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23 January 2012

Experience at Clark International Airport


We took the Philippine Peso and brought it with us when we went to Las Pinas for the birthday celebration. Then, after eating some very delicious chicken barbeque, atchara, and rice (of course), we headed to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (aka Clark Airport) in Pampanga.

Oh, and the exhausting trip to the airport took about four hours from our house.

So on my previous post, I shared about my sickly misadventures during vacation. Now it is time to reveal the secret-for-now trip that I had with my family.

Approximately six months ago, I took a flight to go to Singapore. This time, I got to visit another country close to Philippines. And it is… (Can you hear the drumroll?) HONG KONG! Yeah! (Confetti please!)

I guess that’s a little expected and kind of anticlimactic. But bear with me. It’s not everyday that I can visit a different country, and by different I mean different from Philippines and Guam. So it does make Tin-Tin a very happy girl when she travels to a different part of the world, no matter how close that part of the world is to her home country.

Anyway…

After two hours (or maybe that was three, sorry I can’t really remember now) of watching sceneries in the dark and reading road signs, we finally came to Clark International Airport. Our driver was not very familiar with the place so we got a little lost. A little lang naman. At approximately four in the morning, when we got to the airport itself, the driver, my family and I were all surprised with what we saw – the airport was CLOSED! Don’t get me wrong. We were able to go into the parking lot and all but the doors to go inside the airport were all closed. The only signs of life in the airport were the guards, the Ministop, and a few people waiting at the seats near Ministop. For a little while, I thought I was at a scene from Resident Evil when the main protagonist woke up (I’m talking about the first Resident Evil movie) and found that she was confined in a dark building with everyone turned into zombies (I assumed the people in the airport were zombies, lol).

Clark airport is the first airport that I have been to that is not open 24/7.

What’s up with that? I have always assumed that all airports operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Well, I was proven wrong on the fifth of January.

Our flight to Hong Kong was scheduled at seven o’clock in the morning. And all of us did not have any idea what time the airport will open. And I must say, Pampanga is still hot at four in the morning. I mean, for a girl who kinda got used to the cool breeze in Lipa, Pampanga felt humid and hot. Anyhow, we stayed in the van at the parking lot (where we had to pay thirty pesos) and took a nap for an hour. If I remember it right, it was five thirty when we heard a voice from the speakers announce: “Passengers for flight so and so for the time so and so can now line up at the doors.”

And line up in front of the airport we did. When we got inside, I was (again) surprised with what I saw. The airport looked… tiny. I saw very few check-in counters and few airline names that function at the airport. These airlines include (and perhaps not limited to) Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, and SeAir.

I had been to Bacolod (a city in an island in Visayas) and saw the domestic airport. And Bacolod’s domestic airport looked much better than Clark International Airport. Gosh. To think that Clark Airport flies internationally while Bacolod’s airport only flies locally.

We did what we people usually do on airports before embarking on the plane: Check-in, pay the airport user’s charge (which, I believe only is charged when you’re using airports in the Philippines, LOL), and go through immigration.

Do you remember what happened to us when we claimed a remittance from Banco de Oro? We did not get the peso remittance we received, so all we had in our pockets were peso and a few Hong Kong dollars we had exchanged at the moneychanger at Clark Airport. Despite the exchange that we did, the immigration officers and the cops told us that we were carrying a lot of peso bills. Mama was taken to a private room where she and some officers and cops settled the matter. It was not until we were outside of the officers’ earshot when she told me what happened inside that room.

According to Mama, the immigration officer told her that there is a long process that she would have to go through because of the amount of money we were planning to carry to Hong Kong. BUT there is a shorter way to deal with the matter at hand. Turned out all the officer wanted was a thousand and five hundred peso (approximately twenty-five US dollars). Goodness! Mama’s blood pressure has a tendency to go high, very high. And the stress of seeing cops and immigration officers take her to a private room is enough to have her BP go really high!

Seriously.

If all the officers wanted were money, we could have just given it to them, you know. Especially if the amount they were asking for was not much. No need to go through all the scary and stressful part.

Lastly, I just wanna say that I highly NOT recommend the Clark Airport. Clark Airport does not function 24/7. It was too small to be even called an “international airport.” The rest rooms were okay, but they were not very clean. There was no wifi on any part of the airport. It was crowded and the arrival waiting area was dirty and looked like it had not been cleaned for a long time. Last but not the least, the immigration officers and cops would do their best to scare and obtain money from airport users, instead of assure them of their safety.

To the immigration officers and cops at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (aka Clark Airport), please itigil n'yo na ang pangongotong n'yo! I thought kotong only happens in the streets, it apparently happens inside the airport... And to make things worse, you do it to tourists!

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