Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bert's Trip to the Philippines, Part 1

Blah, blah, blah, I mean, Blog, blog, blog...

(I intermittently used some Tagalog words, for emphasis, character and color. Also, I just made up all the names to protect the guilty. Mind you, this narrative is for entertainment only, and my facts and figures are not verified. And to satisfy all those people who are always looking for mistakes, I intentionally left some. [Editor's Note: Not if I can help it!] What a gimmick!)

March 15/16, 2007 LAX

My low lights were at the beginning of the trip. As soon as I fell in line at the PAL counter at LAX, one of the passengers in line informed me at once that the flight would be delayed by three hours. Some of them even snickered about the "true" meaning of PAL, Plane Always Late. (I didn't mind it as much, since it was a lot better than the flight the day before where my sister and her family were on board--it didn't take off until the following day.) Anyway, the airline was gracious enough to give us a voucher for $8 to cover dinner that night since the flight would not leave until one o'clock the following morning, a three-hour delay. $8 elsewhere is enough money for dinner on the go, but not at the airport. It will buy you a decent enough dinner, but you have to fork over money for the drinks, which was close to three bucks for a bottle of Diet Coke. What the heck, I was on vacation. What's a few dollars, right?

It must have been a conspiracy--I am not so sure--for all 400+ of us waiting at the terminal for the plane to get ready. The conspiracy I'm talking about is the closeness of the duty free shops next to the waiting lounge. I forked over another $27 dollars for a carton of Marlboro, pasalubong sa mga smokers sa pamilya ko doon. (I found out later, they don't care anymore for Blue Seal cigarettes, local brands will do. Oh well!) In a span of three hours, more and more passengers were buying goodies. I asked the saleslady what time the shop closed and she answered she would stay open as long as there are passengers. Not a bad marketing strategy.

More frustrations.

Anyway, when it was time to board, they had four big buses that transported passengers from the terminal to the airplane which was ten minutes away. The bus ride was so long, it seemed, I thought we were at Burbank by then. Even though they were boarding passengers by seat numbers, that system did not work out the way it was intended to be. Because some of the buses were bigger than the others, it took longer to fill up. The smaller ones that were assigned later got filled first, and took off first. And when the buses arrived, they were almost at the same time, and when the passengers queued up to the hallway leading to the plane, the order was no longer valid. It was at this time I started to make notes, mental and written, of what my experiences would be. Seriously, one of them was--not to fly PAL anymore.

Tips to future PAL passengers or any 747 riders (to make a short story long):

Have your travel agent secure a plane seat for you when he or she books your flight right away. This will get you the best seat in the house--which in this case, is the second section (after the first class) maybe seats from rows 20 to 37.

And as far as seats go, aisle C and H are NOT good when you plan to watch movies, because passengers and flight attendants are always in the aisles, blocking your view of the big screen. Good aisle seats are D and G. Remind you, this only matters when you are in the second section. The plane's seat configurations are different on other sections. Also, the second section is one of the first ones to deplane, after the first class and business class. (I figured out why they charge so much for the seats at first class section: THEY ARRIVE FIRST, after the pilots. Get it?)

In fairness to the employees of Philippine Air Lines, I found all of them to be courteous, kind, professionals, and good-natured. All of the hard feelings I had before boarding were replaced with awe and delight of unimaginable stages as I witnessed how patient they were doing their work over and above what was required, from my point of view. And mind you, it has nothing to do with the attendant assigned to our section who was not only attentive and always with a smile, but also pretty and sexy. I tell you, if I were only single, younger and richer, I would have asked Josephine to marry me.

More next time.

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