This was my 'playground' for the morning. Those upright bamboo sticks served as my guides when driving forward, reversing, and parking. Of course, my first try wasn't perfect, and if I had counted, I'm sure it was a little under 10 minutes before I eventually got to start the car. Under the heat and glare of the sun, I'm pretty certain my instructor thought it was a twenty.
Before anything else, here's a little background. The evening before (16th), my aunt who had arrived just days before from Germany chatted me on Facebook and talked about the possibility of me and/or my brother travelling to Manila the next day for my cousin's wedding. Thrilled at the thought of travelling without 'adult supervision' for the first time, I told her that it was a shame we couldn't make it because we had no budget for it. There were five of us if ever we decided to go and 10,000 would be just a cut above the reasonable spending money in total. A few exchanges later, my aunt sent a screenshot of a flight schedule for the next day. It was a blur afterwards, but I ended up assuring my aunt I'd ask mom if she'd go with this sudden plan or not.
The following morning (the 17th), I told my mom about our conversation and after a few calls and texts between her and folks in Manila, I thought we had finally settled for a 'no'. So, it was business as usual for us and we travelled to Goa Central School (photos above) for my driving lesson. It was around that time that my mom started receiving calls and texts from my aunts persuading her to allow even just me to represent our family at the wedding. My mom ended up agreeing with them and as I continued my lesson, she left to go to the other side of town to get me a plane ticket for that afternoon. Using her 'powers' (haha) and contacts in Lagonoy, she secured a seat. It must've been a 'go' sign from God because I learned that my seat was the last one available on the last flight that day.
Around 11:30, we got a ride home and since my flight was still for 3pm, I figured I had heaps more time to prepare. It was a problem that I couldn't drop by our apartment in Naga to get clothes and toiletries, but my aunt had assured us she would buy me what I needed when I arrived in Manila. It didn't help that I was on my cycle and that I was already feeling weak from the heat and stress of the situation. After a quick shower, I grabbed my laptop bag, stuffed what I could in there and said my goodbye to everybody. A cousin would be accompanying me on the ride to Pili Airport, a solid one hour from San Jose.
The agonizing wait
We weren't able to find a ride to Goa as soon as I thought. We spent 20 minutes by the side of the road waiting for a van or a quality bus to travel by and at 1 pm, my chances of getting to the airport on time were becoming thinner every minute. Thankfully, at around 1:15, a bus arrived and we boarded, planning to get off at the terminal and switch to a van which would take us to our destination much faster. When we got there though, the van was less than 2/3 full and we knew it would take longer to wait for other passengers. My cousin suggested we get on an air-conditioned bus instead and at that moment, one arrived. We eagerly boarded and sat on the second row. Thus started my hour-long agony.
Every 10 or so minutes, I'd check my phone for the time. My stress worsened when I got a whiff of something fishy near our seats. I investigated and found that the smell was coming from one of the windows nearby. All I could do was cover my nose and close my eyes.
It was a little past two when we finally got to the airport. It was very hot and I was surprised to find out my cousin couldn't enter the facilities and wait for the flight with me. I'm telling you, I never thought my first time would go as smooth as it did. The guard was kind enough and the helpers were just as accommodating. I paid the terminal fee of Php 75 (another surprise I wasn't informed of) and went through the scanner. It was safe to say I didn't look like a total idiot during the process and once I found my seat in the waiting area, I calmed down.
Unfortunately, my seat was beside a girl and her mom. That wasn't really a bad thing, but this girl had no manners at all. Her elbow always got on my side of the seat and her feet kept grazing my jeans. It was immature of me, but I actually gave the kid a few cold stares (oops). That seemed to keep her in check for a few minutes before it started all over again. *Sigh. She looked 12 with the manners of a 6 year old brat.
The airport had free Wi-fi so I took the opportunity to go online and chat with friends and my mom. I eventually called them through Messenger too but avoided using my phone too much since its power was already below 50% (iPhone batteries are
great). It was then that I observed the partition for each waiting area. It turned out I was sitting in the Cebu Pacific waiting area. Mentally, I slapped my hand against my forehead. I was a dunce. It took me another 15 minutes to transfer to the PAL waiting area, mostly because I felt like standing up and sitting on another seat would make me look like a fool. It also took me another hit from the girl's elbow before I realized I had every right to get away from her to a better seat.
As if that experience wasn't enough, someone from PAL announced that our flight was going to be delayed. A few minutes before, I had been checking my ticket repeatedly just to make sure I hadn't missed my flight by accident. The boarding time was supposed to be at 2:40 pm, but it was already 3 pm and there was still no updates. I sort of relaxed when my flight was announced late, knowing that I hadn't missed it at all. It turned out that the plane still hadn't left Manila due to a runway problem. The plane eventually came at 4:30 pm. I'm telling you, my bum was more than sore from sitting that there's no word to describe it.
As we walked towards the small plane, I wondered how its inventors came to estimate that 40 people (excluding the pilots and cabin crew) could fit into such a tiny thing. It was a full plane, and I can tell you that because I was at the second to the last seat and was very close to the exit door. I was seated beside a man with a bag made from straw (really fascinating) and thankfully, I got a window seat. That meant I could take photos (which I did) and shoot a video (yes, that too). I only wish I was able to take a video of the actual lift off, but we were instructed to do otherwise (I'm such an obedient citizen, haha).