Travelers’ travails Rappler

Travelers’ travails Featured

AS of this writing, we have been home in Davao for almost two weeks now and taking a vacation from a vacation. Flying coach on PAL is stressful enough, but with three grandchildren (3 to 7 years) in tow, it is almost unbearable except for the expertise of the parents who are themselves globetrotters. For one, Matt had the foresight to download to two IPads and two cellphones 12 hours’ worth of the kids’ favorite cartoons, games and movies. And with Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) on-seat chargers, batteries never run out. Max was surfing the inter-flight movie channels for his favorite “Star Wars” episodes. Lara had all the back-up toys, the teddy bears (named “Loveys”), bottles of milk, assorted snacks and diapers in color-coded satchels, bags and small luggage; all reachable at arm’s length.

In a four-seat configuration, two kids are seated anchored by nanny Belen beside the youngest on one end and the other by Matt with Sylvie. On the next row are Lara and Momsie putting Max in between them. And “Lolo” book-ending the row ,hoping all along that PAL would upgrade my Premier-Elite status to business class for at least having sired the next generation of Capitan Lucio Tan’s next generation of PAL travelers. Fat chance! This septuagenarian had to suffer the 11 ½ hours flight Manila (MNL)-San Francisco (SFO) and 14 ½ hours SFO to MNL in the sardine-like confines of a plane seat which has diminished in size (or has my bulk grown?).

The SFO immigration area was a breeze, particularly for the eight of us allowed to go through the US passport-holders line, as my grandkids and their parents are US citizens. Lolo, “Lola” and the nanny who are Pinoy just had extra questions to answer from a Korean-American officer, like: “…what is the purpose of your visit,” among others. This stern line of questioning possesses an undertone, not blatant, of course, of a slight suspicion of Lolo, Lola and nanny looking for temporary jobs, hinting on the possibility of being “TNT” (Tago nang Tago) in America. To that question, I was tempted to reply “…to spend my money to help the American economy.” I didn’t come through with that tongue-in-cheek response as my grandson Max was fidgeting to run to the nearest restroom. And, for all we know, this federal immigration employee may be one of Trump’s shutdown victims and was a brave volunteer — without pay.

Overall, our holiday was fantastic. First, my fears were unfounded. And my grandson Max could be right after all that the clash of the Pacific and North Atlantic tectonic plates along the San Andreas fault will not occur for the next 10,000 years or so. But we had our own little tectonic shifts when three tykes ages 6 ½, 4 ½ and 3 are packed into a Chevy Suburban with the two younger ones allowed their impedimenta keeping them occupied for any land trip; to the museums, toy stores or to the skiing areas, and even to Ghirardelli for hot cocoa and mini-golf, the Golden Gate Bridge for sightseeing or the grocery at Target stores; with a ‘devil-may-care’ of a driver of a son-in-law, Matt, who almost gave Momsie a heart attack. Frankly, he did well to chauffeur us safely all throughout — except I prefer my daughter Lara to handle the wheels from time to time.

Driving along American roads, either interstate highways or local roads and even mountain roads, is safe. This is because the roads are basically well-structured, superbly engineered, highly maintained, well-lighted with clear signs and directions. More importantly, traffic rules, regulations and the laws are applied strictly, evenly and fairly. Therefore, drivers are disciplined to drive safely. There are exceptions that could produce tragic results – drunk driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), overtaking, crossing solid painted lines, going through red lights and ignoring protocols on four-way STOP signs. I have been driving in American roads for decades and I drive safely and well with an American driver’s license – and no accidents.

But in Manila, for years I no longer drive. It is one of the most chaotic road systems in major cities with population of 10 million. With PRRD’s ‘build-build-build’ program, he needs to redo our road and traffic systems, especially in the megacities; more public transport, phaseout of jeepneys and ancient vehicles, more skyways, more feeder roads but more importantly, the forced education of drivers and the enforcement of the rule of law.

This program of the Deegong will effectively open resort areas, encourage visits to provinces and develop internal tourism and perhaps declog cities and eliminate environmental blight. DU30 with his proven political will to do things right has four years to do this. This is in fact more revolutionary than a revgov — at least to start with.

Our flight back, PR 115, was not entirely uneventful as the US immigration inspection areas were manned with a skeletal force — thanks to the shutdown. But the lone incident that got my goat happened at the NAIA airport upon arrival. With eight in our party (and three grandkids), we had 16 pieces of luggage, including car seats between us, inclusive of four balikbayan boxes of assorted pasalubong and clothing. Each of us had to hand-carry on board priority bags for the kids to survive the trip. This was where my fiasco with PAL began. On the ground past NAIA immigration, I remember leaving my black leather jacket at the overhead luggage compartment on row 65F. The ground PAL personnel were informed. As Sylvia and I were to board PR 2813 for Davao within two hours (without the kids) we were asked to proceed to the domestic part of Terminal 2. The PAL personnel were courteous and mindful of my complaint about by jacket informing them of my wallet of credit cards in the left inner pocket and a money-clip with $200 on the right pocket. At the domestic PAL lounge, two gentlemen from PAL security returned my black leather jacket, with my wallet of credit cards minus the $200 cash. My wife was more than happy to have my more expensive jacket returned. But I thought I should complain about the lost cash; which was also the advice of my classmate Sammy’s wife, Rose Lutz – a retired ground PAL supervisor. Thus, my letter to PAL president Jimmy Bautista today.

Overall, this incident did not mar my vacation with my grandchildren – courtesy of my son-in-law Matt and daughter Lara. But after this two-week interlude, I long to be back with my septuagenarian classmates who have been planning to go on breaks like this. Such type of trips is heavy on the pocketbook. On the other hand, septuagenarians have more compelling reasons; to go on the move as a herd as we take comfort in our dwindling numbers, our days are short and the possibility that many will not last the years we allot for ourselves; or illness will overtake our tired bodies leaving only the indomitable souls. But souls don’t travel well as a pack. So, here’s to the AdeDU class 1960’s romp to Coron, Palawan on February 14 — the day for lovers.000
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