It was the time when one of the major airport terminals in the Philippines was disturbed by a royal rumble between a celebrity couple and a veteran media man. According to reports, it all started with the unannounced offloading of the couple’s luggage from their overloaded plane. Still according to reports, there were also no CCTV cameras installed in the baggage conveyor area of the airport, making it impossible to check on the actual happenings.
Unfortunately, our flight to Hong Kong was booked in the same airline. But fortunately, we weren’t in the same airport.
It was the wee hours of May 26 when Mai, Jombits, Ami, Sheig and I, arrived at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City, Pampanga.
Except for Sheig, this was our first trip abroad and we initially did not plan to check-in any baggage as we are in backpack mode, and also to avoid any offloading. But the attendants said that Mai’s tripod was not allowed to be hand-carried, and also all of our umbrellas. And so we paid an awesome amount of fees, so awesome that we felt robbed.
We took our flight and after almost two hours of getting intimate with sinturong pangkaligtasan, we arrived in Hong Kong International Airport.
Inside the plane, we could still hear the flight attendants bidding us good bye, in Filipino. But the moment we stepped out of the plane, upon seeing a different writing in the signage, upon hearing an announcement in a language we did not understand, upon sighting a CCTV camera on every corner, and upon being surrounded by a first world environment, oh yes, we definitely were not in the Philippines anymore.
After a one-and-a-half-hour ride on a “two-storey bus”, we arrived in Mong Kok.
Seemed familiar? No, we’re not in Manila yet. We’re still in Hong Kong. Amongst the busy streets, we found Dragon Hostel, where we made our reservation, and managed to check-in by conversing with the owner in what they call the universal language, English.
Then a woman accompanied us to a seemingly-normal elevator. We were asking her questions about our room, in English, but she was not answering. Then, the elevator doors opened and we saw the number thirteen on the wall. Oh gosh, we were on the thirteenth floor. Sheig showed the woman the number indicated in our room key: 107. She said something in Chinese, that we did not understand, as she led us out. The seemingly-normal ambience suddenly turned to an Asian horror experience as we walked the corridors of thirteenth floor. Why did they have a thirteenth floor here? Oh yeah, of course, we were not in the Philippines. Luckily, we reached Unit 1303, Room 107, without anything unsual happening.
As we passed by the lobby on our way out, we learned that the woman who accompanied us understands only a little English.
Our next stop was the MTR Station, the equivalent of our very own Metro Rail Transit (MRT). Aside from the first-world look of the surroundings, discipline was all around. There were no pushing, no long lines; we could even wander around with DSLRs hanging around our necks without fear of snatchers or hold-uppers just like in Quiapo or Divisoria.
Plus, there were a lot of cute guys. And as we were all giggling about an anime-looking guy near the train doors, a woman sitting next to me seemed to be silently laughing with us. “Tunaw na mga lalaki sa kakatitig n’yo (All the boys are melting before your eyes),” she says as she started a conversation with us. As far as I can remember, she’s from Leyte and was a domestic helper in Hong Kong. It was so refreshing to meet someone who speaks the same language as we do. And as we reached our destination, she said that Hong Kong was such a beautiful place that we’ll surely enjoy.
The rest of Day 1 was spent in the Avenue of Stars, where we had a photo on Wong Kar Wai’s star and witnessed the Symphony of Lights.
We started Day 2 with the ever-relaxing aura of Chi Lin Nunnery.
We also visited the Hong Kong Film archive, and wished that the Philippine government would also give this much importance to our classic films.
We rode the train to our next destination and laughed loudly as we went boy-watching again. And as we were walking our way out of the station, we heard a group of women laughing louder than us. As we turned to look for them, we heard a familiar language. And to our surprise, we saw a whole stretch of Filipinos, seemingly having a picnic on the park near the Central Station.
Then we walked our way to experience the view from Victoria Peak.
On Day 3, as we were buying tickets for Disneyland at the hostel office, Sheig was surprised when a group of three women entered the office. Sheig, conversed with them in Bicolano, and they smiled to us as we exited the office.
While falling in line at the gates of Disneyland, Mai approached me and handed me a map of the theme park. Suddenly, a man and a little girl approached me as I browse the map “Saan n’yo po nakuha ‘yan (Where did you get that)?” I readily smiled and asked Mai where she got it. Then we pointed to a staff member distributing the maps nearby. He smiled and said “Salamat po (Thank you).”
And at long last, we were there, in the place where dreams come true. Only hypocrites would say that they never dreamt, at least once in their childhood, of meeting Mickey Mouse in person, or in my case, Woody.
Day 4 was spent with the Big Buddha of Lantau Island.
To take this photo, we installed Mai’s tripod and set Carmen (what Mai calls her Canon 5D camera) into timer mode. Unfortunately, we were positioned near the stairs so everybody who wanted to cross waited for Carmen to flash before they can pass. And because we were echoserang frogs, we were not contented with the first shot so we took another one.
And as Carmen was counting to ten seconds, a white woman was about to cross and she was made to stop when Carmen flashed. We ran, laughing, from where we were to see if the picture was good. And as we were uninstalling the tripod and the camera, the woman mocked how we laughed and said, “No culture”, as she passed by. Upon hearing this, Jombits readily shouted, “Guys, hurry up! Let’s go over there, to the monastery!” He told us he meant to do it loudly so the white woman would know that we could speak English, and that we could understand what she said and to prove that we have culture.
On Day 5, we boarded a ferry boat to Macau and bid Hong Kong goodbye. We deposited our luggage at the pier lockers so we could roam around freely.
We rode a bus from the pier to go to the Ruins of St. Paul. As we were walking and trolling around, we can see and hear a lot of Filipinos. We even asked a Pinoy security guard where to find the best food in Macau.
Our last stop was at the Senador Square…
And this was the last photo taken using Mai’s tripod. It was already ten in the evening, and our flight was at four the following morning so we already rode the bus back to the pier to gather our things. I volunteered to help Mai and carried the tripod.
In the pier lockers, we used the weighing scale to see if our pasalubongs and other additional stuff fitted the allotted baggage weight. We aimed to weigh the tripod first, since surely it won’t be allowed to be hand-carried again. Tripod. Uh-oh. I was the last person holding it in the bus. Oh my goodness! I left the tripod in the bus!
We readily ran to check if Bus # A10, was still outside. But as expected, it already went away. We seek help from the Pier Information Desk. The woman at the desk, conversing with us in English, told us that the ticket booth at the bus stop may be helpful. We went there where we saw a man and a woman, but we cannot seem to understand one another. By looking at the big Information Board, we learned that Bus #A10’s route starts from the pier and back so there’s a possibility that the same bus we rode minutes ago would still pass by. It was 10:30 in the evening, and we decided to take the risk.
So how many A10 buses were there? We were uncertain. Soon enough, one of them came. We tried talking to the driver but again, we could not understand Chinese and he could not understand English. So Mai and I decided to compose our message, in English, and let the woman at the Information Booth write down the Chinese translation on a piece of paper. Then we showed this to each and every A10 bus driver that came afterwards. An hour already passed but the tripod was still nowhere to be found.
We decided to ride a taxi to the nearest police station, using the Chinese translation the woman at the desk gave us. Luckily, the officer that we met can speak English but still the conversation was not easy. We called the bus terminal office, located at A-Ma Temple but no one’s answering. It was twelve midnight. The officer said that there could hardly be any person at the office at that hour. We explained that we need to find it before our flight back to the Philippines at 4:00AM. The officer asked for our Philippine address and even offered to ship the tripod once they find it the following morning. We really appreciated his kindness, but we thought that if they or we would wait until the following morning, it would be harder to track the tripod. So we thanked the officer and went back.
Upon walking to the bus stop, Mai said that maybe we still have time to go to A-Ma Temple. We walked passed the bus stop and started looking for a Filipino. It was already late so there were only a few people on the streets. After some time, we chance upon a Pinay-looking woman. “Ate, pwede po ba magtanong (Excuse me, we would just want to ask a question)?”, Mai readily asked without even confirming if she’s a Filipina. Fortunately, the woman said, “Ay, ano po ‘yun (Yes, what is it)?” We explained the scenario and she took us to the hotel where she was working and introduced us to another Filipino, a Kuya who was assigned at the desk. He helped us call the A-Ma temple terminal again but still no one answered. We asked where A-Ma Temple was and Kuya said it was at the far end of Macau. He wrote something down, and made a Chinese co-worker write the translation on the paper. Kuya said we just need to show that to the taxi driver to be able to reach A-Ma Temple. But he said that at this hour, the probability of finding someone there was very low. We thanked Kuya and told him we really appreciated his help.
As we were walking outside the hotel, I apologized to Mai and gave her a very tight hug. I told her that I would just buy her a new one. It was already 12:30am and the airport was quite far from where we were. We rode the bus back to the pier to fetch Jombits and Sheig and went straight to the airport.
By the way, Mai was fond of naming all her gadgets, and because she just bought her tripod during this Hong Kong trip, it has no name yet. So after all that happened in Macau, we decided to name the tripod after that woman at the airport rumble. And another thing, everytime we feel angry during this trip and wanted to make a fight, we just use the woman’s name to call what we were about to do and we are sent laughing our hearts instead.