Prior to going to the Philippines in May 2009, I had left my home country only three times. Twice to attend an adult entertainment club when I was 19, and once by accident. Yes, I said accident. The Detroit roads and signs aren’t quite as good as you would think. Lost, stolen, or otherwise absent, a sign stating that entering the duty-free area would require a trip to Canada was not present. So, due to my friends desire for some duty free booze, we ended up in Canada long enough to turn around and come back across. The Border Patrol Agents at the gates thought it was the funniest thing they ever heard. Apparently, I was the first idiot to do this, or at the very least, admit it. I simply felt no need or desire to leave the country of my birth, for any reason. Everyone knew my feelings on the matter.
So, when I was introduced to a lovely Filipina through a friends Aunt, it was shocking to my friends and family that I would simply pack my bags and fly off to a country 8,000 miles away to meet a woman I had only spoken with on the phone and through Yahoo Messenger. Ok… it wasn’t that easy. I needed a passport, time off from work, and an airplane ticket. Once that was accomplished, I waited for my vacation time to begin, and without hesitation I flew. And I flew. And I flew. Did I mention I flew? Why is the Philippines so darn far away?
So after what seems like an eternity we land in this large plane filled to capacity with people. But wait, I’m not in the Philippines yet. I’m in Japan. And guess what? The bird flu is in high gear here! So, as we all stay patiently sitting in our seats a large crew of men and women in white suits(not a leisure suit or a zoot suit) think more like biohazard suit, board the plane. One row at a time, one aisle at a time they walk menacingly through the plane. Pointing a device that looks similar to a video camera at each and every one of us. What is this? Face recognition software looking for criminals? Nope, it seems they are looking for people with a fever. Did they find anyone? Yes. Yes they did. In fact, the guy was sitting three rows in front of my assigned seat. Am I freaking out? Nope. You see, before our flight departed, I was asked by a young lady if I would be willing to switch seats and sit on the other side of the plane so that she could sit with her friends. Thankfully, I complied with her request. What did it get me? Off the plane! Our side of the plane was allowed to depart, while their side was forced to stay on board. Mind you, I’m not wishing the bird flu on her or anyone else, but I had already been on that plane for 12 hours and I needed off! Did I forget to mention I’m claustrophobic? Yes, I’m claustrophobic. That makes for long trips on a small cylindrical tube with sticks on the side a little less fun. Oh yeah, and I hate heights! Are you rolling on the floor laughing yet? It gets better, so keep reading.
I depart the plane and head for what I know to exist. You see, I’ve done my research, and know that there is a shower that can be rented for $6usd. I don’t intend on showing up to meet my new bride-to-be in person for the first time all sweaty and dirty. The shower at the airport was the nicest and cleanest shower I have EVER used. And while I don’t travel, I like my showers and use them wherever I go. This one seemed to have just been finished by the finest craftsmen in the country. It seemed to say, I’m new and waiting for you and you alone. It was seemingly never touched my human hands after its creation. Of course, I know this not to be the case, but it was a nice shower. Anyway, I shower, change clothes, get ready for my great appearance in the Philippines.
I finish my preparation, and head for my gate. I don’t want to miss my flight to Manila after all! I purchased a bottle of water at a stand right in front of the gate and drink a couple of sips. Boarding time has begun! I’m almost first! Why? Because I’m sitting all the way in the back! I get in line and wait my turn. “Sorry sir, you can not take that water on board with you”. What? I just bought this right there. “Yes, I’m sorry sir you can not take that on board the plane with you”, was repeated. Ok. I’m not going to start a riot over a bottle of water. So, I drink down half and toss the rest into the trash. Ah… I see the gangway. “Excuse me sir, would you mind if we pat search you and have you take off your boots” I have to admit, they are the nicest people to ever ask me to invade my personal space. I kindly oblige the young lady and they pat me down. They even have a chair handy for me to sit down while I take off my shoes. How nice of them! In Detroit, where I am from, you’re lucky if they have clean floors so your socks don’t become encrusted with the filth of the streets. I complete my process and board the plane. I’m sitting WAY in the back, which I find to be AWESOME! Why? Two seats wide, more space. I mentioned I’m claustrophobic, but I’m also not a small man. Think out of shape power lifter, which is basically what I am. The plane departs and we arrive on time. Amazingly, since we circled Japan for an hour before landing.
The plane makes its way to the gangway and it is extended out to greet us. The door opens, and I am smacked in the face!!! Not literally, but with the heat and humidity. It begins! The journey, the experience, and the sweating! Remember, I’m from the Detroit area, and it’s May 2009. It’s still relatively cold where I live. So, now I’m thinking… “what am I doing”? This place is hot as heck and I’m surely going to die from heat exhaustion!! Wow! Is my shirt wet already? I still have to get my luggage from the overhead carrier. I wait, so as not to offend anyone in case my shower in Japan isn’t long lasting. Luggage down, I disembark. I follow the crowd of people like ants in a maze. Routed here and there. No rhyme or reason to our movements. There’s a lot of construction, so maybe that’s why. Or are they going to a place that I shouldn’t be. I stop thinking and become one of the herd. Do ants travel in herds? Anyway, after realizing I am the only white guy in the crowd, standing at about 6’0″ tall and weighing about 3 times the weight of anyone around me, I quickly come to the conclusion that I have become entertainment for all Filipinos within eyesight. (I found out days later that I apparently look like a professional wrestler that is well known in the Philippines) I arrive at what looks like a luggage carousel. Sure enough, people that were on my plane are standing around waiting for their packages. I met a nice guy while standing there. An OFW returning from Florida(I think) to his family. He asks me how many boxes I have. Boxes? I have two pieces of luggage. “What, no boxes”? No, I tell him. Why? “Oh, everyone coming to the Philippines brings back boxes full of things for their family. He has a multitude of them. He waits with me until I get my luggage. The last ones off. I expect nothing less. (It’s the story of my life) He tells me where I need to go, and I follow him. He goes through with his HUGE pile of boxes, and wishes me luck. I get to customs, and my passport is stamped. The officer says to me, “Have a nice day”. “That’s it? No questions? No debriefing? No interrogation?” He says, “nope, you’re free to go”. Holy crap. That was easy. Now what?
I’m supposed to meet them out by letter “S” for Scott. I don’t see any letters anywhere. Just a big sign with half the alphabet on it. Well, there is an “s” on it. I think I’m in the right spot. Then I hear it. “Scott, hello” “Welcome to the Philippines”. I look around to find where the voice is coming from, and there she stands. My lovely asawa! She is everything and more than I hoped, and our time together and our adventures over the next ten days will be ones that will forever be embedded into my mind, aging as it may be. Thus began the start of a beautiful relationship!
I look forward to writing more articles to describe my trip, my marriage and life together, and our plans to move to the Philippines in 2013, as well as any odd U.S. stories I think you might enjoy. My life has become an adventure into the unknown. An adventure I hope that stays as exciting as the day we met until I make my way through to the other side.
Until next week, Paalam, ingat, and God bless.