First of all, I really don’t know what all the complaints about NAIA (Manila’s Airport) are about. Until you have flown into the international airport in L’viv, Ukraine, you really don’t know what crude is! The comfort room is actually across the street and has not been cleaned since the Soviets left and Olga the security screener is not nearly as cute as the nice Pinays at NAIA.But I digress, as most of you know our last visit to the archipelago was not so much a vacation, but a working trip to pave the way for our upcoming permanent move scheduled for the December time frame. On the “Things to do List” was finding the location at the airport to get our Balikbayan visa (As described in the “Expat Guide to the Philippines” by Dave DeWall).
Well, before she consented to be my wife, my lovely Asawa worked at NAIA with the department of tourism, and still has many good friends who work there. So on each of our visits we are met by one of her friends still employed there and are escorted through the airport.
This trip was no different. Bing, my wife’s friend, and a healthy young man to assist with our baggage, were waiting for us as we exited the plane. After hugs and kisses and the exchange of pasalubong (gifts), we were taken along with the thundering herd towards the immigration desks. We gave the young man our passports who then scampered over to the diplomat kiosk “THUNK, THUNK; SCRIBBLE, SCRIBBLE” Immigration done! No lines! Off to the baggage carousels!
As my wife and her friend were jabbering away, catching up on lost time, our young male escort grabbed a cart and went to collect our bags, and I went to the comfort room to change into my Philippine uniform of shorts, T-Shirt and sandals.
The restroom was clean, well lit and smelled fine by the way. When I came back, our baggage was ready and off we went to the customs desk. The customs officer took one look at our badged escort, took our custom papers and waved us through. No lines!
Down to the chaos of the passenger pickup area, and we had only been off the plane for 45 minute! I was so glad to be back in my soon to be adoptive country, I had almost forgotten the primary purpose for our trip. Finally able to get a word in edge wise, I asked Bing “Where do we go to get a Balikbayan Visa?”
For those of you who are lucky enough to be married to Filipinas you know the Look I got. Eyebrows raised an expression that maybe I had just spoken in Ukrainian and the shrug that said “Stupid Kano” all in a nanosecond. She took our passports back, opened them to the most recent entry and pointed. Sure enough, right there in the entry stamp was written “1 year.” Oh well, so much for my things to do list!
(Editor's Note: Great story, Scott H! Thanks for sharing it with us. Indeed, it does not hurt to have some connections here, and I don't mind "availing" of them when the situation arises. Looking forward to the big guy's retirement in the Philippines in December. Scott promises some future posts on dealing with the massive move, which should be entertaining and informative for the rest of us. Thanks again, Scott!