Monday, 30 March 2009

A Tough 24 Hours

Life on the road can be lonely at times, although you're never truly alone. I suffered my worst day so far in Manila, which is not the best place: there's enough suffering here without adding mine. Not that mine compares, but it was a pretty bad day.

I'd looked at a few flights with Cebu Pacific. Boracay, Cebu or palawan being the ideal destinations for diving. There are ferries, but they don't get good write-ups, are unreliable, and often sink. They also work out more expensive than flying at times. So I opted to fly to Cebu and head for Malapascua Island. The fare was minimal, around 20 GBP. So far, so good. I stood in line at the airline office, having to listen to an annoying American going on to any lone woman in the queue about how great America was; built on family values; wholesome etc etc. I was dying to get started on their Foreign Policy, but held my tongue.

Having paid for my ticket with the last of my cash, an ATM was the next stop. My cards didn't work. Not a single one. It's happened before, so I just left it an hour and tried again. Nothing. With the sun setting, and the equivalent of 40 pence in my pocket, I felt the onset of mild panic. I headed to my Pensione building, and luckily my card went through and I had a roof over my head. Unable to ring the bank, as my phone was out of credit, I had to make a long-distance call to England. This cost me the best part of 30 GBP and, despite pleading with them, not one of four attempts resulted in success. There was a block on my account, and no-one could tell me why. One unhelpful fool put me through to the security department, where I listened to an answerphone message tell me the business hours ie. they weren't open.

I spent my last cash on water, and was banging my head repeatedly on the hotel reception's desk, when the Manchester woman I'd met when last in Manila walked past. She asked what was wrong, and I told her. She was great, and lent me 200 Pesos to buy an international phone card. Pity the receptionists didn't tell me about that one. I got through to my fifth operator at Nationwide, who said that someone had seen that my card was being used in the Philippines and had stopped me using it, fearing fraud. So they couldn't figure out that I was travelling through Asia, judging by the pattern of use? I can just picture some spotty herbert, stuffing a sandwich in his mouth at lunchtime in Milton Keynes, pressing Block and turning my life upside down. I was fuming. The nice lady assured me that my account would be freed up in the next few hours. Manna From Heaven. So as it was, I only had to survive 24 hours on a bottle of water. Any longer, and I might have resorted to eating one of the street urchins.

As an aside, the woman from Manchester told me a funny tale. When I'd met her and the husband at Erra's, her fella was chatting to a guy at the next table. She hissed to me that he'd been going on all night about being a millionaire, and she said "He's full o' shite, that one" and rolled her eyes. They'd flown to Leyte with him, and at the airport, he said they could stay at his place. She'd been puzzled as they'd been led away from the other passengers heading for the terminal, only to be greeted by the sight of a gleaming helicopter around the corner of a hangar. The old guy popped on a headset, fired it up and whisked them off to his resort. "I were fookin' gobsmacked, like. Stuck fer words" she said. I doubted that...

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