Our trip back to Cebu was very brief but way more expensive than the first one. We left Negros on Monday morning to catch our 10:50am PAL flight bound for Cebu. I was very stressed out before the trip as I had to deal with Ken’s school needs first the same time I was preparing to head out. I utilized the service of Tyay Thelma, papa’s cousin and Ken’s former carer, to look after Ken while we’re gone. Moreover, papa was acting like I will be away for a year! He was showing signs of insecurities.
HLS… the promise of comfort has long since gone…
Anyway, as my cousin Ferd has suggested, we went to HLS terminal by 6:30am, just before the area gets crowded by students who were going to catch the early trip to Bacolod for school on a Monday. The van was not full when we got there. When it was leaving though, what we thought to be a comfortable ride turned out to be horrible! The driver decided to stuff more people in, making us look like sardines tightly packed inside. Ralph was very disappointed. He said that he didn’t mind having to pay more for HLS’ fare compared to Ceres’ Bulilit trip because of the comfort. But that’s now water under the bridge and swore he will never take HLS van for future trips. I was saddened but I know he’s got a point there. The extra passenger was practically sitting on his lap!
A discreet service happening at New Bacolod-Silay Airport
We were properly dropped off at the ‘real’ Airways this time around. The first Cebu trip was ridiculous having been re-routed to a couple of false directions. We safely got to the airport early. I don’t know if I should even say something about this, but when we got there, our flight was not yet being processed as it was way too early. However, one security guard in the area approached me and ask me what time our flight was. I showed him the booking and he took it with him and checked us in when the check-in counter was still showing as “CLOSE” . He returned with our processed ticket and I wasn’t that dumb not to think that it involves paying him off for that discreet service. We then headed up to the pre-departure area where we had breakfast and waited for our boarding. Ralph said that it might be some security matter because maybe they didn’t want us loitering down there. I just laughed. Security matter? Security matter my ass!
A metered taxi turned out to be a fixed rate deal.
After safely landing to Cebu, Ralph and I went to get a metered-taxi. At the airport, there is this area where you stand to get metered taxis. We had to fall in line along with the others and were attended to by someone who gets the cab, jots down the taxi’s plate number and hands out the survey sheet. When it was our turn though, nothing was handed out to us. I just saw the taxi driver whispered something to the attendant and just let us in. A minute or two, I noticed that the meter wasn’t on so I asked the driver about it. He then said “Oh, didn’t the attendant tell you? I told him it’s going to be a fixed rate of 200.
Fixed rate???? We waited in line for a metered taxi and that was what we got!!! I saw another disappointed look on my husband’s face and just decided to give in to that small corruption transpiring right before us. After all, this should be the last time we’re going to be in Cebu (hopefully). I hope it had nothing to do with the fact that Ralph was the only foreigner there on the line. You know how it is here sometimes, when they see you with a foreigner, they think you can afford everything!
Upgraded to a better room but… without hot shower
We stayed at the same hotel. Nikkei Garden hotel, located in Hernan Cortes, Mandaue, provided us a really good service at a very affordable rate in the previous trip to Cebu. We took the Deluxe room the last time but we thought of upgrading it to Superior (inclusion of a refrigerator) because we wanted to take out foods from SM and just keep them on the fridge so we can eat them the next day. However, we were disappointed because the room they gave us had an unstable cable TV connection cord which usually interrupted our cable TV viewing and there was no hot shower! Ralph was terribly displeased.
Undocumented Bureau of Immigration Fees
Our purpose in returning to Cebu was because Ralph has already been approved as a permanent resident of the country and his passport needed to be stamped. We headed straight to the Immigration District office after resting a little bit at the hotel. When we got there, the Cebu attorney was sleeping inside the office and we had to make some noise just so he would be aware that he has guests. It worked after I pretended to cough a little bit.
It turned out to be a long process. I was sent down and back a couple of times to do some photocopying. Ralph had to get his 5 fingers dirty with all the fingerprinting works that needed to be done. Moreover, we got short of cash because we based the fees from the Immigration website according to the Implementation of Approved Visa fees. Even though we took extra amount with us just in case there needed to be more fees, the amount that was presented to us was too much! I was also curious why I was never sent down to do the payment in the cashier. The documents were all ready and receipts were shown to be paid even though we have not yet done the payment and the amount that was being asked from us was only written in a piece of paper. It wasn’t the same process when we went to apply the first time. I told the attorney that we were short of 500 pesos and that I need to go out and do some withdrawal to the nearest Parked Mall. To my surprise, the attorney just said that I didn’t have to and that I should just pay the amount that we have available. Hmmmnn…. So we just paid all that was left from Ralph’s wallet. We weren’t even left with a taxi fare so we had a cab driver wait on us while we withdrew at the Parked Mall.
I could have done something, or said something, or maybe asked something right there but Ralph and I just wanted to get it all over with so we can go back home. We just thought that maybe people at the Cebu Immigration District office weren’t paid enough that they had to add some ‘undocumented fees’. Oh well…
I hope that you who read this blog will ponder all that I have said. It saddens me that no matter where I go, be it in an airport, or a particular sector of the government, there is always some monkey business going on. I feel embarrassed that people take advantage of other people just because they happen to be with a white guy or someone who may be able to afford to pay extra.
Looking on the bright side though, my husband is now a permanent resident of the country! Woohoo!!!