…is always the longest. A familiar saying, but one that I am always reminded of whenever I visit the Philippines. I have usually come half way around the world to do so, except that this time it was just a local trip – from Manila to Davao.
According to my air ticket the flight on a modern Airbus A319-200 should have only taken one-and-a-half hours. It was just a little late departing Manila Terminal 2 so the prognosis was good for a near-schedule arrival. But it was not to be: the weather intervened not just once – but twice.
The ride began to get quite bumpy. Oh dear! this could get tricky I thought… A PA announcement advised us that we would have to start circling awaiting for the weather to clear. Violent turbulence threw us around and a heavy sense of unease settled. We scrambled for barf bags to pass to families with young children who were struggling. Anxiety crept in as the minutes ticked by. I was beginning to wonder what kind of landing we might anticipate – and weighed our chances of success. The Distance to Destination figure went down – then up again – many times over. This persisted for at least 45 minutes – then I saw we were gaining height – from 9000 ft to 11000 – then up to 13000. The air grew calm as we gained altitude. Very soon the captain announced we were heading back to Cebu. Cheers went up as a visible sign of relief.
Back in Cebu all we could do was wait. The plane was refuelled. Passengers got out of their seats to head for the loo…. The level of energy was palpable. Around 10pm it was time to depart. We took off and headed south – again – this time with increased optimism. Peanut snacks were distributed again, and water poured. 35 minutes later the undercarriage went down and we touched down in Davao without glitch.
In the terminal we collected our bags then headed outside to hail a cab… It was 11pm and still raining. To our dismay there was hardly a cab in sight…. What was the story?
Stoic Filipinos were also waiting – and taking it all in their stride. No complaining or grumbling. That was amazing. One young businessman who stood behind me in the queue explained that the problem we now faced was that no taxis could get to and from the airport because of severe flooding outside… We would have to wait…
Finally, after another hour had passed, a cab arrived – and I was next in the line. I took it, agreeing to pay twice what it said on the meter… We were on our way! But not so fast. The young driver inched the car forward explaining that there were floods up ahead. Would I mind taking a detour? he asked. We continued to inch forward, passing some on the inside and others on the outside – then finally turning up a side road as gushing water poured out of culverts. An hour later – just on 1am – we arrived at the guest house. It was just ten-and-a-half-hours after leaving my Manila hotel.