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Published: April 8th 2020
Tonight, I was supposed to be boarding a plane at JFK Airport in New York. Sixteen hours later I was going to disembark in Manila. My epic trip this year was to be five weeks in Asia. The first three weeks I was going to travel around the Philippines for the first time. After that I was going to fly to Japan where I would reconnect with my past life for two weeks in Sapporo. Now not.
The world has currently gone mad with the coronavirus and all our lives have been put on hold. Everyone I know is now locked behind their own closed doors, hunkered down with those they love and waiting for this terrible pandemic to be well and truly dealt with. Never before have I seen anything like what is going on in the world right now. Who could have foreseen something like this?
I must have had a premonition that this trip would never happen because for some reason it never felt quite real to me. I just couldn’t bring myself to plan and research it like I did with my previous trips. Even though I bought my ticket way back in August, I
was strangely reluctant to begin the pre-trip process. Then when I finally got around to working on an itinerary, things began to happen. First around Christmastime President Duterte of the Philippines got into a diplomatic fight with the US government and threatened to revoke visa on arrival for all American travelers. This would mean that we would now have to apply for visas well in advance before travelling to the Philippines. This was not the end of the world, but it could be potentially disastrous if Duterte put this into effect right before my departure date.
The next hurdle was thrown up, quite literally, on January 12th
when the Taal Volcano erupted in Batangas covering all of Metro Manila in a fine grey ash. It was reported that this blast could be a precursor to an even larger eruption in the near future. Which I guess is still the case. While I was busy pondering this, reports began to filter out of Wuhan of a horrendous outbreak of an unknown disease where people were collapsing in the streets and massive black clouds were seen over the city on satellite pictures as the crematoriums kicked into overdrive.
country of China went into a severe lockdown. I figured that the Philippines and Japan being so close were bound to be affected by this. Perhaps my travel plans were in jeopardy. Various countries began to shut down their borders and quarantine their citizens, but I was still determined to go on my trip. I was not going to pull the plug on my journey until either my government or the governments of the Philippines and Japan let me know I had no other choice. Then on March 12th
President Trump announced a ban on travel to Europe. Whew! My trip was still hanging on by a thin thread. Then a few days later it became a fait accompli when President Duterte locked down Manila and banned all foreigners from entering the Philippines.
That was that. I would not be going to Asia. All that is left now is to reminisce on a trip that in actuality never existed. I was really looking forward to flying to Manila direct from New York. I wanted to see how many mind and body would hold up trapped in a plane for sixteen hours. I was planning on writing a journal entry
every hour and then have that be the trip’s first blog. An examination of my mental state in that flying tin can over the Pacific. I was going to land in Manila during the Easter Holy Week. From what I could see the Philippines really celebrates Easter bigtime, with crowds, pageantry, and processions. This all seemed to include some sort of live crucifixion reenactments as well. Looked absolutely bonkers. How bonkers? Guess I will never know.
I was planning to spend a lot of time in Manila even after Easter, so I could find out more about the Filipinos’ passionate love affair with basketball. I was going to watch the NBA playoffs in bars with locals every morning as I ate my breakfast and drank my coffee. During the day I would search out local courts and see what Manila street basketball was all about. And of course, try like hell to resist being roped into playing myself. I am sure my achilles are hanging on by a thin thread at this point. The wild madcap Philippines Basketball Association would be my nightly entertainment as I examined their professional game. It was going to be a total immersion in
all things Filipino basketball.
I never could pinpoint what I was going to do outside of Manila, besides for the fact that it was going to involve beaches. Perhaps that’s for the best because it is harder to be disappointed about losing something that you never really envisioned in the first place.
One of the reasons I didn’t want to pack to much travel into my three weeks in the Philippines was that I didn’t want to exhaust myself before I got to Sapporo. I wanted to be fresh and ready for the fun that awaited me when I returned to the city where I lived for five years and where many of my friends still live to this day.
I was going to be there during the Japanese holiday of Golden Week where practically the whole country is out of work and celebrating. Sapporo is glorious during that week as the long northern winter finally begins to loosen its grip on the city. Pink cherry blossoms bloom all throughout the parks. The locals and crazy foreign residents all take their picnic blankets out to Maruyama Park. There they congregate, laugh, and drink beers all day under those delicate branches of flowers. Life is good during that time and I was going to be a part of it again.
However, because of the secretive nature of the Chinese government and their lack of concern for the wellbeing of other nations, none of that will happen. But one day this quarantine life will pass and we will all be on the road again. I am already planning on breaking my five-week epic Asian trip into two trips. First a three-week trip to Sapporo and rural Japan. Then a separate three-week crazy ramble around the Philippines. When the governments of the world give the go ahead all of us travelers will once again burst forth on the world stage, ready to bring joy and make discoveries. Can you imagine the global celebration that will take place then? That is one global party that I do not want to miss.
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