So last 2019, before the pandemic, I brought my mom to Taiwan. After traveling alone for a few years, I thought of bringing my family along in my trips. Though one at a time at least I fulfill my plans of traveling with them.
Off we go to Taipei then!
In this first video, you see us fly from Manila to Taipei, Taiwan. We took separate planes, cause budget, to get there. She took an earlier Philippine Airlines flight and I had CebuPacific. Believe it or not, though, her flight was cheaper than mine! LOL!
She did wait for me a few hours at the airport since her flight is way earlier than mine, I on the other hand waited for several hours for my flight because I brought her to the airport. Both of us got a fair share of waiting, LOL! I did offer to send her to the hotel as soon as she arrives but she opted to wait instead.
It has been a year since I arrived back here in Manila from the US. Unfortunately, I can’t go back there yet since the embassy in Manila still is closed for B1/B2 applications. Yes, my visa expired already. It was such a bummer that I my trip didn’t go as planned because of this whole Covid thing, which I cannot stress enough to be taken seriously. Hence, I am not moving from my home.
Remembering all the hoops and uncertainties that I had to go through that time made me think, should I write something about it? I actually thought of writing about that process as a waste of time and would be of no value to anyone since it was constantly changing every, single, day.
I was hoping that time that the government will come up with a clear, easy-to-follow process. That way everyone can be compliant and avoid confusion especially in the airports where most of the action is.
Unluckily, the situation in the country has not gotten any better. Don’t ask why. So here I am a year later thinking maybe I should write about it. Maybe I should share `how I manage to stay on top of everything and come home in one piece.
My plan for the trip last 2020 was to land in Los Angeles, see a few sights then go visit my Aunt in North Carolina. After spending a couple of weeks, I intended to go to New York for a weekend. From New York, I wanted to fly to Mexico for the rest of my trip before flying back to Los Angeles and fly back to Manila.
Obviously, that didn’t happen since Covid did.
From The East Coast The West Coast
My plans for this trip only went as far as visiting my Aunt on the East Coast. New York was the epicenter of Covid in the US at that time. It was just plain stupid to push through.
From North Carolina, I flew back to Los Angeles. I chose to fly from OAJ rather than driving for hours going to Raleigh. The fares were dirt cheap as the number of passengers dwindled down because of the situation. Flight fares from OAJ or the Albert J Ellis Airport usually are expensive that a lot of people choose to drive to Raleigh instead. But like I said, the fares were so low that I just had to take advantage and save my relatives from the stressful drive.
Given the situation, I was expecting that my flight won’t be full especially that it is a small aircraft and that social distancing needs to be observed. The flight was full! I was a bit concerned but thank God my aunt gave me a bunch of face masks that she made! Amazingly, it seems that many passengers weren’t concerned about what’s going on. A lot of them weren’t even wearing masks.
I had a layover in Charlotte, N.C. It is a bigger airport where they aggregate passengers who then Fly out on another plane. Since it was a hub airport, it was filled more than the OAJ Airport. It was a bit uncomfortable seeing a crowd in the airport. I was also surprised that the plane taking me to Washington DC seemed to be full also.
Yes, it was a two-layover flight. But most of the flights were since there were not many people traveling at that time. So they had to shuttle and aggregate their passengers. It does make sense. From Washington DC it was a 6-hour flight to Los Angeles. It was tiring, honestly. Well at least I am already in LA, just a few days more and I will be back home. Or will I?
The Unexpected Angelino
I booked a hostel bed for a week near Hollywood Blvd at Hollywood Budget BnB GuestHome. I wanted to take photos of the nearby areas and the blvd. itself at night. I thought that it would be a nice addition to my portfolio. To my dismay when I arrived at the hostel, the manager told me that he was trying to contact me. To cut the story short (I’ll make another post for this) I think I was a victim of the bait and switch.
Anyways a few days before my scheduled flight, Philippine Airlines informed me that my flight is canceled. I had to decide quickly where to transfer. It was a no-brainer, I didn’t want to stay at that hostel. So I checked out my options using Booking.com, Airbnb, and Agoda. Booking.com and Airbnb gave me the best options.
I chose to book with Airbnb, though they failed me numerous times already. They had the best rates.
I tried to book the soonest available flight going back home. The soonest bookable flight though was a month later. So secretly with a happy heart, I booked my accommodation via Airbnb for a month! ^_^. I later thought that maybe it’s the universe telling me, “hey! you deserve to enjoy this trip even just for a bit! Stay for a while!”. Well, universe Thank You so much!
I honestly enjoyed living in Los Angeles. However, the reality is that it is not sustainable for me. I mean, my savings can support me for about a month or maybe two. Or maybe even rent out a cheap room. I know I can actually afford to live there, but of course, I have bills to pay in Manila and saving to build up. If I stay there, it’s just gonna go negative instead of saving.
Trying To Get Back
EVA Air was really good at communicating the status of my flight. However, because of the constantly changing and worsening situation at that time, I keep on getting bumped off my flight. I kept on rescheduling to the soonest flights but it got to a point where I couldn’t afford it anymore. Taiwan, where I was supposed to transit, was scheduled to lift the transit restrictions for foreigners way beyond my authorized stay in the US. I could apply to extend my stay, but that would cost me $500 and another month in the hostel is about $400. It was way beyond practical.
Since staying in Los Angeles and buying a new ticket cost the same, I decided to book a new one. I thought that since it is based in The Philippines, I won’t have any issues with transiting in case of changes arise. So I booked one for about the same price as the round trip ticket I initially bought.
I was extremely vigilant in making sure that my flight was going through. I always check my airline’s Facebook page and my email for any announcements.
On the eve of my scheduled flight, uncertainty was prevalent within our Facebook group. There’s this announcement on the airline’s page that all flights will be diverted to Cebu, but no communication has been sent. Most of us were speculating that our flight will be canceled. True enough, it was. Still no email from Philippine Airlines.
I tried calling customer service but they couldn’t give an answer.
Just Keep Trying
Several hours after speaking with the airline representative, I received an email that night. It said that my flight for June 20th is canceled! I was honestly confused about what to feel. Thank God I was able to put myself together. I called Philippine Airlines really early in the morning. It felt inconvenient since they should have just rescheduled us automatically rather than having us call them.
Anyways, I easily got through their lines. I think I was this guy’s first call. I asked about the scheduled flight that night for Cebu that I saw on their site. I was so ecstatic as he informed me that I got a slot for that night’s slot!
I quickly went back to my room and to fix my luggage. I also informed one of the house managers that I am no longer extending my stay.
Pre Flight Drama
I spent my last few hours in Los Angeles buying some stuff that I can bring back home. I thought that with everything that has been going on, it’s gonna be a while before I can come back.
With my bags locked, I booked an Uber to the airport around 5 PM. My flight was not until 10, but I am not taking any chances.
I thought that I am really early. Then I remembered that I am flying with fellow Filipinos. That means, getting to the airport hours before your flight is normal. Yeah, knowing how Filipinos are with their appointments; your know, Filipino time? We are extremely cautious with airports and flights. Needles to say, there was a long line of people trying to check-in already when I arrived.
Checking in was fine. The only struggle was staying in the line for more than an hour. It was awesome to be in the Facebook group. There was a lot of support from people in the same flight and for those who are still waiting to get their new slots.
As I reached the check-in counter, I placed my carefully balanced luggage on the scale. They asked me about my quarantine hotel reservation in Cebu and my ticket. It was easy, except for the long wait.
Flying Back To The Philippines
My flight boarded a bit later than scheduled. It was expected though. Having all these new protocols obviously can create confusion. So I try to stay patient.
Everyone was cooperative, no one trying to create drama.
Upon boarding the plane, I learned that it was a full flight. There was no social distancing. Well, unless you want to pay extra for it. I wasn’t complaining at that point. I just wanted to get home. So I kept my mask on as I have been.
The flight went as usual. They serve meals and drinks while on protective gear. Though hidden behind the new uniform they are wearing, you still feel the warmth of the PAL flight crew. It was such a comfort being taken cared of by Filipino Hospitality.
After a few hours of sleep and wake cycle, I finally heard the pilot announcing that we are about to arrive. The flight crew then prepared everyone for the touchdown. My heart was racing in excitement.
Quarantine In Cebu
Since we were one of the few first Non-Expats (Overseas Filipino Workers) arriving in the country, we were fortunate that our quarantine wasn’t really full-blown isolation. We just had to take a swab test and contain ourselves in our rooms until we receive the result of the test.
The initial batches of results came in just a few hours after we checked in. Mine didn’t arrive until the following day. The good thing about booking a quarantine-hotel is that they provide all meals.
It was quite nerve-racking when I was one of the few left without our results. I had to email and call people just to get my certificates. I do not understand why it was so disorganized. But that is how it was.
It was almost lunchtime when I received my certificates. The people at Eloisa Hotel were just awesome. They offered, without me asking, to print my certificates.
The only problem now is that my flight to Manila is not confirmed yet. As I said, nothing was clear with the procedures. They didn’t tell us if we have to book it ourselves or they’d (quarantine officers/PAL) be booking it for us. There was just not enough instruction given. Some of my co-passengers said that we can go to the airport and they will just let us in even without reservations. I doubted that. I also have huge luggage so I didn’t want to risk going there only to be turned away.
Some of the people who did go to the airport were accommodated as chance passengers, some just were not fortunate enough. Since I was already in Cebu, I thought of staying for maybe a week. But watching the news on the TV wasn’t sounding a bit optimistic. So I just stayed a couple of days more and flew back to Manila on a weekend.
Way Back Home
Finally, the day came. I stayed in an Airbnb just right off the airport for convenience. Believe me, though, it was not easy to find a hotel or Airbnb. Most of them were shut off or are asking for a minimum of one month’s stay. My bookings were canceled one after another. It was just frustrating because Airbnb didn’t do their part in making sure that their listings are actually active and accepting just like how it shows on their website.
Anyways, my flight back to Manila came and everything went smoothly at the airport. Everyone wore masks and face shields (which I still disapprove of). I also bought some chocolates at the Mactan Airport, cause I ate many of the ones I bought at Ralph’s in LA! lol!
My brother picked me up, he was way too late. I was the only one at the airport that seem to be ghost town-like. But then I am grateful. This is the first time someone is picking me up. No one ever offered and I don’t want to be an imposition.
So there, that was how challenging getting home at that time was. I was just thankful that I got home before my authorized stay expired. Getting stuck in Los Angeles was also bearable because of the people I met in the hostel. I hope I get to meet them again in the future.
As of this writing, things have been complicated already. The government seems not to know how to go with their quarantine policies. Vaccines are already rolling out, albeit, not enough for everyone. At least though we are moving. I also hope that traveling across provinces, regions or localities would be standardized. They do allow movement for the most part. However, learning how complicated it gets to visit other places makes you just want to give up your plans.
Till the next time, we actually get to travel. I hope soon before I go insane.
It was my first time in Los Angeles in more than a decade. Things have changed since, of course, and I was pretty confused about how I can get to Hollywood where my hostel is. I really didn’t research how I could get out of the airport, to be honest. I was feeling a bit adventurous and confident at the same time. I felt like I should know this, this feels like home. It was challenging. I learned things the hard way, but that was fun no regrets at all. So let me share with you the ways I found how to get out of LAX.
Booking Uber isn’t really a convenient straightforward option for LAX. You will have to get to the pickup area where all ride-sharing cars take riders. To get there, take the shuttle bus that circles around all the terminals and brings passengers to the pickup point. I paid about 60 USD from LAX to my Hollywood hostel. Also, carpooling with other passengers is disabled if you are coming from the airport.
Taxis are also found at the pickup point which they fondly call LAX-it, maybe it’s like a play of word from Exit? I don’t really know. Again you can take the shuttle or maybe walk if you don’t have any luggage. It’s just right beside terminal 1. Flag down for taxis as of writing is $2.50, I found something online though that says they can service you for about less than $50.
If you have a number of bags and luggage, and putting them on a bus tugging them to LAXit is just unimaginable, you might want to hire a private car for yourself. They can just simply wait you at the parking and pull out to pick you up at your terminal when you are ready. There’s a good number of private cars that you can hire, but of course it’s gonna cost more comparing it to Uber or Lyft.
The cheapest way though to get out of LAX though is via the LAX Flyaway bus. It shuttles passengers from LAX to Union Station in DTLA (downtown L.A.) for just $9.75. From there it’s around $11 to Hollywood.
Keep in mind though that the bus, like I said, is a shuttle. it does not make any stop. So if you are going to nearby neighborhoods such as Inglewood, where I first stayed, it would be best to just either hire a car or, book an Uber or Lyft.
Got better ideas how to get out of LAX? Share it with everyone in the comments section!
Longing for a quick escape from Metro Manila. Well one of the most common answer that would pop up is Baguio! I must say that Baguio always is a good idea for a quick vacation or unwinding. It is relatively easy to reach by taking a bus but it is also very tourist friendly specially for first time travelers. Continue reading →
Starting November 1 2017, Filipinos will be allowed to enter Taiwan Visa Free on a trial basis until July 31, 2018. The said visa free policy will allow Filipinos to enter Taiwan specially for tourism for up to 14 days at a time, annouced by the Taipei Economic and Cultural office (TECO) in the Philippines. Continue reading →
With a confused mind I was on a bus bound to Bicol to a city called Tabaco. I was one of the the bloggers that the city invited to witness the Tabak Festival. I was battling in my mind why would the city celebrate Tabak instead of Tabaco which is a type of plant used to make cigars. Anyways, I just slept on the bus on a 12 hour journey from Manila. Well, at least I tried to sleep.
As soon as the light came in, I was greeted by this majestic view. Something that I’ve only seen on books until that day, The Mayon volcano. I was truly blessed as Mayon showed it self clearly that day, as if he was welcoming me to Bicol. I’ve heard of friends who spent days even up to a week at a time and never got to see the glorious Mayon in its entirety. With that I am grateful. Not bad for a welcome for a Bicol virgin like me.
I hopped off the at Tabaco City bus stop and was fetched by Verna our ever caring tour coordinator. After checking in I was introduced to Dave of silverbackpacker.com who’s also my room mate for the next few days. Celine of Celineism.com on the other hand arrived the day after.
The Festival Origin
The Tabak Festival celebrates the city’s renowned craft of making the Tabak, a type of sword used mostly by farmers to cut through shrubs and other plants to clear a field or just plainly cut open a fresh coconut. The city formulated the festival to celebrate annually the its cityhood in 2003 just a year after it was granted such status.
The festival focuses on the Tabak’s culture and its people’s daily lives. It aims to celebrate the spirit of the city’s community caring for each other and living harmoniously. Fittingly, the city hashtagged #cityoflove during the festivities and yes, you can see love all around. You can feel that more than competing with each other contenders enjoy and show their best for the love of their city.
Focusing on its residents’ daily living the festivities include boat racing, pedicab race, coconut husking and beauty pageants. The week long festivities are then capped with the Tabak Festival grand parade.
Boats waiting for the race to start
Pedicab Race Finishers waiting for the rest of the pack
Mayor Krisel enjoying the night with senior citizens during the seniors night
Live band for the city’s senior citizens
Mutya ng Tabak Candidates
During the LGU night w had a chance to chat with Mayor Krisel and asked about the city’s name. It was really difficult to focus on her story. looking at such beautiful and intelligent mayor (yeeeee kakakilig hahaha) telling a story??? Hahahaha! Anyways, She told the story of how the city came to be known at Tabaco City. Once upon a time…. Kidding! According to a fable (not kidding now) there’s this heroine who fought with a Tabak. She was caught off guard without her Tabak, she commanded her offspring “Anak ang Tabak Ko!” (son hand me my Tabak) hence Tabak Ko which later evolved to Tabaco. According to the good mayor, there’s not even a single Tabaco plantation n the city.
To be honest, the Tabak Festival isn’t as big as many of the famous festivals in the country. What’s special about this though is that it celebrates humanity. That we need each other, care for your neighbor. there are very few festivals that celebrates this side of us being humans. Many celebrate saints history but very few celebrate who we are and who we should be. I think it is a good thing to visit Tabaco City and experience the Tabak Festival and see for your selves how people take care of each other in Bicol’s City of Love.
Read more about the Tabak Festival from Celineism and Silverbackpacker
The Philippines largest low cost carrier, CebuPacific Airlines just launched their latest PISO FARE offering!
For as low as 452.12 pesos customers can book flights to selected destinations with travel dates starting September 1, 2017 until March 2018. Perfect for those early planners and backpackers who loves going on trips at a very low cost.
Searching for a private room in Liwliwa, San Felipe Zambales can be difficult on a weekend when everything is almost fully booked. Good thing we wandered a bit more and found La Zerena just across Circle Hostel.
We took one of their nipa huts that is good for two to three persons. The comfort rooms are communal located near the huts are reasonably clean and water is good.
The resort is about two to three minutes walk to the beach.
Priced at 1,200 La Zerena nipa huts are quite affordable specially if there’s going to be three of you splitting the cost. I also like the resort’s location since it is just right beside Fely’s Canteen and store where we bought most of our necessities.
Airconditioned rooms though are priced at 3,000 pesos good for two.
After a loooooooooooooong while, Cebu Pacific Air is back with their piso fare!
Cebu Pacific or CebPac as it is more popularly know came to popularize pisofares which sparked the domestic travel surge in the country. However CebPac has yet to pull another pisofare promo since last year until today!
So what are you waiting for head on to www.cebupacificair.com to book your flight!