In my last installment, we had made it to Manila on Thursday, but would need to wait until Saturday to fly out of Manila, and, we hoped, on to the States. We had spent a fitful Thursday night in a guesthouse above a karaoke bar and had most of Friday available to cool our heels around the airport and visit with a friend of Philippines brother.
The friend was stationed at the Army base a few miles from the airport. After some discussion we decided to meet at the Jollibee near his base.
A word about Jollibee, for the uninitiated. Jollibee is a Philippines-based fast food outlet. The menu includes typical fast food fare like burgers and chicken sandwiches, but also includes spaghetti, and Filipino rice and noodle dishes. To me, it was also somewhat elevated from typical United States fast food fare, because in the restaurant food is served with real silverware and reusable cups, and because the menu is so expansive. Also, the mascot is a very cheerful and cheering red bee, not a creepy clown with an entourage of fast food criminals and misfits.
Er, also, it took me a while to realize the mascot was a bee. I thought it was some kind of bird. I blame Red Robin for the confusion.
(By the way, if you search for “jollibee bee” images, either turn on safe search, or be prepared to be traumatized.)
Jollibee is very popular in the Philippines, and, from what I could tell, was the favored spot for a family dinner outing. Kids pose in front of the big fiberglass Jollibee at the entrance, and dig in enthusiastically to their Jollibee kids’ meals.
For mostly-vegetarian-sometimes-pescatarian Stateside brother and me, the highlight of Jollibee was their tuna pie. Imagine a flaky-crusted turnover, similar to a McDonald’s apple pie, but savory, and filled with tuna chunks in a creamy sauce. I’m not sure if I’m describing it well, but it was really delicious. The tuna chunks were plentiful, the creamy sauce was flavorful, and the crust was melt-in-your-mouth flaky. We ate many of them that day and evening.
We got a taxi out to the Jollibee – an especially large double-level iteration of the restaurant. It was in what appeared to be a shopping area, not too far from the airport, but not in the airport district. I believe it was in the National Capital Region. We drove along the Manila Skyway to get there, which was pleasant – good views of downtown and other parts of the city.
Aside from the absolute chaos of ordering and finding seating in a very busy family fast food restaurant on a Saturday night, the dinner was uneventful. Our brother’s friend (who was also the son of his Philippines landlady, IIRC) was very gracious and friendly.
After the meal we assumed we would catch a cab as easily on the way back as we had on the way there. As it turned out, it was a lot harder, probably because we were away from the airport area and it was raining. First we tried waiting for one on the side of the street where the Jollibee was located, figuring it would pick us up and turn around. We didn’t want to cross the street because it would have meant using the overhead crosswalk, which would have been hard for Philippines brother to negotiate.
His friend offered to cross the street and find a cab for us, while we waited on the Jollibee side. This turned out to be the right thing to do – he secured a cab for us, then helped us get across at ground level without getting run over. I think because I was tired, and it had started raining, it seemed as if the wait for a cab was interminable, but in reality, I think it was more like 15 minutes.
Traffic on the return trip was heavier, but we made it back to the guesthouse in a reasonable amount of time. We turned in for another night of fitful, karaoke-infused sleep, with the plan to leave for the airport at around 6 AM for a 9:50 AM flight.
I had the card from our cab driver from the night before, and thought that calling him might be the best way to get to the airport, but it turned out I was wrong. When I called he said he would be right over, but after we waited a while, with no sign of him, I called back and discerned, from his not entirely forthcoming statements, that he had been at home when we called, home wasn’t near the airport, and while he said he was on his way and would be there, soon, what that really meant was that he was on his way and he would be there someday, but probably not soon enough for us to get to the airport on time.
Meanwhile, we saw many cabs, some available, passing by on the street in front of the guesthouse, so I told the cab driver on the phone that we would find another way. Then Stateside brother and I went out to the street to flag down the first available cab we saw.
We had some anxiety about which terminal to go to, because there were two international terminals, and there was some uncertainty from the driver about which one we needed, but after consulting the internet, we decided it was the one with the big food court where we had eaten a couple of times.
As it turned out, it was fortunate that we had allowed nearly 4 hours to catch our flight, because the first obstacle we encountered was a huge line to even enter the airport. At Manila, they screen your bags before you even come in. We made our way to the end of a very long screening line, then, after we had inched up about halfway to the door, had to reform a new line for another door because apparently something was wrong with the metal detector at the first door, or something, so it was closed and we were shunted to another door, where we lost our places in line.
Finally we made it inside the airport and got checked in. From here it was fairly straightforward, though now I have only a blurred memory of the check-in desk and our trek to our gate.
I had been watching flight loads for the past 24 hours or so and believed we had an almost 100% chance of getting on our flights. I was correct, we got on, and two of us got first class (IIRC. I believe we got first class on both international legs on the way back, and first/coach on the international legs on the way out). From here it was on to Tokyo. I don’t remember much about the flight to Tokyo because I hadn’t slept much in the past two nights (“turn around bright eyes”), but it was uneventful, which is the best I could have hoped for under the circumstances.
Tune in next time to learn about how Portland’s non-smoking laws can throw a monkey wrench into the best-laid plans.