to the Philippines in August!” I kept telling my boyfriend.
We were living in South Korea at the time, and we had already visited the Philippines a few months prior. That vacation was nice, as we spent days on the beach in Bohol and afternoons walking the streets of Manila. It’s not that he was opposed to going back; he was excited. It was just that this would be the first time in a while we weren’t booking a place because it was the cheapest thing on Skyscanner. We were booking it because we had to.
Let me back up a bit. The reason we “had to” go to the Philippines again that month was because I was being published in Smile, the official magazine of Cebu Pacific Airlines. Now, before you get all excited, this wasn’t my own ‘travel centerfold.’ It was a little blurb on what to do in 24 hours in Fukuoka, Japan. Nevertheless, I was damn proud of it. I really liked this magazine, and it had always been a goal of mine to write for an in-flight magazine. After I got the gig, I found out my piece would be published in August’s issue. Unfortunately, Smile couldn’t mail me a print copy, so I had to get my hands on one myself. How can one do this? Well, by booking a flight on the airline of course!
No matter what, the rain couldn’t make me upset. After all, I had my magazines.
So, the plan was to go sometime in August. By that time, we had met our new best friends, a friendly couple who lived down the street from us in Seoul. They loved dogs, traveling, and wine as much as we did. Ricardo was a professor and Nick was a freelancer who did a lot of German translations. As soon as we met them (or, rather, as soon as our dogs met each other) we knew it was a match made in heaven. After three days of knowing each other, we asked them if they’d like to come to the Philippines with us.
When we finally got around to planning the trip, it was a bit hard to find flights. I was worried I wouldn’t get a seat on Cebu Pacific after all. But, we were successful, and in a short four-day trip, we would go to Manila, Coron Island, and back to Manila. The flight round trip to Coron from Manila was on Cebu Pacific Airlines. SCORE! But, I started to worry.
Almost Famous in the Philippines
“What if they don’t put the magazine on every flight?” I anxiously thought. I sent a message to their Facebook page, asking them. They said the magazine can be found on “most” airplanes. I’d have to live with that until I boarded and could see for myself.
In the meantime, our two Filipino friends took Cebu Pacific the beginning of August and took a picture next to the page my article was on. Phew.” I let out a sigh of relief.
After a hellish stopover at the middle of the night in Manila, we got back to the airport at 6 AM to board our flight to Coron. We had to actually walk onto the runway to board it, so the whole thing was very nervewracking. Would the magazine be there or not? Finally, when we got on this little thing of an airplane, I saw it. The magazine was squeezed in the little pockets behind the seats. You know that feeling when things just work out perfectly? It was awesome.
I found the page the article was on, and I could feel a huge smile spread across my face. (So, that’s why they call it Smile, huh?) I did it. Sure, it wasn’t on the cover of Emirates, but it was a step in the right direction. I felt for the first time in my life that I was more proud of myself than others were of me; something not common in the life of a writer. The four of us took a few copies of the magazines and shoved them in our bags. Now I would just have to keep them dry until we were back in Korea.
The trip to Coron was fun. On the one day it didn’t downpour, we rented a boat out into the waters and did a little snorkeling and A LOT of drinking. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much eating, and after I got stung by a deadly-dead jellyfish, we got hungry and headed back to the Blue Resto Bar, our go-to restaurant while in Coron. No matter what, the rain couldn’t make me upset. After all, I had my magazines.
Would you believe that up to that point in my travels, I never had a flight canceled, ever? I really had no idea what to do. But, with three men at my side, I decided to take charge.
On the last day in Coron, we took a van back to the airport. Actually, it was more like a clown car, as the driver squeezed in as many people as he could to get as much money as possible. Not a fun way to end the trip, but it’s all part of the experience, right? Little did we know that wasn’t the worst part.
When we got to the tiny Coron Airport, the entire terminal was about the size of a middle-class person’s first floor. We actually had to pay a terminal fee to enter the terminal. Unbelievable. There were only four airlines that served this airport, two I had never heard of. When we got there, we had found out all the flights the previous day had been canceled, and the people from those flights were waiting at the airport, too. Ouch. This might not turn out well, I thought.
After paying the ridiculous terminal fee to sit in the only possible place and wait for the flight, the announcement came on that our flight was delayed. A few minutes later, we heard the announcement that it was canceled. It was total, absolute chaos. Would you believe that up to that point in my travels, I never had a flight canceled, ever? I really had no idea what to do. But, with three men at my side, I decided to take charge.
Almost Famous in the Philippines.
We went to the Cebu Pacific counter, and they told us they’d try their best to get us on the next flight out. But seeing as our flight was canceled due to bad visibility, and the day’s before had been canceled, AND you couldn’t see diddly-squat outside, our chances were looking pretty slim. Some German guy suggested we book with another airline (one of the other three). We tried, but unfortunately, they only took cash and there was no ATM at the airport whatsoever. In fact, I don’t even know if there was an ATM on the entire island. We were stuck waiting for the skies to open up, while the German guy ditched us to get on the next plane out. (If the skies were so foggy, how could the other airlines get out?)
Vincent Agustin Tungpalan
After a lot of frustration, I decided to go back to the Cebu Pacific counter. We did have a connecting flight from Manila to Seoul in a few hours, and that seemed to be what was getting some important people (mostly Westerners) bumped up to the next flight. I tried playing my cards, telling the woman we really needed to get on the plane so we didn’t miss our next flight. She looked like either she was trying, or she was ignoring me completely. People were starting to push in front of me.
Then, I had an idea. A ridiculous idea…something I would have never done if I hadn’t been in this situation. (Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?).
I whipped out the Smile magazine from my backpack and opened it up to the page with my article. I slammed it down on the counter, pointed to my picture, then pointed to my passport, and said, “That’s me. Now please, help my friends and I get on the next plane.” She smiled, then asked me what our original flight was. (Filipino people are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met.)
Unfortunately, they only took cash and there was no ATM at the airport whatsoever. In fact, I don’t even know if there was an ATM on the entire island. We were stuck waiting for the skies to open up, while the German guy ditched us to get on the next plane out.
“Your original flight was the one that left at 9 AM, right?” She winked at me. (It wasn’t.) I was confused for a minute, but then I realized she was not only bumping us up, but she was helping us from getting swarmed by angry passengers.
“Oh, yes, right, we were on that flight!” I said. She handed us our new boarding passes, and we took off about two hours later when the skies cleared up a bit.
I had to sit by myself on the plane, which I kind of resented. Those tiny-ass island planes actually let you see the propellers and that scared the crap out of me. Nick and Ricardo offered to switch, but being the lady I am, I said I was fine. (I totally wasn’t… I was shaking the whole time and the lady next to me had to keep asking me if I was okay.) But, again, I had my magazines. And, while I wasn’t famous (yet), my article, in some way, got us a seat on that plane. Either that, or the lady was just really nice. I’ll just keep telling myself it was the former.