“Only in the Philippines”



Among the many airlines that fly to and from the US, the one that stands out the most is Philippine Airlines (PAL) at NAIA 1 & 2 (International flights), LAX (Los Angeles) and SFO (San Francisco) Airports. It is not because of its ballyhooed service, which is not at all extra ordinary nor its alluring stewardesses and not even its latest ultra modern Airbus 350 plane which no one knows until seated inside the plane, but lo and behold, it is the sight of long lines of wheelchairs at PAL’s pre departure and arrival areas.


It is amazing that not only disabled passengers get to enjoy these four-wheel rides but also other enterprising but impudent able-bodied Filipino Senior Citizens. Some of them are still capable of perhaps doing two to three hours of Zumba workout, yet they obviously fake their disabilities only to one-up others in entering the plane by sitting in those wheelchairs (disabled persons and with children board first). PAL, with all its cordiality, is the only airline in the whole world that flies with almost 15% of its passengers disabled—every time, hahaha!


Ironically as observed, much older passengers of foreign airlines would rather walk on their own volition rather than be taken in on wheelchair while their counterpart PAL passengers nearby are hastily grabbing for one as if their life depends on it. What a shame!


At SFO airport, PAL is the only airline that has two separate lines for its passengers; one line exclusively for temperature and passport check (to assure them that you are healthy and that you are who you said you are—the analogy of “What if?”overkill!). In the second line, but prior to check-in, a PAL personnel again will ask for the required health forms in hard copies even after you showed them your downloaded QR code in your phone which implies you filled up the forms on line. Unfortunately, no hard copies, no check-in for them. You are compelled to do it all over again although in the PAL website they bruit about the convenience of doing it on line. WTF!


Finally, when the plane touches down in Manila, it is ordered to remain on the tarmac while everyone is asked once more to fill up another four (4) forms (!) from the different government agencies, each is asking for the same information; your name, address in US and Phl, flight number, date of arrival, among others (why can’t they just share the info filled up in one form to make it easier for passengers, or do they intend to torture the passengers with all these redundant forms?). Then the Coast Guard personnel board the plane in full PPEs to explain the stringent health protocols, and to check again each and every passenger’s temperature while simultaneously collecting one of the four filled up forms. This takes about an hour. After which, the plane is finally towed to the airport. In exiting the plane the passengers are made to fall in line anew for the swab test pre-payment and to check their hotel and transportation confirmed reservation (it is best to book them at least three days before departure otherwise you end up in a stinky but DoT accredited motel without prior reservation). After about one and a half hours, you are now ready to go to the Immigration line for your entry stamp to the Philippines.


Last step is to retrieve your luggages on the assigned carousel. By the time you step out of the airport building, it has been 3.5 agonizing hours since your plane touched down. You then look for your reserved shuttle car that will transport you to your hotel. Upon arrival and registering to the hotel counter, you are escorted to your room. You will also be reminded that once you enter your isolation room, you may not come out otherwise you will be reported to the authorities and be fined from P5k-P10k. Your food ration will be brought to you and placed on the chair outside your room. Food delivery from outside is strictly prohibited. As of this writing, the mandatory quarantine for passengers coming from countries listed in the “Green Lane” (China included) is 7 days, while others not in the list (US one of them) is 10 days (this Administration has been saying ever since that China is its best friend and does not want to offend them—the reason maybe for its contrived inclusion in the “Green Lane” although Delta variant is spreading wildly there?).


On the 7th day you will be swabbed and the result will be sent to the email address you provided when you first paid at the airport. Consequently, you are also instructed to send the same result by email to the front desk of the hotel your are quarantined at and wait for another day—on the 10th, you receive the “Quarantine Pass” from The Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) if your result is negative. Only then are you free to go. But if your test result is positive, the BoQ will pick you up and bring you to their isolation facility (why can”t they just send the swab result to the hotel and the BoQ directly while you are copy furnished with it to simplify the process?)


Since you will be paying for the swab test and hotel board and lodging for the tormenting 10 days of quarantine on top of the senseless and annoying health protocols you must suffer, you’ll end up broke by about P50k (excluding your international plane fare which suddenly doubled compared to last May) after you landed in your beloved country, the Philippines.