I’m Sorry Ma’am, It’s Terminal

There’s a moratorium on the non-awesome around these parts, but I figure this is so far down on the horrible side of the spectrum that it’s broken through to the other side and become awesome instead.  

The short version: We spent about 12 hours in limbo partly because some stairs ran into a plane.

The long version:

Thursday – Sunday, 22- 25 July 2010

I’m in Cebu with the rest of the Dakila team to help launch the Active Vista Film Festival’s 17-city tour.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

9:00 pm (Times are approximate because I kept switching between my phone, my pocket watch and the airport clocks.)Kate and Noy Bert drive Marj, Lourd and I to the Mactan-Cebu Airport so we can catch our 10:40 pm flight to Manila

Express my ass.

9:15 pm – A sign at the AirPhil Express check-in counter says out flight has been delayed. We figure it’s because of the insane weather back in Manila. We check in and try to figure out how to kill time until 1 am.

9:30 pm – Kate and Noy Bert double back and pick us up. We cruise around Lapu-Lapu City looking for a cheap motel so Lourd can get some beauty rest before his morning show.

10:00 pm – We get dropped off at “Warm Hands Massage” – a 24-hour joint sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and “Club Mermaid”.

10:15 pm – Slathered in Omega Pain Killer and Efficascent Oil, we doze off while masseuses (18-30 years old) poke and prod to their heart’s content. Lourd reports that they don’t do happy endings. I was too greasy to take pictures.

 

 

 

Monday, 26 July 2010

12:00 am – High on mentholated fumes, we take a cab back to the airport.

12:30 am – I spot what looks like an Uruguayan rugby team standing in line with us at the Dunkin Donuts in the waiting lounge. Not a good sign.

1:00 am – We’re told to board the plane. Yay.

2:00 am – Deplane! Deplane!

We’re still in Cebu. Boo.

2:05 am – Marj demands an explanation from an AirPhil dude on the tarmac who tells her to take it up with whoever’s at the AirPhil counter back in the airport.

2:10 am – Passengers – including a newborn baby, several sobbing childen and a lady in a wheelchair – are shunted off to a lower level boarding gate waiting area.

2:15 am – Marj and a lady who happened to be a 20-year PAL veteran go up to the AirPhil counter to ask what’s going on. Turns out the supervisor guy at the counter is the same guy on the tarmac who told Marj to talk to the guy at the counter. That just wrinkled my brain.

He explains to them that one of those awesome motorized airplane stairs on a car ran into the plane’s rear door, causing some damage that could lead to us being sucked out through a giant gaping hole into the void. I’m only guessing that last bit.

Not the airplane stairs in question.

Meanwhile, back at the waiting area, none of us are told any of this despite several pleas to AirPhil staff from the passengers – some irate and some really irate. The PAL lady rattles off the proper protocol for situations like this – none of which, she points out, the AirPhil people are following.

Lourd charges his phone on my MacBook to call his producer to say that he’s still stuck in Cebu and might be late for work. I’m mildly embarrassed by my Scott Pilgrim avatar wallpaper.

2:45 – Nearly an hour after we’re kicked off the plane, the supervisor finally comes down to address the tired, poor, huddled, sleepy, hungry masses. Hilarity ensues. Not.

It goes on for a while.

The supervisor dude tries to hide his ID from the people filming and photographing the shenanigans. He announces that we have two options. The first is to wait it out while they attempt to fix the vacuum-vortex-causing damage to the plane and the second is… to be announced. Dum-dum-dum-DUUUMMM.

Breakfast of champions.

3:00 am – Dunkin Donuts Bunwiches and coffee are deployed to appease the mob.

3:15 – After much suspense, the second option is revealed to be a 5am flight on a different plane. We contemplate another go at Warm Hands but end up outside for smokes.

The deserted airport gives rise to suspicions of a Langoliers-type situation. It’s quashed by arriving travelers and the realization that the coffee isn’t tasteless, just disgusting.

The only thing open apart from Dunkin Donuts.

Interesting theory gleaned from observing the early morning Dunkin Donuts delivery: Dunkin Donuts doughnuts,  and munchkins for that matter, derive their flavor from the exhaust smoke and asphalt dust picked up when they’re rolled out in uncovered trays from delivery trucks parked in the street. Just a theory, mind. I do recall that the other pastries were covered. So there’s that.

3:30 am – Lourd crashes on an airport bench. Time passes. The airport comes to life and x-ray machines start beeping.

Natutulog na ang Lourd.

4:15 am – We see a mirage in pink coming towards us. It’s Leni, who’s been up all night to make sure she doesn’t miss her early flight to Davao. That’s why she’s more than a bit disoriented when she spots us still at the airport after seeing us leave the night before.

4:30 am – Having gotten over the initial shock, Leni comes up with the brilliant idea to get Lourd on the PAL flight to Manila to give him a fair shot at making it to the show. It also leaves at 5am but, by this time, we’ve as much trust in AirPhil as Tom Cruise has in psychology.

Marj and Leni hightail it to the PAL counter.

4:45 am –  The PA blares that PAL’s 5am flight is now boarding. No word from AirPhil.

4:50 am – After much scrambling, Lourd gets onto the PAL flight in the nick of time. We learn that the AirPhil flight has been pushed back to 6:15.

Leni can run a small country if she wants to. In other news: So long. Farewell. Auf wiedersehen. Goodbye.

4:55 am – Leni runs off to catch her flight, but not before thrusting a wad of cash in my hands and telling us to get a ride on another airline.

Marj and I attempt to retrieve her checked-in luggage from AirPhil. The process takes a while so we make the rounds at the airlines. PAL is fully booked until 11am. Cebu Pacific’s 6:15 flight has two seats left. We take them.

5:00 am – Sapul airs, Lourd-less.

Probably dreaming of flying.

There’s a long-winded explanation of the AirPhil situation on the PA system ending with instructions for the stranded passengers to vacate the lover-level waiting area and transfer to another one on the second floor. (It’s the 3rd waiting area so far – not counting the plane.) The number of passengers are visibly depleted. Ditto for their spirits.

5:15 am – We pick up Marj and Lourd’s communal suitcase. I line up at Cebu Pacific’s check-in counter while Marj asks the AirPhil boss about how they intend to make amends for their shenanigans. She’s told that we can get a refund for the tickets when we get to Manila.

5:30 am – I hope airport x-rays and scanners aren’t radioactive because I can’t recall how many times we’ve been in and out and around them.

Back at the pre-departure area, we’re delighted to find the Zubuchon booth open. Marj hurries over and picks up some of the BEST PIG… EVER for pork fiend Lourd.

6:00 am – We board the probably undented Cebu Pacific plane.

7:45 am – We get off the probably undented Cebu Pacific plane.

‘Open’ can also mean ‘uncrowded’ and ‘uncluttered.’

8:00 am – With luggage in tow, we storm the AirPhil passenger assistance counter near the baggage claim area.

There’s nobody there.

Perhaps ‘Open’ in this case meant ‘exposed’.

8:15 am – Not a single AirPhil employee materializes at their helpdesk so Marge and I storm the AirPhil ticket counter 3 floors up at Arrivals.

9:00 am – There are two classic blunders. The most famous of which is ‘Never start a land war in Asia’ – but only slightly less well known is this: ‘Never go against a Star Cinema movie producer when money is on the line.’

Poor guy never stood a chance.

We walk away clutching a wad of cash covering the cost of our Cebu Pacific fare, plus papers rendering our non-refundable AirPhil tickets refundable.

As it turns out, it’s standard protocol for AirPhil staff to offer to pay for a ticket on another flight – even on another airline – should a passenger’s flight be grossly delayed. The AirPhil dude was as bewildered as we were that this option was never offered to when we first got stranded in Cebu.

9:30 am – Marge and I share a cab home and gossip about [content redacted].

Epilogue

10:45 am – Home. Shower. Stare at the wall for a while.

1:00 pm – I get to the office, and started what I didn’t realize was going to turn into an 18-hour workday.

At least I got some sleep.

Never fall asleep at your desk with the laptop on unless you want Photobooth shenanigans to ensue.
Felled by a Mineshine addiction. Also, Kaye‘s tiiiiiiiny. (Photo by Pats)

Photos taken by my lovely co-workers.

The last one wasn’t actually shot that day but that’s pretty much what the office looks like at 4 in the morning on a pitch night.

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