Wednesday, August 3, 2016

JOURNAL | Keeping It Cool at Philippine International Airport



29 June 2016. Wednesday


Rise and shine, it's 4am and my flight's leaving at 12noon. It's supposed to be a quiet Wednesday for me, but today marks the new chapter in my career; I'm leaving for Oman, for certain. 

But my luggage are not yet completely ready, and to think that I need to travel for six hours to get to the international airport. For a moment, I thought I might miss the flight. But now's not the right to entertain evil thoughts. Just keep positive.


There are a few dilemmas in my packing issue, and mainly because my luggage is not big enough I had to be really practical; and by that I mean only taking those that I would need to survive in say, a month. Not many articles of clothing, left behind books I just bought (I can't afford extra weight), some of my pertinent documents with me and voila, I'm ready to hit the road. 

It was still dark outside. My mother is up, making sure I'm all good to go. This time, they won't be accompanying me to the airport. Partly because I prefer to leave with not much emotional stress; I'll miss my family, I'll miss home. But giving in to these thoughts would make leaving more painful. I'm leaving for a good reason, and that's enough to be away for a few years.

At the gate, I hugged my mom. Told her to take care of herself and always be strong. My dad, he took me to the bus station and carried my luggage. It was drizzling, but I didn't mind getting drenched. After all, it was the last time I would get wet in this land. 

It was still dark outside. When dad and I reached the bus station, he stood a few meters away from where I was. I didn't come to him. I knew he needed space. I knew he had to deal with something I wouldn't know. He's my father after all, and me leaving is a sad reality we had to deal with.

The bus came. Father said his goodbye. I hugged him too and told him to take care. A few minutes later, I'm inside the bus waiting to reach my destination. Still unsure about the mixed emotions. I dozed off.


***

Five hours later, I reached Manila. To be exact, I reached Buendia and getting taxi in this part of town was so chaotic. The taxi drivers are charging more than they have to plus the loading area is nowhere to be found. In short, I had to struggle to get myself a cab. Carrying my heavy luggage, I was walking hither and thither, trying my luck to find a cab. But when luck failed, I had to wrestle my way against other passengers also struggling to get to their destinations.

Half an hour later, I got into a cab- thankfully! But the cab driver was insisting that I pay an additional sum because of some absurd reason that there was traffic jam in the airport, blah blah blah. Of course inconvenient as it is, I wanted to go down but cab driver popped the magic word; which is my additional payment is a big donation to a poor driver like him.Oh well, what to do; I just agreed. Anyhow, he was quite polite when we reached the airport so it was pretty acceptable.

TIP: When in Manila, taxi drivers will rip off anyone they think would not fight back. Such is the system because they know passengers are desperate. But I urge everyone not to allow this to happen. Fight for what is just, and don't let these drivers cheat you.


***

At the airport now, the sequence is much easier:
  • Check in your bags to the counter. 
  • Counter will give you a receipt so you can pay the travel tax of around 1,650 PhP.
  • Go back to the counter and collect the boarding pass.
  • Walk towards the international departure 
  • Pass through the security check (you might be asked to remove your shoes and belt)
  • Proceed to the Immigration
  • Exit the Immigration and find the boarding gate (boarding gates open two hours prior to departure)



***

Just a quick note on the Immigration procedure. Well I have discussed earlier in my post regarding the documents that need to be presented at the immigration. Please check out:

Packing Stuff and Sticking to Schedule

But more than the documents, a few other tips to help you avoid being off-loaded (thank God I have never been off loaded yet, but the Philippine Immigration has a knack for off loading Filipino travelers).

  • Dress the part. Make sure that when you travel, you actually dress like a traveler or at least someone who can travel. Let's face it, the Immigration people are very judgmental and if they see that you don't look like someone who can afford to travel then you are sent to the interrogation room. If you're unlucky, the officer who just had a bad day will keep you from boarding and you lose your flight and hotel and all that you've prepared for in the last few weeks.

  • Keep it short and simple. One mistake of Filipino travelers when they approach the immigration officers is that they tend to talk a lot. Ask about where one is going, and the stories of a family member down to the neighbor's pets will be disclosed. Immigration officers are very suspicious of these kind of travelers. The more facts are presented, the more loopholes can be seen. Best to only answer what is asked.

  • No eye contact (or at least no extended gaze). Make no mistake about it, it pays to look at the eyes of the person you talk to in order to express sincerity. But staring triggers Immigration officers to be suspicious of you. It's like the more you try to look sincere, the more they will doubt. So only glance once in a while, but do not make an eye contact.

  • Mind the pacing. When you talk, try not to stutter or sound anxious. The more you sound unnatural, the more you appear like you're about to commit something unlawful. Just relax and be natural. Mind the breathing and make sure that your posture commands authority. People who appear uneasy are easier targets for Immigration officers.

  • When presenting documents, separate each sheet. When an Immigration Officer asks for a document like return tickets or hotel accommodations, make sure that they are all ready in your hands (or at least accessible to you, without you going through the contents of your bag). Equally important is that these papers are separate so the Immigration Officer does not find anything suspicious. You only give what is asked and that's the key. No more, no less.


If in the event, you are still sent to the interrogation room for further screening, here are some tips you can do:

Relax and clear your mind. Never allow yourself to panic because it will only cloud your judgment. Yes, there is a chance for you to lose the flight but that has not happened yet, so it is wise to arm yourself against questions that will be hurled at your feet.

Rehearse your answers to these questions, but never LIE. Lies are easily detected by the Immigration Officers and can be a ground from you being off-loaded. Besides, it's really difficult to string lies so your best chance is to rehearse your answers without falling into the trap of giving false information.

The usual questions Immigration Officers ask are the following:
  • What are you going to do at your destination?
  • Who invited you?
  • Do you have supporting papers aside from the invitation?
  • How are you related to the person who invited you
  • How long are you staying?
  • When are you coming back to the Philippines?
  • What is your job in the Philippines? Employment certificate? Salary certificate?
  • Do you have the proof of leave from your company?
  • How much money do you have for your travel?
  • Do you have a credit card? Debit card?
  • Where are you staying in your destination?

Again, these questions aim to prove the following:
  • Ability to finance and support travel
  • Validity of the invitation letter and relationship to the person who invited you
  • Existence of accommodations
  • Proof of return to the Philippines 

Remember, the Immigration Officer only needs to establish these facts and you are good to go. And also, there should be a strong intent on your part to travel; so never allow these Immigration Officers to intimidate you.

Hopefully, you can pass through the Immigration Officer interrogation and board your flight. 


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