Manila, it must translate to “air traffic jam” in English

The morning of the 27th was clear and beautiful, weather wise.  But, the air was, as usual, filled with exhaust smoke.  Still, I had to get some pix of the area around the motel.  Two photos I posted on Facebook.

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The Mall of Asia in the background.  The red bus on the bridge is below “Asia”.  And, what has to be one of the suckiest jobs in the world.  Selling stuff on the streets in Manila.

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Traffic is light in the morning and so are the sales.  There are little sewn rags for sale for I’m guessing about 5 pesos, and towels for maybe 20 pesos.  Plus water, snacks, and pop.  These guys dodge and push through the traffic all day long hawking their wares, in the heat, humidity, dust, smoke, and noise.  Must pay relatively good.   They seem fairly cheerful, must be something about the job I don’t know.

We decided to leave early for the airport and took off about 12:30pm.  Our room was still good for another four hours.  Yep, the executive rooms can be rented in 3 hour increments as well.  You get “mirrors on the ceiling”, but no “pink champagne on ice” (Eagles-Hotel California) for your 300 extra pesos.

Traffic was heavy, but moving for a change.  Arrive and the airport and…you guessed it, lines.

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This 50 person queue we had to join moved right along.  There were no annoying porters, no non-passengers allowed, and the line melted away quickly to a first screening point.  We were inside in less than 20 minutes.

When we left the Sogo, we had pared down our possessions to try to keep reasonably close to the baggage allowance of 20 kilos each.  We got rid of everything heavy that looked like we didn’t need and amazing.  Both luggages were right at 20 kilos.  The scale said 39.7 kilos total and neither bag was over.  Dunno how we did that.  So no further excess baggage charges.  Through a final checkpoint (where we lost our umbrellas) and into the concourse at 1:30pm.   3 1/2 hours to kill before our flight. 

I watched aircraft while Praxy napped.  Here is a Cebu-Pacific A320, this one going to Bacolod.

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Nothing to do but kill time.  And I watched as planes lined up at the end of the runway (just to the right of the photo) and sat for 15 minutes waiting for clearance.  Then 20 minutes.  Then 25 minutes.  Now you know the meaning of the post title.  Things getting later and later, flights were up to an our late due to air traffic control issues.  But our plane came in and they turned it quickly, we were out of the gate 10 minutes late and waited only about that much longer for clearance.  After taking off, I could see the problem.

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The domestic runway intersects the very busy international runway.  And the international flights get priority as well they should.  So Manila International has a built in natural traffic jam.  Seemed very appropriate to me!  A final goodbye to the jams.

We slowly turned toward Tacloban and started one of the oddest flights I’ve ever been on.  The pilots seemed VERY uncertain.  Accelerating, climbing, slowing, turning, accelerating, climbing, slowing.  I was getting a little on edge until we fully turned and I saw the reason.  Then I was definitely a little on edge.

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Off the starboard side, stretching as far as I could see in front, was a HUGE, dark storm.  As I watched, the jet turned left, right, left, right at a relatively slow speed.  We had to pass through this storm and the pilots were scanning the disturbed air with the radar looking for a safe path.  Lovely.  I’d done this several times before, (without the radar) trying to fly into the Idaho back country in foggy, smoky, or stormy weather and all could be called “a bit on edge” flights.  Terrain also comes into play in Idaho.  The other passengers were unconcerned of course, but I have great respect for thunderstorms, especially big ones, while flying.  I’ve seen just what those storms are capable of when I worked for an airline years ago.

Finally, after 10 minutes, the flight crew chose a path and sat all the flight attendants down.  5 minutes of minor bumps and we were through.  Superb job.  I found out later that this storm caused some serious flooding in Bohol and left an inch of rain in Tacloban.  As I had surmised, the storm was large and was no light sprinkle.

The remainder of the flight was uneventful and we arrived in Tacloban about 20 minutes late.  Our niece Donna and her brother Agah met us at the terminal and we caught another crowded jeepney and also a tricycle to her house in Tacloban.

Next morning, up and at ‘em for a tour of the area.  We visited the very exclusive Leyte Hotel and Resort and found it nice, but very spendy.  One attraction that had always interested me was the site where General Douglas MacArthur had stepped foot when he fulfilled his “I will return”. promise.  There was a large memorial and a park, we set off to find it.  And find it we did.

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It was a very warm day, and I wondered how MacArthur fared when he strolled up that hot beach all those years ago.  The picture made him look totally in control.

Off to the General Macarthur Resort, closed for renovation.  OK, time for lunch and think of something new.  While we sat at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, Praxy met some people from her home area of Salcedo.  The lady recommended the Rafael Farm restaurant and we were off to find it.  It was a long way away, a jeepney ride and a 30 minute bus ride.  

This bus was about as loaded as you could get it.

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Notice the luggage on top and what has to be close to a ton of rice in the passenger compartment.  What this photo doesn’t show is this.

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This totally overloaded bus had what had to have been the worst tire I’d ever seen that was still in one piece.  Notice the cupping, the cups are almost 1/2 inch deep!  I was sitting on top of this little bit of explosive in the cab, but we made it fine to the farm. 

Speaking of buses, I’ll digress.

All of the public transportation vehicles in the Philippines, with the exception of the new ones, suffer from some sort of mechanical indifference.   This indifference is based on not wanted to spend money for repairs or parts.  Labor is cheap, and frequently someone is huddled over their rig checking fluids and such.  But not much for parts.  Therefore, all jeepneys and most buses seem to have an assortment of rattles, clunks, squeaks, thumps, and whines from broken shocks, loose springs, worn gears, loose steering, slipping clutches, squalling brakes, and general equipment neglect that would absolutely not be tolerated in the US.   Fortunately, the speeds are very low most of the time, less than 30 mph. 

End of digression.

If that tire had failed, we wouldn’t have had much of an incident, other than having to wait for the driver to change it out for the spare, that was probably even worse.  I’ve also wondered about brakes on the mountain roads, but I’m still in one piece.

The restaurant was situated on a farm and was nicely landscaped.  We didn’t eat, but the food looked good and the prices were reasonable.

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Returning, I had to shoot some photos of typical road hazards you might expect to see.

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Rice being dried on the right-of-way.  Everyone dodges it just fine.

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A typical overloaded jeepney with a rider on top.  I’ve seen buses with as many as 20 on top.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and have my camera ready when I see one.  Our jeepney was jammed, standing room only on the return.  Praxy and I sat up front.  I didn’t look at the tires.

We ate at three really nice restaurants in Tacloban, the best was Ocho.  Very fresh fish, you pick out what you want and they cook it to order.  We stuffed ourselves.  There was a nice Mexican café downtown and several good choices on the road to the Leyte Resort.  All were less than $10 per person with excellent service and taste.   If you can get far enough away from Manila and Cebu, prices drop substantially.

Next day we were off to Eastern Sumar.  12/30/11  6:00pm

About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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