It seemed miraculous to hear the wheels touch down on Philippine soil. Our Malaysian airport foray had proven disastrous but, at long last, we were here. Budget airlines utilize the Clark International, leaving a two hour bus journey to Manila. We changed our Malaysian Ringgits ($) and headed to the ticket counter. Of course, we were short. Luckily we had charmed the man next to us on the plane. He was a newly retired Kiwi expat and no match for Val’s brilliantly timed pleas and puppy dog eyes. He forked over the two dollars laughing and we excitedly returned to the counter. Hurray!
Our next challenge came two hours later. Part A) find someone too share AND pay for a cab into the budget hotel part of town. Easy. Part B) Get hotel reception to believe we had made a silly error and booked the wrong dates. Surely they could just let us have the room we paid for yesterday today. Guessing it worked? It didn’t. Oh well, it was worth a try. Luckily they took credit cards and after two bad nights sleeping on the airport floor we were treated to a brand new spotless room – with air conditioning!
I was content to bask in the glory of our room. Val, however, was acutely aware of “not a dollar to name” situation and her amazing powers of persuasion were no being used against me. “GO TO THE WESTERN UNION!” I escaped just as she was pulling out her electrified cattle prod.
For the sake of brevity I’ll just say that the streets of this particular part of Manila looked like a bomb had gone off. Compounding this was the fact every Manilan with any means to do so was out of town enjoying their Easter vacation time. I felt like a beach bum who’d accidentally wandered onto the set of Mad Max. On the bright side out street was littered with Western Union logos a sign that Filipinos are dutifully sending money home. Almost everything was closed but I managed to find an office that was open just past two sleeping beggars.
Minutes later I emerged with a bulging pocket of cash, cash, cash! The beggars were awake now (imagine that) but they were no match for my board-shorts and running shoes. It looked like everything was going to be okay, at least for a few days. I handed Val before we exchanged any words and she bolted out of the room. I was confused but she usually has a plan so I sat tight. Twenty minutes later I was getting a bit worried. There was a knock at the door. The door opened at an ominously slow pace, I distinctly remember wondering if the building had been taken by geurillas. There in front of me was enough potato chips and candy to cross the Pacific and behind it all was the gleaming smile of the girl I love, things were definitely looking up.