Saturday, June 24, 2006

Princes and Princesses to Puerto Princesa

A wonderful trip!

Well, this was not really a DIY but neither was this a packaged tour. We went just to see Puerto Princesa and the attractions in and around the city with only our flights and hotel booking firmed! But everything just fell into place smoothly! Not the cheapest but not the most expensive. This was actually what I can call as a tour that was a series of acciidental luxuries! Here’s the story…

To celebrate something, a friend invited me for a go around Puerto Princesa. Ah, without even checking my calendar, I said let’s go! Why? Because the last time I’ve been there was probably in the late 80s or early 90s! Wowowell That invitation was just 5 days before the intended departure. I did not know he meant I was being invited with free tickets and accommodations! And I did not also know there were six of us – all friends – traveling together for this tour. Wow really! This friend, the host, the inviter, howsoever that is called, is not very well versed about traveling. But he did not ask for assistance, so I did not meddle in his affairs!

Thus, on the date of departure, we all met at the centennial airport and that was the only time I saw my ticket! Fun and banter all the way through check-in and in no time, we just found ourselves roaming the cozy waiting areas near the gates. I thought I only took a few seconds, but next I looked four of my companions were already huddled at a table just in front of the Delifrance kiosk! Thankfully all just ordered coffee (yet) and were still about to order for me and the other friend. I was of course wide-eyed surprised. So I asked why they were there!

The reply was “its just coffee, and its on me, so sige na, get what you want”. Awr! Mimicking pompousness, standing in front of all of them, I told the group I wanted to eat arroz-caldo that time, and I may pick some croissants, fruit juice, fruits and hors de voires or I may even opt for champorado! While they all sat there stunned, I quickly popped into the Delifrance counter to cancel what they just ordered. Oh, two have already been prepared so I said we’ll take that but cancel all others! And I declared to my companions “stand up now, and follow me” haha!

At the Mabuhay Lounge, all 5 of my companions were huddled at a table amazed and bewildered why we were there. So I told them… while I am a Mabuhay Club Member, it did not matter since everyone of us were entitled to be in this lounge. And I told them to look at their boarding passes again. All were blue-colored which meant we were all on business class. I already knew all were first-timers in this lounge so I told them, every food or drink you see anywhere is free, so dig in now before the flight starts boarding. And we did!

While we all enjoyed the food (yeah, they too liked my favorite in this lounge – arroz-caldo) I reminded them that real breakfast food, not just nuts and biscuits, would also be served during the flight. That surprised everyone and jokes started flying around such as “pwede bang ibalot ito?”, “busog na ako, pwede cash nalang?”, “ay, now I will really have to use the airplane toilet for the first time” and so on!

During the banter, we talked how and why we suddenly found ourselves in this kind of unusual luxury (for most of us, at least)! and the story was… the host called up PAL just about 5-days before we flew and there was not enough space in economy class for six people. Ehem, being a dude with a fat credit card limit, and it being his special celebration, he just said “okay book us where we all can be accommodated on that flight”. He is not used to some flights in this country having business class –for which the clerk probably eagerly booked him/us!

Anyway, everything went just fantastically splendid with the group. And what a good start to visiting Puerto Princesa, everyone felt really special!

Arrival was no different. Just outside the arrivals hall, the representative of Hotel Fleuris was on hand waiting for us with a clean and orderly van. Emphasis on the “orderly” since many a hotel vehicle in other cities – including Metro Manila do conk out on arriving passengers hehe! But what caught the undivided attention of my friends was that big wide “billboard” just by the airport’s parking area where tricycle fares from whichever point in the city to wherever those trikes can reach are properly stipulated.

Off we were from the airport and all of us started ogling with ohs and ahs about where we were passing. The airport is after all within the city center and not too far away to anything. Sus, there is even a hotel and some of the well-known restaurants just a few steps away! I knew about that as I have observed so the last time I was here. But my friends were more amazed that the city (from the airport to Hotel Fleuris anyway) looked still a bit rural even with all its international popularity and tourism glory!

All I could say was, wait till we start roaming around and you’ll see how lovely a place this is! I told them of course that the last time I was around, the runway strip also served as a “street” or “road” towards the other side, when no flights are arriving or departing. Yep, the Vietnamese camp and other places. But we’ll get to them later. As for now, happy to have arrived at Puerto Princesa City – commonly referred to by locals as PPC!

Let’s hear more stories about this wonderful trip in my next entries, okay?!


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