January 18, 1981
Family, friends and Rotarians surround me at Melbourne Airport to bid me farewell me as I board a Qantas flight to Manila, en-route to Cebu, Philippines. I am overwhelmed by their love and support and wrapped in warm hugs and blessings and with fresh tears overflowing like a waterfall, I board my flight. I sit with another Rotary Exchange Student who is heading to Dipolog. I don’t think either of us know too much about our hosting country but we are filled with eager anticipation for the exciting journey that lay ahead.
Manila’s humidity is immediately there to greet me, dancing across my face, my arms, my legs. The incredibly long line at Immigration moves at a snail’s pace until finally my documents are approved for a year's stay in Cebu City. As I approach the baggage collection area the first sounds of Manila chorus. Beyond the cyclone fences surrounding the airport, comes the cacophony of local voices blended with whistles, traffic and car horns. Eager faces press against the wire looking into the airport, as no visitors are permitted to enter the terminal. I stand at the baggage carousel patiently awaiting the blue suitcase crammed with my supply of clothes, photos and souvenirs.
When I approach the airport attendant for help in locating my luggage I realise the extent of the communication barrier. For although Filipinos speak English my accent and much of my vocabulary is incomprehensible to them. My luggage is missing!
January 14, 2015
I boarded my Philippine Airlines flight from Singapore after a quick overnight stay with a dear friend. Her home is only a short ride from Changi and in the early hours, traffic is certainly no issue in this city of organisation. The flight, thankfully uneventful, arrives early into Manila. My previous understanding of PAL being an acronym for ‘Plane Always Late’ is obviously no longer valid.
Immigration at Ninoy Aquino Airport is speedy and efficient and I move quickly into the baggage collection area. This too, is speedy and before long, I am moving towards the greeting area. Here, I will look for the driver who will take me to my accommodation. I determine that a hotel driver will best negotiate the detours and road closures put in place to assist today’s arrival of Pope Francis. I am expecting traffic congestion and delays this morning.
As I step out into this area there is an immediate offer of assistance and an offer to take my photograph. With luggage in tow, I am taken to my car for the swift exit to my hotel.
It's a wonderful impression of Ninoy Aquino Airport; the gateway to the Philippines. Salamat!