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Published: December 27th 2016
My Cebu Pacific flight to Manila took off after midnight from Bangkok. I never flew this airline before. So, I was curious about its service. I always like to try new airlines wherever I travel. I loved the service of Nok Air when I flew from Mae-Hong-Son to Chiang Mai in Thailand. I had many pleasant flights with Nature Air in Costa Rica. It was a great service from Kalstar when I flew to Borneo in December 2016. So, I wanted to check it out. I waited all day long at the Bangkok airport and I was tired. And I knew it’s a short flight from Bangkok to Manila, perhaps 3- 4 hours max, and I need to catch a quick nap during the flight. I already had my dinner while waiting at the Bangkok airport, so I didn’t need any food during the flight. The flight was full and I had a cozy window seat, so I dozed off just after boarding.
It was about 4:45 am when we landed in Manila in a rain soaked morning. I could see the traffic build up from the plane window on the roads below. The yellow halogen lamps were still on.
It was my last leg of the tour and I was tired. I was just staying in Manila for a day to catch my connecting flight to Canada. So I was not sure if I had a lot of enthusiasm for sightseeing during the day. Better think about it later, I told myself. I collected my backpack and dragged myself out of the aircraft. There was not too much crowd in the arrival terminal that early in the morning. It was a short walk to the immigration line up and there were not too many people. There are two lines for immigration: a) Foreign Passport Holders and b) for the Filipinos. There is no confusion, so I stood in the line assigned for the foreign passport holders. My turn came and I stood in front of an immigration officer, a good looking lady. “Good morning,” and I was ready to hand over my passport. She quickly looked at me and told me to go to the other line designated for the Filipinos. “I’m not a Filipino,” I told her and handed my Canadian Passport to her. She checked the Passport and stamped and let me go with a smile. I
brushed the matter aside and went to pick up my luggage from the belt. While I was waiting for the luggage, a middle aged Filipino lady came to me and started talking to me in Filipino language, perhaps in Tagalog. I practiced Bahasa before I arrived in Indonesia few weeks earlier, but I had no plan to learn Tagalog. She was accompanied by a young lady, probably her daughter. The middle aged lady introduced her daughter to me.
“Sorry Ma’am, I have no idea what you are talking about.” I told her politely.
“You are a Filipino, so I thought you know the language,” she replied in broken English.
“No Ma’am, I live in Canada,” I replied
“Oh, I see,…you are a Filipino expat. But you should know your language, right.”
“No Ma’am, I’m not a Filipino,” I was polite. But I don’t think the lady was convinced. I sighed. Twice it happened within half hour. Hope the day goes by peacefully, I thought.
I took a cab from the airport and I was ripped off a bit, I realized it later. I know, it’s not a huge amount, possibly the cabbie thought I
am a local. Well, there is silver lining to everything. I went straight to the front desk. “Yes, you do have a reservation,” the front desk girl told me with a smiling face.
“Please give me your Passport,”
“Sure”, I handed her over my passport. While she was busy in doing the paperwork, I was looking around. Not a bad hotel for one day stay, I thought.
“How do you pronounce your name, Sir?” she asked me while busy completing her paperwork. I looked at her and pronounced my name the way it should be.
“It’s an unusual Filipino name, you know,” she told me.
Oh My God, when will this be over!
“No Ma’am, you could see from my passport that I am not a Filipino.”
I know that I look like a Thai to certain extent. I was told before in many occasions. Once, I managed to get inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok as a local and saved my 200 Bhats. The soldier was not initially convinced, but finally let me in when I spoke short sentences in Thai. But this is too much. I checked in to my room
and immediately sent an email to my wife telling her what’s happening. “I want to get out of here soon before they decide to keep me here forever,” I wrote her. “Well, enjoy being a local,” she replied with a smiley.
It was raining still, so I decided to take a nap in my room in the morning. I booked it for two nights, because I knew no hotel would give me a room that early in the morning otherwise. When I woke up, it was about 10:00 am and the rain has stopped. While coming from the airport in the morning, I already experienced the narrow roads with snarling traffic. No, I didn’t feel any enthusiasm to check the city around and get stuck in the traffic. Instead, I decided to check the SM Mall, the biggest in Asia. At least that’s what they claim. It was within a short walking distance from my hotel and the roads around are nice.
I spent the day lazing around in the Mall, tried different food and ended my evening with a dinner of Chicken Alfredo Fettuccini with a glass of white wine and a tiramisu dessert. The next morning
I checked out and the hotel arranged an Uber to go to the airport. The Uber charged 130 Peso and then I realized that I was ripped off yesterday when the cabbie charged me 550 Peso for the same route. Well, there is always a learning curve. I checked in the ANA counter and handed over my passport to the girl. She checked out the document and asked me,
“Are you a born Canadian?”
“No, I’m not. Please check the front page.”
“Yes, I see that. I wasn’t sure…just wanted to confirm”.
I was a bit concerned…so much you hear about Philippines now-a-days. Yesterday I was concerned when I found my luggage lock disappeared during the flight. I just wanted a safe passage out and didn’t want to miss my flight for a confusion of my identity.
She was still checking my passport.
“Is everything okay, Ma’am?” I asked her with some concern.
“Yes they are, you look Filipino, but your passport says otherwise; so I was just checking,” she replied. My concerns vaporized. I burst out laughing.
“You know how many times I faced this question since I landed here yesterday?”
I asked her.
“You sure look like one, you know….anyway, all fine. Have a good flight. She handed me over my boarding pass and the travel documents.
Now you tell me what the odds are that I faced the same immigration lady in the passport control. She gave me a sweet smile and gestured at me.
“Hello, Mr. Filipino,” she asked for my passport. I was shaking my head.
“Did you have a good stay?” she asked me.
“Yes Ma’am, and I am ready to fly home as a Canadian and not as a Filipino, you know,”
“Take it easy, it’s just a joke,” she was still smiling at me.
The story does not end here unless I tell you this incident.
It was many years ago and I was dating my would-be wife at that time. We both were students in Canada. During a summer break, my wife was visiting her home in England. She was sharing a group photo with her family. Her sister-in-law pointed to a guy in the photo, “Who is this Filipino kid”, she asked her. Well, you guessed it right,- that was me. I suppose the
history repeats itself. In my case it does repeat with a mistaken identity!
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