By Jerome Quinto, Contributor INQUIRER.net I'VE always thought that a trip to Australia is as easy as climbing down a flight of staircases. Well, if a million steps down a thousand-storey building is for you a snap, the former rings true -- for you. For a Filipino (with the Pinoy passport, of course), going to Australia, or any developed country for that matter, starts with getting a visa. Well this wasn't a problem for me, though preparing the papers needed to get the visa is a hassle. Not to mention the agony of the waiting period where I'm caught between being prepared for the trip and likewise uncertain for I don't know whether I'm getting a visa or not. Good thing the dilemma wasn't that long. Just about three weeks (compared to a month or more for most). I don't intend to plot in detail the pre-departure process. Suffice it to say that IT IS NOT EASY and one should consider so many factors before one's flight. So how did I get "Down Under"? At the airport My journey to Australia isn't my first international flight (been to HK last July 2006 for the Asian Youth Day). Thus, our NAIA is no foreign ground for me. Security checks, X-rays, checking-in of luggage, terminal fee and immigration -- the long procedure one has to undergo in NAIA. Compared to my previous international flight, there was an added security check at the waiting area near the gate where we are supposed to board. My hand-carried pack was again subjected to the X-ray and manual inspection. The added inspection tried to ensure that we didn't carry anything illegal under Aussie regulations. Aboard the plane Our ticket was marked Fiesta Class (a.k.a. economy class). I was expecting a different kind of cabin service since it's a longer flight. I was thinking about what food they were going to serve, what kind of entertainment would be available during the eight-hour journey, what amenities would be offered to us. These questions just kept popping in my mind. (To be continued)
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By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net BANGALORE, India--It rained hard. Just a few hours before my scheduled flight to Singapore, on our way to Bangalore, a freaky rain shower kept planes scheduled to land in Ninoy Aquino International Airport hovering over Manila. Our plane got delayed by almost two hours. By the time we took off, I was tense. I was constantly looking at my watch to find out if we still had time to catch our connecting flight to Bangalore, India's version of Silicon Valley. But just a quick rewind. It was unusual for Singapore Airlines to be late. But our plane was just that -- very, very late. Some passengers started crowding the table near our gate, asking if they could still make it on time for their connecting flights. The airline announced the flight had been redirected to Clark airport (huh?) so it was expected to arrive an hour late. I made a quick calculation. Since we had a three-hour window to catch our connecting flight, I didn't panic. I was wrong. Just as the crowd was starting to grumble, the airline announced that food was being served in a restaurant inside the airport. A beeline of people emerged, as they scrambled for the exit. It was almost 3 p.m., and I suppose many were very hungry. While eating, Melvin Calimag (of the Manila Bulletin) and I met "Mr. Morrison," an Australian who was invited in Manila to host a horse race. Yes, he was a pro. He had been in the Philippines many times that he could still recall the old mayors of Manila. Apparently, horse race announcers like him were like gems. They were rare and I supposed highly paid. Just as we ended our late lunch at the airport, our plane finally landed. I checked my watch. The airline's announced arrival was a bit optimistic. At that moment, I was tense. By the time we got back to the gate, a group of cute ground crew members of the airline assembled in front of the impatient crowd. I wondered what was the gimmick. Then I saw a mic stand, a speaker, and a songbook. They started singing a song. The song's title escapes me. But it dealt with a "wooden heart." I thought I was having a heart attack as time ticked away. So on our way to Bangalore, India, we ended up staying near Little India in Singapore for a day. All because of the rain.