The gate area was quite a scene to witness
. While the passengers all seemed pretty laid back and non-troublesome, the employees were a mess. They all looked about 17 years old, half of them were playing on their cell phones, and nobody knew what was going on. The only thing they really were good at was paging out once a minute for each flight letting us know to proceed to the gate for boarding (for every minute of the 20 before closing the doors). Boarding time marked the arrival of my two traveling companions for the remainder of the Philippines: Matt, the president of Outreach International (OI), and Harry, the chairman of the board for OI. After boarding, we started taxiing at what I would describe as way too fast. I also noticed we were taxiing to the wrong end of the runway (based on wind sock direction and other aircraft taking off). We did manage to take off successfully and the. Proceeded in a straight line for Cauayan (CYZ). The skies were completely overcast below us north of Manila. After 45 minutes, we descended almost to the clouds and then the captain came on and said we couldn't land because of the overcast skies and that we would return to Manila. This seemed overly odd to me since the clouds were at 7000 feet and the weather was obviously the same when we departed. Anyways we flew all the way back to Manila And ran back through the airport to where we started to try and fix this cluster. All of the employees tried their hardest to pretend nothing weird happened and that there were no seats to the north o the island until 2 days later
. As luck would have it, next to us in line was some Filipino oil CEO who knew how to get things done. He went up the line and threatened to get the station manager fired. He also told the manager that the three of us were with him, and we all suddenly had seats on the next (supposedly oversold) flight to TUG, boarding....now. So off we ran back through all the same shit we'd already done only to make it to the gate to see them boarding some other flight. After 5 minutes of standing at the desk, someone asked what I needed and then told me my flight was delayed but thats all she knew. This story is already long and frustrating so I'll just cut it off by saying we left about an hour late and did make it to TUG (through the same overcast skies).
An OI staff member picked us up and we drove about 2 hours to the town of Roxas where the Isabela staff are located. We had a round of introductions and orientation and then took a meal and went back to our hotel for the night.
I'm still waking up early due to the time changes, so it's no problem catching my 5:30am shuttle over to the airport. Outside the terminal is an initial screening with X-ray and metal detector. Inside are several large crowds attempting to check-in for my carrier, Cebu Pacific, the biggest low cost carrier in town. How low? My hour long flight on a turboprop cost about $33 including one checked bag. After waiting 40 minutes behind approximately 4 people, it took less than a minute to checkin and get a boarding pass. What were the other people doing??? Next up was a line to pay a $5 domestic departure tax followed by the regular security line. Regular security was amusing because everyone set off the metal detector and everyone received a 3 second pat down. It was really pretty pointless. They did have completely separate lines for men and women. After a short wait, I made it down to the gate and proceeded to wait for two hours for boarding time.