Our flight from Hong Kong to Manila touched down about 9PM. We were praying that we would actually get our luggage and that everything we packed would still be there. We found the baggage claim easily, and our bags were some of the first to be spit out of the dark mysterious monster that is the baggage claim machine. We were overjoyed, and even more happy when we got back to the hotel and found out they had not been tampered with.
Once we had our bags, we went through customs. The adoption agency had prepped us for how to deal with customs. We had a script of answers memorized, which we’d been going over in our heads for a long time. If they say this, you should say this. If they want this, tell them that. I was actually pretty nervous as we walked up to the counter with all our bags. I was fully expecting to hear them start snapping on rubber gloves. Prayed some more.
The lady called us forward to the counter, glanced at my papers, didn’t even look at me or my bags, and waved us through. I’d say we spent a grand total of 8 seconds going through customs. Praise God!
We walked out the door, and realized we were actually outside. The blast of hot humid air was the giveaway, not so much the surroundings, because it was just like Hawaii … the buildings aren’t really actually enclosed. No doors. Windows only in some places. Etc. Welcome to Manila!
A car from our hotel – the InterContinental Manila – was to pick us up at the airport. The driver of that car was there waiting for us right there at the door. I had to visit the Philippine Airlines desk to purchase John’s return ticket to America (which I describe in more detail in my other God Provided post), so I left Faith with the luggage and our driver and the myriad security guards patrolling the area, and went to take care of it.
After over an hour at the PAL desk, a bit of anxiety, and lots of prayer, I returned to Faith. I had had no way to communicate to her that it would take so long (nor did I expect it to when I left her), so she was understandably worried. She was very relieved to see me, and even moreso to learn that John’s ticket was purchased and that all issues had been resolved, thanks be to God. Which leads me to travel tip #5…
If you’re traveling internationally, make sure that all the airlines you’re using in the process are partners. The fact that Philippine Airlines is not a partner with United (not part of the Star Alliance) caused me endless grief, mostly centered around the fact that their computer systems don’t like each other. Always check to make sure that the airlines you’re using are partners. Or, even better, book flights that have all legs with the same carrier when possible.
Everything at the airport taken care of, we climbed into the car to head to the InterCon (short name for the hotel). It was a short ride – about 25 minutes – even with lots of traffic. Our first impression of Manila was that it wasn’t too awfully different from any other big city. Lots of Jeepneys and tricycles, which seem to be the primary transportation in the Philippines in general, not just in the big city. Also noticed, of course, that there is a lot of poverty and that people were stacked on top of each other. It seemed like every ounce of space was filled with something utilitary, and that people lived VERY close together. Lastly, we both were struck by how many people were out doing things like selling things on the street, hanging out on corners, walking somewhere, working on something, etc. It seemed like people weren’t even considering the idea of sleep, and it was nearly 11PM. Granted, it was Saturday night, but we’ve had that impression the entire time we’ve been here, and again not just in Manila. It’s like the country never sleeps.
The hotel is POSH. It’s like any Marriott I’ve stayed at in the States. The A/C was welcome, the restaurant is awesome (breakfast buffet is included with our room), there’s a really nice outdoor pool, the staff is super friendly and helpful, and best of all (since our laptop is defunct), there’s a business center where we can check Facebook and write blog entries. 🙂
Oh, one more thing I thought I’d mention before calling it a night. Both the television and radio switched between English and Tagalog at will. Not one commercial or show or song to the next, but within each. So, a 30 second commercial would feature some guy talking about some product. He’d use 10 sentences in the spot, and 3 of them would be English, 4 would be Tagalog, and the last 3 would be half-and-half. It puts Spanglish to shame around here, I’m telling you.
Well, that’s about it for first impressions of Manila and the hotel. We and our luggage (thanks to trusty bll hops) got to our room and plopped down on the bed at almost exactly 11PM – 26 hrs and 20 minutes after having pulled out of our driveway in Chicago. Sigh. What a trip. But we were brimming with anticipation, and quite happy to be here safely and with so few trouble spots. God’s provision was so obvious.
We went to sleep ready to tackle 12 days in the Philippines.