Day 1 / 5:30 pm
I just spent the past 5 days soaking in the small island vibe of Batanes, one of the most beautiful bucketlist-worthy destinations in the Philippines. Now, I'm in a crowded airport hunched on the floor waiting for my delayed flight from Manila to Cebu. With no WiFi on the island, I've had no time to prepare for this trip. It seems like every hotel I've called is fully booked tonight. It's a miracle I even made it home to grab my gear & motorcycle papers this morning before heading back to the airport again.
If it weren't for a GrabBike driver who passed near the airport, I would have never made it. Metro Manila traffic on a Friday is the worst welcome you can get after any trip to a province, but my driver Robert, nimbly wove past cars and traffic-choked streets to get me safely to my destination. He manages to get me from the airport to QC in under an hour, which would have taken at least 2-3 hours by cab. I ask him to wait for me to take me back to the airport and he obliges. The heat is searing, but at least we are moving, unlike the taxis and vans lining the road. Not exactly how I pictured my ride-out to start, but at least I make it in time for the flight check-in.
Which is of course delayed. It's going to be a late start but delays are always unavoidable when you travel. You learn to just make the most of a bad situation. And spending the past few days in Batanes was not exactly a bad situation to be in. Though I've spent most of the day in transit to start this True Wanderer journey, I won't waste it once I get there.
As I scramble to get my bearings, my mind is still on Batanes and the adventures the past few days. Spectacular views everywhere you look. Endless rolling hills. Coastal roads that are the stuff of rider's dreams. A crazy boat ride over crashing waves. Witnessing the genuine community spirit of a local festival. A festive meal offered by our hosts at a homestay.
This may be a late start to this 5-day adventure. But the journey of discovery and finding just how beautiful our country is started a long time ago when I first got bitten by the travel bug. I can only look forward to more adventures ahead in Cebu. No matter how many times you've been to a destination, there's always something new to discover. I just have to figure out a gameplan.
As I'm boarding the plane, I send out a few desperate texts and chat messages to friends based in Cebu asking tips on where I can crash for the night. We haven't talked in ages, but in true provincial hospitality, old friends JP & Steph immediately offer to pick me up from the airport. With air traffic and delays finding a boarding gate, it's past 8 pm by the time I arrive. I missed the send-off for finalists, so Wrangler arranged for me to pick out clothes to wear for the trip at the Wrangler Boutique in Ayala Mall.
It's a mad shopping spree for the gear, an hour before closing time. I'm too frazzled to pick out clothes or even enjoy shopping, but thankfully salesladies Candy, Charisse and Miriam pick out everything in my size, pulling out the most expensive and newest models of jeans and jackets. "Sana manalo po kayo, maam!," they say cheerfully as I leave. I'm sure they said that to other finalists, but I appreciate the great customer service.
We drive around inquiring at different hotels, which are all fully booked or too expensive. We end up finding Mandaue City Suites, a reasonable pension house with standard aircon rooms available for P850 a night. Having been up since 4 am for the flight from Batanes this morning, I'm ready to crash.