Saturday, August 22, 2009

We are finally back in Manila

Our trip back started out well enough. We had stayed the previous two nights with Steve’s sister Della and brother-in-law Scott. On Wednesday we were even fortunate enough to see our niece Angie Keseley play her first of four games in her tryout for the United States Women’s hockey team. She played very well, notching two assists. We will know on Monday if she made the final cut for the U.S. Olympic Team.

On Thursday Scott took us to the airport the recommended three hours before our scheduled departure of 3:20 P.M. Of course we sailed right through check-in and security and were left with two hours of “sit and wait.” At least that’s what we thought was in store. We ate at the in-airport—and highly overpriced—MacDonald’s. While we were in line waiting to order we noticed a sign which appeared to be advertising Angus Filet-o-Fish! What next, walleyed Big Macs?

About the time we were expecting the call to board, an announcement came over the loudspeakers informing us that our flight would be delayed ever so slightly in order to accommodate other connecting flights that were ever so slightly delayed due to bad weather elsewhere in the country. About the time we were scheduled to depart we were informed that the flight was now delayed due to a faulty baggage door, and that the maintenance crew was working on it. Every few minutes we were told we would be boarding in a few minutes. Finally, almost three hours after the scheduled departure time, we were told to board. We took off almost four hours late on our 12-hour flight to Tokyo/Narita Airport. On board we were told that we would find out about our connections when we arrived in Japan, but we were pretty sure that our flight to Manila, which was scheduled to depart two hours before we would land in Tokyo, would be long gone. As we were approaching for landing we were informed that all connections had already departed and that we would be spending the night in Tokyo.

To Northwest Airlines’ (now Delta) credit all arrangements were already made for the approximately 300 passengers who, like us, were stranded in Tokyo for the night. We had all been assigned new flights. For some, that meant a long day waiting for the same flight for which they’d been scheduled, but many, including us, were given flights in the morning. In our case we were transferred to a Japanese Airlines flight. It took us two hours to clear customs and immigration, get on board our bus, and get to the Excel Narita Hotel.

We were traveling with two large bags each, and they were automatically taken care of by the airlines. That meant that we only had our carry-ons, which were our computers and our backpacks, which mostly contained toiletries, medications, and books. Marcia always carries an extra pair of undies in her backpack, but Steve was left with no clean socks or underwear. Marcia’s nightgown was also packed away, but the hotel provided something resembling a hospital gown so that was okay. By the time we checked into our room it was 11:00 at night, 21 hours since leaving Scott and Della’s, and about the time we should have been landing in Manila. We found out that others on our flight had already been traveling before arriving in Minneapolis, so their days were even longer. The airlines provided us meal vouchers, so we had a thin but tasty steak for dinner and were in bed by midnight, giving us six hours to sleep.

We got up, showered and shaved, and ate a very good buffet breakfast. Then it was back on the bus for the half-hour trip to the airport. There was some confusion as to which terminal to use, as several of the other Manila-bound passengers were told Terminal 1 and others like us were told Terminal 2. The bus driver dropped us off correctly at 2, and we got our seats at the check-in counter. As we were about to go through security Marcia pulled the hotel key from her pocket; it had been years since we had been issued an actual key. She told Steve to find someone to return it to. Steve asked a bunch of airport personnel, all of whom spoke passable English, but none of whom was willing to take responsibility for the key. A young lady at the information booth told him that the Excel bus would be at drop-off point 26 in 15 minutes, so he went off in search of 26, which was down two floors and outside the building. When he got outside, 10 was on his right and 11 on his left. Being a left-brained-only kind of guy, he headed left looking for 26. After a few hundred yards he got to 18, and realized that 26 was across the street and the other direction. Toting his loaded backpack and heavy laptop computer, he trudged down to the other side of the terminal and was just in time to give the key to the Excel bus driver, who graciously accepted it. Then he went back up to the third floor, found Marcia, and they were able to pass through security and reverse customs and immigration in plenty of time to sit and wait to board their plane for Manila.

We certainly did not get to see much of Tokyo—spelled Tokyu there—but did notice that all signs were in Japanese and English, with many also having Chinese and Korean characters. Japanese books and newspapers are read from right to left, so they open on the right side. Also, drivers sit on the right side of their vehicles and drive on the left side of the road. Narita is a very big airport, serving the most populated metropolitan area in the world, so we weren’t sure if we would see any grass, or if all we would see was asphalt. This morning we could see that the Excel Hotel has a beautiful garden and very nice lawn and landscaping.

The flight to Manila seemed short at only four hours. We suppose that was due to the fact that the previous day was so long, but also that were seated next to a very interesting gentleman. His name is Ruel, and he is a Filipino who has been living with his family in Calgary, Alberta, Canada for many years. Ruel was very happy to learn about what we do on Corregidor. He currently works as a travel agent in Canada, but is in the process of setting up a number of businesses in the Philippines with the intention of eventually moving back home. Among other things, he is a hockey player, something we believe not many Filipinos can claim. Ruel promised to visit us on Corregidor when he returns in December, and we will be very pleased to see him.

By the way, the flight from Tokyo to Manila serves people who speak English, Japanese, and Tagalog (Filipino), so announcements were made in all three languages. A native Japanese made the announcement, “Welcome to Manila,” which sounded more like “where come to mah KNEE rah.” Although it sounded a little funny, it sure sounded nice. We have a few things to take care of in Manila today, and then we take the ferry to Corregidor in the morning. It will feel good to be settled again.

We especially want to thank those who offered their homes and beds to us the last eight weeks. First off, to our friends in Makati, Brian and Leslie, who put us up or put up with us while we waited for our flight to America. Then to Steve’s mother, Steve’s sister Paula and her husband Terry, our friend Sandi and her son K.C., our friends Paul and Marcia, Marcia’s brother Dave and his wife Karen, Steve’s sister Della and her husband Scott, and last but not least, our son Nick and his wife Carrie, who hosted us at the beginning, middle, and end of our stay, and also provided transportation to and from Detroit Metro Airport.

Steve and Marcia on the Rock

P.S. We return to Corregidor tomorrow (Sunday) morning on the Sun Cruises ferry as long as weather permits. Otherwise we may have to stay in Manila until Thursday. Pray for good weather.

P.S.S. A friendly reminder that we are back to extremely slow internet servioce. Please do not send us emails with attachments of any significant size. If you must send us a an attachment over 50KB send it to and we will read it at some later date when we have access to hi-speed internet.


  1. Indeed, it was truly an honor for me to have met you both in what I personally think was bizarre moment. It would seem like it was an incidental meeting, However, while having a lengthy conversation with Marsha, we both agreed that it was truly by divine providence where God has appointed for us to meet. I enjoyed the conversation we had (yes, all four hours of fun, witty, and profound moments) where we talked about many subject matters until the plane landed. You gave such profound insights on the history of the Philippines during WW2 and its impact in your own personal life. What strikes me so much is how you responded to your encounter with so much passion and emotion as it relates to you dad's experience. I was deeply moved by your strong commitment to share this passion and love for history to people from all walks of life. I find it truly commendable and encouraging to know that someone of your stature would choose to retire to a small and yet of great significance in human history. At times it puts us to shame that a foreigner like you guys would know so much more about our history.

    It did however, challenged me to learn more about my home country. I look forward to our next meeting sometime in December or January allowing me the opportunity to see the Philippines through your eyes and that of your dad's.

    God bless you both and more power as well.

    Ruel Cubid
    Calgary, Alberta, C-Eh-N-Eh-D-Eh!

  2. Enjoyed your story. I often try to go via Japan in hopes of being bumped and earning a voucher while getting the chance to visit local friends. It's the misadventures in life that we remember. Many of the English signs that I remember in Japan are not translations but phonetic of the Japanese word. Not that I've been lost a few times or anything ;)

    T Hart