I have been cooped up in the city all my life. So if there are times when an escape from the city life is possible, I instantly grab the opportunity without question. I welcome that change of environment with open arms. Yet for all those times I have travelled, I take shame to admit that I haven’t tried riding in an airplane before.
That is, until today.
October 7, 2010, 12:00 NN, with the fewest clothes and things in my backpack as possible I made my way to the airport with some friends from church. I was giddy with excitement. I haven’t tried riding an airplane before and now is my chance. Our destination was Cagayan de Oro City, another place that I have only seen on TV. Situated in southern-most group of islands in the Philippines, the famous Mindanao Island, the city takes pride in being the City of Golden Friendship. One hour and twenty five minutes of flying and you’re in the city.
We arrived at the new airport terminal 3. The new terminal 3 was something out of a famous movie. It boasts of amenities like restaurants on its second floor. Its spacious area could fit several basketball courts and still have room for a track and field oval. From the ceiling to the floor, the building is in itself a architectural innovation to laymen like me. I haven’t been inside the other terminals but this seemed really luxurious.
After checking in our luggage, I got my first glimpse of the hulking machine that would take us to our destination. It wasn’t as big as I thought or perhaps domestic flights were relatively smaller than international flights, I simply have no idea. Yet as I queued to the entrance, I was surprised to find that there were more or less a hundred of us riding that plane. Of course, I might be exaggerating but that was how it felt. I immediately took the window seats despite seating arrangements (hey, my friends conceded so maybe it was alright!). I couldn’t help but press my eyes outside and see how this giant of a hull could lift us off to the skies.
As the plane taxied to the runway, I caught a brief glimpse of all the giant flying machines around the area: cargo planes, private jets, choppers, and other commercial flights. I didn’t realize how huge the airport is. I lunged forward as the plane sped up on the runway and slowly ascended to the skies. It was a thrilling experience. I found myself gawking outside and desperately trying to take pictures of the shrinking city below. To my dismay I couldn’t get the camera to work properly.
The wonderful experience was short lived. Upon reaching the skies, I could only see clouds everywhere that I began to lose interest after half an hour and eventually drifted off to sleep (okay, that’s not new at all! ). We were about to land when I woke up. I was just in time to have an overview of the whole area. The city was unlike the city that I was used to. There were more trees and green growths at every turn. It wasn’t as industrialized or polluted as Manila.
As the airplane landed, I was surprised at how humbling this airport is. It was not as gargantuan as where we came from. It was relatively smaller and could hold only a few airplanes and choppers. As the airplane taxied to the terminal, I caught a glimpse of several army choppers. It was really cool.
Since our advance party was late to pick us up, we headed to SM City Cagayan de Oro. I was once more surprised to find that it was a miniaturized version of the SM Malls here in the Metro (now I know there are malls smaller than SM Manila or SM Harrison Plaza J). After a few minutes of exploring the mall, I was able to remember it’s orientation and organization. The mall is shaped like a cross. The longest wing housed the Supermarket and the Department Store on both sides. The ground floor was mainly where the restaurants, and clothes shops could be located. The second floor was mainly for toy shops, gadget stores, arcades, and theaters.
Hours later, we were fetched by our advance party and headed to Opal Beach, where we’ll spend the night. This was some sort of prelude to the fun that we’re going to have the next day. We pitched our tents, cooked dinner and had a very humbling but sumptuous meal (actually, it could feed a battalion).
By nightfall, other people came to the resort. They started making quite a ruckus with the videoke. They were a steady reminder that I was still in the country. Filipinos are song lovers with a knack of singing throughout the night. Most of my companions were not able to sleep at all. Fortunately this was nothing new to me. People in our neighborhood don’t only sing, they scream and wail on the videoke. In these situations, My phone always come in handy. With my earphones plugged shut and my own steady music reverberating on my ears, the whole world is shut out and I revel in my thoughts.
On my first afternoon here, I learned that this was really a change of environment. Sure there was a mall, which somehow makes you feel a home with the usual shops and fast food restaurants. Yet the language was really different. I could somehow figure out Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), but I really had no idea about Bisaya (Cebuano). The suprasegmentals are similar but the semantics are completely different. It was like being in another country. The culture is also way different from Manila. People were not as enthusiastic to go to malls as the people in Manila. I was used to have a jam packed mall after office hours but the density of the people was the same in the afternoon as the people at night. This is really a different city from what I was used to.