An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

My Photo
Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

15 March 2008

Shaken up in Davao

So the man in my life flies to Mindanao to do field work with his district manager and a counterpart for three days and two nights and I tag along, as usual. We were to fly to Davao from Manila on Wednesday morning, spend the night there, drive to General Santos the next morning, and then take the flight to Manila from there on Friday morning. He picks me up from the apartment, as usual, and we park his car in the parking lot of the Centennial Terminal 2, as usual. And then we get our boarding passes from the check-in area, we get the window seats next to each other, and have breakfast while checking our e-mails online with our iPhones, as usual. I was prepared to have one of our usual out-of-town trips: short, sweet, relaxed, and fun.

It turned out to be quite the opposite. He had to rush to be with his district manager, who was already waiting in a car outside the arrivals area, so he armed me with leaflets for hotels and inns that we picked up from the airport concierge, and put me in a decent-looking cab, with an assignment: to find a nice hotel where we can stay till Friday morning. I was excited! I've never checked myself into a hotel before; it has always been him who checks us in. Trouble is, most of the hotels I called were fully booked, so I was relegated to the smaller ones.

The first hotel I checked into, The Manor Hotel, had dark, narrow hallways and dark, narrow rooms, and was along a street lined with hardware stores and junk shops so that should have made me suspicious. However, I felt it was a nice change from the large major hotels we usually stay in, and after all, I get to choose the hotel, and this was my choice.

This what when the horror really started. They put me in a room at the fifth floor, and the building did not have an elevator. Furthermore, the room had two twin beds and not the double bed I requested. I had to wait ten minutes before I could get transferred to another room with the right bed, but then the phone wasn't working so I couldn't order room service. Hungry as I was, I called the hotel front desk from my mobile phone to tell them about this, and was told to go downstairs instead.

When I got downstairs, an old man was standing by the counter in a shirt that has been slept in, his hair uncombed, and he was wearing slippers. He looked like he had just woken up! So I said, in Filipino: "Can I order here?"

"Yes," he answered in Filipino. He did not budge, though, not even to get a pen and paper to list down my order.

I looked through the menu and said, "I'll have the Bistek Tagalog."

"We don't have that."

"What do you have?"

"We have what's in the menu."

"But your menu has Bistek Tagalog."

"We don't have Bistek Tagalog."

"Okay, I'll have the Pork Adobo on the menu."

"We don't have the Pork Adobo."

"What do you have?"

"We have what's in the menu."

At that point I was starting to suspect that he was some sort of robot assembled in one of the nearby junk stores, so I thought I might shake him up a little. Maybe he was still half asleep.

Really annoyed, I asked him, "Can you cook an eggplant?"

He turned around, went to the small refrigerator nearby, and started rummaging through the contents. I tried to take a peek and all I could see were a bunch of plastic bags and some string beans. Unbelievable.

Of course I ran straight out of there, into the street, and almost tripped on a cog that was lying around near a small ditch. I felt like a character out of The Twilight Zone. I called my man, and he told me to get out of there quick!

So I half-ran back, told the front desk I simply had to find another hotel. I did not even dare to climb back up the narrow stairway to get my things (luckily, I had not yet unpacked), for fear that an axe murderer was waiting up there for me. I had them bring down our luggage, I took a cab and went to the next hotel on the list. Humberto's Hotel, advertised on the leaflet as "the charming little hotel," was even smaller than The Manor Hotel. It was too small that two people could not pass alongside each other between the two double-sized beds in their "Executive Suite." The carpets and drapes were also marked with too much cigarette burns that at first I thought it was a pattern in the fabric. Davao is a non-smoking city by law, so I suppose this room was where the entire population regularly converge to break that law, and in further rebellion, they refuse to use and ashtrays and use the drapes and rugs to put out their stinking, smoking cigarettes.

Finally, after a few calls to friends -- one of who informed me that The Manor Hotel was the site of a huge fire a few years back, and that a lot of people died in the fire -- I was able to reach the Royal Mandaya Hotel, which was a huge relief They had a sudden cancellation and could accommodate us for one night and one night only. I said that was fine because we were going to General Santos the next day anyway. Turns out the Royal Mandaya stay was the most pleasant one of the entire trip. The food was good, service was good, and the room was large and pretty and comfortable and quiet. The next day, however, we were back to some sort of quasi-nightmare.

My man and his district manager decided they will not be doing any work in General Santos anymore and will continue work in Davao instead, so we had to change our flight details. Again, I was the one tasked with that. I was to call the Philippine Airlines reservations hotline and get us seats on the 5 am Friday flight from Davao to Manila. I was put on hold for over twenty minutes. I was able to watch an entire episode of MythBusters while on hold! And then the Royal Mandaya could not accommodate us anymore for another night because they were already fully-booked, so I had to transfer to the Apo View Hotel nearby, which could now accommodate us for just one night.

The room was clean and quiet, the staff was helpful and quick, and I went to bed, turned on the TV and ordered food from room service. But then after a few minutes the strong smell of turpentine came seeping in. I turned down the airconditioning and opened the windows but the smell just got worse, and by them I already had a headache, so I called the front desk. Three managers came in (and behind them was the waiter bringing my food) and explained that the room next to mine was being repainted, and that they could transfer me to another room on the same floor but which did not have any fumes.

After everything was arranged, I was finally able to sit down and enjoy my lunch at 1pm. It was Bistek Tagalog.

But just like all other stories of disaster, this one did not seem keen to end that quickly. My man and I went to SM Davao in the evening to get dinner. We were planning to buy some stuff at the mall and have an early night because our flight was very early the next morning. But pople from his office started calling him, and he had to go online to send and receive several files, and there was a short unnatural period of us rummaging through our luggage looking for something he needed right away, and then my copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises ended up destroyed, and then finally when we went to bed it was already 2am.

And then we had to change our flight details again because there was no way we could make it to the airport in time for the first flight out because of what we have just been through together, and I was put on hold again for twenty minutes while I flipped through the remains of The Sun Also Rises, feeling sad at the carnage but also happy that the nightmare was almost over, and then finally we got confirmation for the 1pm flight, with the assurance that we can have our tickets rerouted directly at the check-in counters.

But oh no, it was not over yet. When we got to the check-in counters an hour before our scheduled flight, we were told that we could not get our tickets rerouted at the check-in counters. We had to go to the Philippine Airlines ticket office outside of the Departures area for this. So my man had to run out, stand in line at the ticket office, make the payment and get the new tickets, run back to Departures, stand in line again -- and take off his shoes again -- and then run to the check-in counters with me. Needless to say, we did not get the window seats, but we were still seated together. Thank goodness for small mercies.

By the time our plane touched down on the tarmac in the hot and sooty air of Metro Manila, we were hungry and exhausted, and we were never happier to be home. We took our luggage, he rushed to the parking lot to take the car and fetch me and the luggage at the main exit at Departures, but then he had to walk back to me because we have both forgotten that the parking stub was inside my bag (another "inconvenience" that already felt natural to us by then), and then finally, finally, we were home.

And it felt so good to be home. We turned on the lamps, had a heavy late lunch, turned off the lamps and went to sleep at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Sometimes we just have to be shaken up in order to have the right kind of order in our lives. This is our home. This is what we will always come back to, and there are no horrors here.

[Photo credits 1, 2, 3.]


Blogger Witness Street said...

Hi Maryanne! I was in Davao at about the same time as you were. Strange how the Very Important Persons in our lives have led us to a munchkin land down south.

Still, though I may hate durian and other such provincial horrors, I love Davao. I do mean love love.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Irene said...

What an adventure you've had! That was an enjoyable read. =)

I haven't been to Davao, but I want to go. At least now I know where NOT to stay. ;p

5:04 PM  
Blogger Sidney said...

The joys of traveling !

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Jeric said...

As far as I know, the Manor Hotel that was caught in fire was the one in Quezon City not in Davao.

4:38 AM  
Blogger Dominique said...

The dialogue sounded like something out of "The Killers." ;-)

4:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home