Thursday, October 15, 2009

Triumphant Return to the Philippines

After a flight that I almost managed to not freak out on (I think I'm getting a little better) I arrived at Clark airport at the ungodly hour of 4am. Clark is the budget airport a couple hours north of Manila, that used to be part of the US air force base here until destroyed by the volcano Pinatubo. I think I mentioned this all before as we flew out of the Philippines from here back in Feb.
In a way I was lucky to have even arrived. I had to argue with the airline check-in staff about letting me on the plane in the first place. The Philippines requires all visitors to have onward tickets before entering, and of course I was flying one-way. We had the same problem leaving Australia as well (on a different airline)and much the same thing happened in this case as well. I argued a while and eventually they either got bored or confused. Possibly the later because my strategy was to show them how I knew more about these things than them by pointing to all the stamps in my passport :). The fact that there was a Philippines extension in there from the first trip, combined with my mentioning the word "school" finally broke them. I was a little worried though about getting through immigration since I was asked for my onward ticket the last time I arrived (we did have one before actually so I didn't have to worry) but this time I wasn't asked a single thing. Whew! But they do seem a lot more strict here. Filipinos have to show a lot of paperwork to be allowed to leave the country, even as tourists, so it might be better to come prepared.
There was a bus there to meet us and take us into town and I must say that by 6:30am, totally exhausted, I knew I had made the right choice. They were so friendly and helpful in the 7/11 just to get me a new SIM card working in my phone that I'm excited to go out an meet new people again. Couldn't say the same about the other countries recently. I took off in a taxi (ok, I'm not going to comment on them, because they are all the same but if you make them use the meter they are quite affordable. You didn't just read that from me....) to get to Bianca's house where I would be staying. She's a friend we had stayed with before in Manila. Different place this time but the great friend is still the same :) She is with her friend Jone and seeing as he is a devout diver, we immediately hit it off.
After a brief catching up and nap, she told me that they were going to her home in Antique 2 days later so I bought a return flight to join them there. The flight is seriously the same price as taking the bus. 1 hour flight or 17 hour bus ride. Which do you prefer? Well, I wasn't too thrilled about the flight to be honest, but at least this time I had someone to hold my hand. Cebu Pacific flights are interesting in that they play games on the flight. For example, the first one to show a particular object will win a prize. I've never seen something like that, and yet somehow, of all places it would be in the Philippines.
On my one full day in Manila I met up with Flager, whom we had stayed and travelled with around Naga. She's in Manila now having just written the bar exam. We spent the day together catching up and hanging out hiding from the rain. It's still raining pretty hard now and the typhoon season doesn't end for another month so they expect a few more still. I really can't believe the city was totally flooded but everything does seem very wet and soggy still. Dirty, chaotic, run-down, broken streets and crowded. But it is these things at the best of times too.
My original plan was to come here, stay in Manila and do the TESL course so that I could easily get a job teaching English while waiting for more interesting work to show up. Instead, I got an email from another friend in Iloilo, Lera, who works with a Korean school there teaching English. They are desperately looking for a native-speaker and the manager wanted to talk to me. Well, since I was flying to Iloilo the next day on my way to Antique (yes, sometimes my life really does fall into place this easily) I stopped by the school and checked it out, leaving with a job offer to boot. Sweet!
So here I am back in Antique hanging out for a few days. From here I have a flight to Manila on the 21st, I'll pick up my stuff and then fly back to Iloilo on the 25th to start work on the 26th. Should be interesting. The pay is terrible really, but it is so cheap here and relaxed at the school that I think I can handle it for a while. Should be interesting anyway.
Ammon

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