Sunday, July 14, 2013

Holiday Trip to Manila


I managed to secure cheap air ticket for my family to travel from Kota Kinabalu to Manila in May 2013. At RM98 nett, it was considered dirt cheap. The whole family went including my mom and dad.



The condition of the Zest Air plane had a tired look to it. Surprisingly the air hostess wore Air Asia uniform instead of the standard Zest Air uniform. Once on board this flight everything is non halal. They serve pork noodle on the menu.



We land at NAIA Terminal 4 Pasag City which is also Manila’s domestic terminal. The airport was within walking distance from where the plane landed so I do not know why we need to use the bus. It took awhile to transport all 180 passengers to the terminal building. We could have walked. It would have been faster. Anyhow looking at the bright side of things, at least this gives all of us tourist sometime to snap pictures of the landing strip and the airport view.



Upon arrival at the terminal, we were surprised to see that there were only 2 immigration counters servicing more than the 180 passengers. Even if the officer speed up their work and each passport checking takes 1 minute, it will still take 1 hour and 30 mins to finish processing all 180 passengers. Can you imagine if you are the last person, you would have been standing for 1 hour 30 mins waiting for your turn?



On top of that the immigration area was very small and with 180 people, it felt like a sardine can in that limited space. Furthermore with 180 body heat warming the area, it got pretty hot very soon and we all felt uncomfortable.

However despite the long queue and the lack of air condition, what bothered me the most was the integrity of the officers at the counter. When it came to our turn at the counter, the lady officer questioned the relationship between my daughter who was 14 years with myself and my husband. The difference in our surname made the officer question us whether she was legitimately my daughter. I explained to the officer that my daughter was from my 1st marriage which explains why she carries a different surname. She asked for my daughter's birth certificate as proof. After I told her that I did not bring the certificate with me, she then proceeded to tell me that I would have to pay a fee because I did not have the birth certificate. I was quite shock to hear her say that a payment is required and was highly suspicious that this is becoming a case of extortion. Then she turned around and spoke to another officer standing behind her which seemed to be her supervisor.

The supervisor took the three of us and our passport to a room beside the counter. The supervisor continued to flipped through the 3 passports while listening to my explanation. I told him to check our visa to Brisbane last year which was still attached to our passport as proof that we are a genuine family travelling together. I also told him that he can further confirm my relationship with my daughter by calling my parents who were also travelling with us and waiting outside. Without much words, he then proceed to lead us back outside and gave his instruction in Tagalog to the same lady officer.

The lady officer gave me my passport, however, held back my husband and daughter's while proceed to process the other passenger. My husband has to wait another 5 minutes before he got his approved. The lady officer told me that she cannot approve my daughter until she gets confirmation from her supervisor who I witnessed had walked out of the building.

Both my daughter and myself stood there at the counter for a further 10 minutes before the supervisor appeared. After a brief discussion only then the lady officer approved my daughters passport and we were let go.

I would like to express our indignation standing for more than 1 hour, being embarrassed in front of the rest of the passengers like we were criminals and finally the intimidation for money. We lost 2 hours of our time just going through the immigration process. We felt ill treated and definitely not a good start to a holiday trip. Our first impression of the Philippines was a bad one.

Remington Hotel does provide free airport shuttle services. Unfortunately they do not have this service if you land at terminal 4. So there goes our free ride.

There is a taxi counter on your left as you exit the arrival hall. I paid 350 peso for a van taxi which can fit all five of us including baggage. The hotel was just a short distance away so for 350 pesos it was considered pretty expensive. Just to note, on our return trip, it only cost me 79 pesos from the hotel to the airport. With that comparison you can see how expensive 350 pesos is.

The hotel check in was smooth and the rooms were very nice with two queen size beds provided. Our window has a nice wide view of the airport. You can watch planes landing and flying off every five minutes interval. The highway was also right below our window which was ok because we could not hear much except for some occasional very loud motorbike passing by.



Remington is a very nice classy hotel and conveniently located right next to Resort World. However, as warned by tripadvisor, it does have condensation issues. Strangely it only forms on the floor facing the two beds. You will start to feel that your bed is getting dampy too but seriously I think it is only in the head.



There is also a mall inside Resort World with a number of retail shops and restaurant. Take note that you can find free water bottles at the casino. You will need those as Remington Hotel rooms do not provide kettle. Shops in mall only opens at 11am so find food will be a little difficult unless you do not mind McD breakfast everyday. There is also a 7-11 beside McDonald restaurant that you can buy donut, breads and 2 minute noodles.

Even if you do not like casinos, do try visiting the casino around 8:30 pm when the highlight acrobatic show is being performed. It is quite interesting to watch if you are not too tired after your whole day of walking. There was a comic conference cum expo at Resort Mall main podium which got my anime obsessed daughter all rile up. They had good imitation of marvel comic action heroes on display which were pretty cool.



In Manila, you will find a lot of Malls with the largest being called Mall of Asia. It was at this mall that we had our first Filipino meal at Lamesa Grill Restaurant. As usual, food here is either too salty or too sweet and there is always that coying taste which is only unique in Philippines.




Another interesting restaurant that I must mention is the Palutoseafood Market and Restaurant by the Manila Bay. You get to select the wide variety of seafood from the many vendors and carry your purchase to the restaurants nearby to cook. We choose the first restaurant that is closes to the entrance named Claire Dela Fuente. Overall it was an interesting experience, however not as good as those found in KK. 


I did not plan to shop but I head down to Divisoria anyway because I heard that this is the place for shopping in Manila. Divisoria is located in Chinatown vicinity. The goods found here are definitely cheaper than Greenhills. Our driver took us to Chinatown Mall then we walk a short distance along the back alley to Divisoria Shopping Mall. The mall is crowded but well air conditioned.


Wiring nightmare for the wireman only found in Manila.



Some of Philippine's mode of transport...tricyle, jeepney...horse ride anyone?



I wanted to visit Ayala museum but could not wait as it only opened at 10:30 am and I was at Greenbelt since 8 am in the morning. I did a walk around Greenbelt complex and then later walk over to Gloriette Shopping Mall.


I visited the famous Intramous where the San Augustine Museum was located. I absolutely enjoy visiting the Museum. It was worth the price paid if you like religious old things. I even got to witness a wedding procession being held in the church at that time.
  


After the museum, I headed down to visit Quiapo Church which is reputedly famous for enshrining the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ which many faithful claim to have miraculous powers. I wanted to touch the holy statue and asked for blessings. You never know, miracles can happen. As we approached the church, it started to rain and does not look as if it will stop soon. This hampered our plan to shop at the vendors located within the vicinity of the church. They sold a variety of rosaries, crosses and religious items at reasonable prices. I did manage to purchase a small imitation of the Black Nazarene for 28 pesos. I would have bought more if not because of the rain which made shopping difficult.


As I stood besides the church waiting for our transport to arrive, I observe the on going daily working life of the street people. The kids age 8 to 12 years running around in the rain soliciting for work or money. The boys were harassing the jeepney drivers for car wash money and the little girl asking customers to buy a bracelet. At the same time, the mothers are standing not too far away watching the children and making sure that they do their work. The father and older boys were busy directing traffic and help them to find available car park. It was sad to see the children having to work at such a young age to survive the hardness of Manila City life and at the same time inspiring to know how resilient these people are despite all the hardship.




I left the church thinking maybe I should not get angry with the custom officer for their way how they intimidated me for money. Maybe like the street people, this is the way that they have known all their life.