My last full day in the Philippines… Woke up in Boracay, slathered on sunscreen, availed myself of the included breakfast buffet (which put pretty much all other breakfast buffets to shame), then relaxed in the sun by one of the hotel’s (3) pools before cleaning up, packing, and checking out.
I opted to take the “public transportation” option to the airport rather than pay nearly twice as much for the hotel’s airport transfer. This involved a tricycle to the ferry to a van to the airport. Everything went so smoothly that I arrived at the airport with over 3 hours until my flight. I waited in line and went through pre-security X-rays, only to find that when I picked up my bags on the other side, there was nowhere to go. What should have been lines for various airline counters and security was just a mass of people. I eventually navigated to the apparent line to check in with my airline and waited a good 15 minutes before getting to talk to an agent. I handed him my passport and he looked confused and said, “Clark?” huh? No…my name’s on my passport… We went back and forth with mutual confusion until it became clear that he was only checking in passengers on the flight to Clark. No check-ins for Manila for another 45 minutes. Okay. Where could I wait? Over there, by the wall. Okay. I settled in and read for a bit (looking up at the clock frequently) only to find that at some point the security guard who’d told me to wait by the wall had started having Manila-bound passengers line up elsewhere. Eventually he indicated that I should add myself to the end of that now-long line. It went on like that for the entire Kalibo airport experience (lines that weren’t lines, crowds, noise, disorganization, and delays). Despite the fact that there were no planes on the ground (and the most I ever saw at once was 2) all flights were delayed due to “traffic congestion” at our airport. While waiting, I wound up chatting for a bit with an American woman (from California, now living in Macau) and met her husband and kids.
Eventually, our respective flights boarded (a mad scramble as the line moved at the last minute to a different door than the one I’d been waiting at because the security guards apparently couldn’t find the right key to unlock the right doors). The flight itself was uneventful, just a couple hours late.
I caught a taxi to my hotel (the driver mostly drove with his brights on through heavy traffic), checked in, and talked with the receptionist about where I could find lechon for dinner. She did some googling and made some calls, but ultimately didn’t help much (other than to let me know that the place I’d been hoping to go would likely be closed by the time I got there). I decided to give it a shot anyway, and the doorman hailed a cab and talked to the driver.
The driver, Jess, said he knew of a 24 hour place that served lechon, and it turned out to be on the “top ten” list I’d found in my googling. We headed that way instead of the mall I’d been planning on. He seemed like a decent fellow, so when he mentioned the possibility of waiting for me while I ate (at 10pm, in an unfamiliar neighborhood), it seemed like a reasonable idea. Ultimately I wound up sharing some of my food with him as well, and got to hear a bit of his story in return — grade school education, 20 years working for San Miguel (the beer company, which apparently also sells chicken, gasoline, and is part owner of the airline I flew on). There, he started as a janitor, and worked his way up to public relations. He had 7 daughters (he’d kept trying for a son), now ranging from 21 to 32 years old. I got to see that he only had a couple of teeth left, and just one on the bottom front. Also, His shirt said “trustworthy” on it, which I decided to interpret as a good sign. He had a heavy accent, but was quite fluent in English. Forget formal education — dedication and a willingness to try win every time.
The lechon itself was pretty tasty, but I preferred the tender chunks of pork to the crispy skin. Jess kept encouraging me to slather on more sauce, but it was quite tasty on its own.
After dinner, on the drive back, he popped in an Air Supply karaoke DVD in his car stereo (which had video as well) and despite the constant blinking left turn signal, returned me safely to my hotel. The grand total fare (including time waiting) wasn’t much more than the round trip would have been: $7.50 (plus tip).
Back at the hotel, I headed to the roof deck for a couple San Miguel beers before bed. Early morning flight home.