Thursday, March 15, 2012

More fun when you know the pilot

Today it was back to regular programming in my never-ending Travelife. The day began pretty wonderfully with an almost perfect morning and an early stroll by the beach at the Shangri-la resort on Mactan Island in Cebu, followed by breakfast and some work on my Mac right by the pool.

Mid-afternoon, I was pretty reluctant to check out and return to reality in Manila, but lots of appointments and responsibilities were waiting, including two appointments tonight. So I checked out of the Shangri-la Mactan after a delicious Chinese lunch of scallops with fried rice and crispy chicken with nuts and garlic (the chef's specialties) at the hotel's Tea of Spring, and made it to Cebu airport just before 3 PM -- just in time for the 345 PM PAL flight back to Manila, which was on time.


What is it with me and Philippine Airlines? The times I've ridden them, the flights have been on time and everything has been smooth sailing. Today, too, the plane took off from Cebu about ten minutes past schedule -- which, to me, is as "on time" as I can ever hope for. I haven't had a late flight with PAL in recent memory.

So there we were sitting in the first row of the plane and I was catching up on newspapers. I don't read the papers much anymore; but today, scanning the front pages and the op-ed pages full of accusations and fault-findings by one party or the other -- as if they were all gods without sins themselves -- made me very distressed about the future of our society.

IMHO, so many people making the front pages of the newspapers are becoming very petty and negative, and it's really too bad for the rest of us. We really should be focusing on building our country up instead of tearing each other down.


Anyway, back to my story. When the on-board announcement came on the loudspeaker of the plane, in preparation for takeoff, the pilot's name was announced and it sounded very familiar. I realized then that the pilot of my plane today was none other than Gary, an old classmate at the Ateneo. Of course I sent my business card over and he came out to say hi afterwards in his full pilot regalia.

Let me tell you: I realized it certainly is a big deal if you know the guy flying your plane. I felt safer in the hands of someone I knew, and I felt that nothing would or could happen. I fly practically every week so you're probably thinking that flying's so not a big deal to me anymore.

Well, it isn't a big deal. But every so often, when I'm taking off or when I'm looking out the window at the wide expanse of sea below, I do think of what might happen if I'm unlucky...


I got back home just in time to change for a wine and cheese party organized by my neighbors with the help of Manila's Cheese Club. They put out quite a nice spread, with all the cheeses explained very thoroughly, lots of wines, and a delicious raclette station. This was all just for the neighbors, so it was pretty intimate, and I was really happy I made it in time to catch up with many of them and exchange updates.

For some reason, almost all of my neighbors travel as much as I do and work as hard as I do when in Manila. Someone had just come back from LA, another from Hong Kong, and other people from a couple of other countries. Of course I'd just literally stepped off the plane from Cebu as well. One of my neighbors said to me tonight: "Every time I see you, you've just come back from somewhere." Yup, that's a TRAVELIFE for you.

And next week, a bunch of people are traveling as well, while I'm hopefully headed for Sri Lanka if I can get my act together in time.

With schedules like ours, it's pretty hard to meet up often for dinners or socials; so an opportunity like this wine and cheese party tonight was great.


Then it was time to do a French exit and head on to another appointment, where I sat outdoors with some friends I also hadn't seen in a while. We had so much fun talking. Perhaps because I was seated at that particular table, the talk turned to travel -- and it included the most hilarious and interesting anecdotes related to a travel campaign organized by a financial company last year.

When I wasn't laughing, I was sitting open-mouthed the entire time listening to the extent that even very rich people will go to for a free airline ticket. Absolutely amazing -- so amazing, in fact, that it deserves its own separate blog entry. I'm thinking of calling it: "The crazy things people will do for a free ticket." You'll be reading about this over the weekend.

I would've stayed longer, but I still had work to do and a pretty early and long day tomorrow so I said goodbye ahead of everyone else and headed home.


And just as I was reaching home -- what do you know? I heard some really cool music coming from the venue of the neighborhood wine-and-cheese party and some laughter. Impossible, I said to myself. The party was supposed to be from 7 to 9 PM and it was midnight. People couldn't have stayed that long.

But I decided to go in and have a peek anyway. Well, about a dozen people were still seated around a very large table laden with cheese and overflowing with wine. These were the wine and cheese stalwarts, looking ready to go on all night.

"Come on in," they all called out. I hesitated as I have this blog to write, sleep to get, and a big day ahead. I answered: "Five minutes." And then I sat down, a glass of wine and a glass of ice were placed in front of me, and I joined in the banter. Of course five minutes is never just five minutes in Manila. Before I knew it, it was 30 minutes past and the new day had already begun.

Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.



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