Wednesday, 20 May 2009

three C-things to have when things go awry

Pansukian Resort in Siargao
As luck would have it, after spending Gai's wonderful birthday weekend at the famed Pansukian resort in Siargao, Surigao del Norte (northeastern-most tip of Mindanao -- yep, far far away), I was the only one who had to fly back to Manila.

The only way to go home on a Sunday is to catch the flight out from Surigao City, the provincial capital which is six hours and three modes of transport away. Cebu Pacific flies only 3x a week to Siargao from Cebu every Mon-Wed-Fri.

the habal-habal
I left the resort at 4:30 am on a Habal habal (right photo). This is the taxi service in Mindanao and seats five up to seven people max. I was told that Habal actually is the Visayan term for 'sexual intercourse' of animals and the taxi is referred to ‘habal-habal” because the driver and the passengers are in the “habal” position.

After a balancing act and dodging mosquitos on the habal habal, I arrived at Dapa pier at 5am. I remembered Gai insisting that I take the RORO - roll-on, roll-off boat because it’s huge. I opted for the tinier banca next to it called "Dapa Express", an outrigger boat which takes only 2 hours, or half the time of the RORO, to Surigao City. Luckily, the sea was calm and crossed safely to Surigao City.

The tricycle ride to the airport took only 20 minutes. The airport was still closed when i got there so passed the time in the restaurant next to it. When i checked in at 9:00, I immediately asked PAL if the flight at 11:00 is confirmed and the girl said it will take off early at 10:30am. Since i had time to burn, in the passenger terminal, I nestled myself on a seat against the wall and dozed off…which must have taken long because someone nudged me asking if i was a PAL passenger and handed me a jollibee burger. When I looked at the clock it was already noon. Then I wondered why everything was dark…there was a power outage and it was raining heavily.

The PAL flight was delayed. I inquired and the girl said that the aircraft was waiting in Manila for advise to take off. At around 130pm, PAL announced that the flight was canceled due to bad weather, zero visibility. Surigao is like Baguio -... I was sure the next day the PAL flight out of Surigao City would be full, and the only way out would be to catch the last flight out of Davao or the next day in Cagayan de Oro, both are equidistantly 5 hours away by land from Surigao.

So my first C tip is to make sure you have all contact numbers. Gai gave me contact numbers that morning- van rental and a hotel in Surigao. The estimated cost to either Davao or Cagayan de Oro is P6-8K by van. My second tip is to have CASH. I only had P2000 in my wallet. And there was no ATM machine because the whole city of Surigao didn’t have any electricity! I called my friend in Cagayan de Oro to inform him of my predicament. Fortunately one of the passengers overheard my call and invited me to join him and his wife to catch the last flight out of Davao for only P1500 per passenger.

My third tip is to keep your cool. There was no point in getting angry or blaming PAL. There was no aircraft and the best way out is to accept the situation and to think on your feet to get out of the place FAST. We left Surigao at 3pm. There were six of us - :the guy who invited me was a champion surfer from Surigao, his wife a PAL stewardess, a nurse with her Swiss husband and her brother, and myself. The roads were well paved, the sight--despite the rain--was good and there were lots of stories to share. I made it back to Manila after 18 hours of travel, five modes of travel and 3-Cs!

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