Of flash floods and missing a flight: Our Halloween travel story


While our friends were donning their scary costumes for Halloween parties or visiting their deposed loved ones in the cemeteries, we were there stranded, sucked in the black hole in Davao City aware that we are about to miss our flight to Manila.

"Flash flood! Our Kota Kinabalu trip is in danger!"

"we tried to take a rest, and sleep outside the airport building premises along with other passengers - senior citizens, children and women chilling with their rain-wet clothes on - who missed their flights for the same reason." 
When the taxi halted in the middle of the traffic amidst heavy rain, we knew a hard test was up. Hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles were motionless. Not from afar were two vehicles floating in the floodwater that blocked the highway going to the airport. Even the biggest cargo trucks did not dare cross the ill-fated part of Buhangin Road. We’re so near (it’s just 1.5 kilometers away from the airport, thanks to Google Map), yet so far!

Rescue personnel clad in floating vests and blaring head lamps ran to the scene but their number didn’t help in allowing the vehicles to pass. We had to get out of the taxi or let the meter run.

I rushed to ask some jeepney drivers for a ride and they all have the same answer: "Ok, pero di ta sigurado unsang oras mobaba ang tubig (sure but we don’t know what time the water will settle down.)"

Tired, hungry and almost hopeless, waiting is all we can do. A small shade in a closed eatery nearby served as our momentary refuge. Rescue efforts to salvage the vehicles, or if there are still people inside, continued. The rain seemed getting stronger. The floodwater's not receding.

Déjà vu! During our Vietnam trip last July nature tested us the hard way too when our General Santos-Manila flight was cancelled due to bad weather and endangered our connecting flight to Hanoi. We managed to get through the trouble.

It’s happening again! 

Two hours of forever have passed. The vehicles in the front lines started to move in slow mo. Very slow! I ran to ask truck drivers so we could hitch on to the airport. Jeepneys were not a sure choice for a still flooded highway.

Fortunately, a driver of a 22-wheeler MAERSK cargo truck let us in. There was enough room inside the cockpit for the five persons including the driver and his two assistants and our two big bags. The truck barely moved in the endless queue of vehicles of all sorts.

After another hour of traversing the short 1.5 kilometer distance to the airport, we arrived at the gate of Francisco Bangoy International Airport. But that's not the end of the story. Not even the half of it.

We were low and chilling wet from the rain. There's no one to blame when nature is in bad mood. Not even the airline (AirAsia). We stood there with dozens of other passengers dealing with the same situation as ours.

Shit happens! But we have to move on. We just bought new tickets to Manila for a price nearly as much as our round trip tickets from base to Kota Kinabalu and back.

And to our surprise, the famed Davao airport does not have a facility to accommodate passengers in crisis situations of such kind. So, we tried to take a rest, and sleep outside the airport building premises along with other passengers - senior citizens, children and women chilling with their rain-wet clothes on - who missed their flights for the same reason. The guards said the airport closes at 12 midnight and does not allow passengers to stay inside, not even those in unfortunate circumstances (although we saw some stranded passengers who were allowed to remain inside the waiting area).

At exactly 3:00AM we rushed to the opening door for a chance to stay in a better place while waiting for the check-in counters to open. Then came 6:05 AM where our Cebu Pacific plane was supposed to take off. If on time we can make it to our 9:30AM Manila-Kota Kinabalu flight.

The announcement at 6:15AM literally left us motionless for a few seconds: "flight is rescheduled to 7:25 AM!" Watda?! With an hour and forty minutes up in the air plus the process from check in to the immigration to all the 'what-das' we had to take, we won’t make it to 9:30AM!

To be mentally present was our best option. After breathing one of the deepest breathes I ever took, I rushed from the second floor down to the CebuPac counter. One thing I learned from my previous airport mishap was to remain calm and to connect to the right persons.

The CebuPac male crew responded to my request to facilitate immediately our transfer to the next best flight. But the next best flight is not from the same airline so he tried to negotiate with Philippine Airlines crew if they can transfer us to the 6:35AM flight. Time was running fast…against us.

After a few minutes of heart-pounding wait and skyrunning the escalator to the pre-departure area for countless of times to check on Kai and our things we were told that their line with PAL to accommodate such request has expired. I didn’t bother to understand what that meant as time was moving fast.

Last chance was AirAsia’s 7:05AM flight. But it was another round of calmly pushing the crew to get us into the plane…at any cost. You cannot book a flight less than 20 minutes before takeoff but the CebuPac ground crew, through their airline-to-airline connections, did not leave us. AirAsia’s attentive crew registered our names manually in the boarding pass as they wait for the approval via text of their superiors to let us in. The crew said, “ticket is P7,800 sir, the cheapest one available.” WTF! That’s more than the AirAsia's promo fare we availed to take us from Davao to Manila to KK and back!

Ten minutes before the flight and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Imagine the stress from yesterday’s flood, the waiting, the rain, the hunger, the uncomfortable sleep and the rush from the time the delayed flight was announced. My energy level was down to near zero.

Five minutes before the take-off and we were still waiting for a text to give us a go signal.

The next thing I remember was I was thanking the CebuPac male crew and we were running with AirAsia's lady crew to the tube connected to the plane.

As Kai ran ahead I went back to the pre-dep area to get our two bags. I was panting heavily and my knees are about to give up. I had to stop twice even with the thought that the plane could take off any second without me.

In what seemed like a minute of forever I reached the door of the aircraft. Kai was there, suppressing an emotion so heavy I can see it in her eyes. As we walk through the aisle to our seats all the passengers inside the half-filled plane were all eyes on us. I didn’t care; I was so high of the tension since we got out of that taxi to confront the flood.

As our seat belts clicked Kai embraced me so tight and wet my shoulders with a few drops of tears- tears of relief, tears of letting a mass of tension, tears of gratitude that we're finally sitting our asses on that damn plane. 

We slept all throughout the DVO-MNL flight.

The plane landed in Manila an hour before our next flight. The check-in process for Manila-KK ran smoothly. Thanks to AirAsia’s Terminal 4 ground crew for assisting us from the exit door of the aircraft until we’re done with all the fees and passed thru the immigration.

That was one hell of a ride, I said to Kai, and we’re not even starting our KK adventure yet! 

We finally touched ground in KK noontime of the same day. A new beginning as the rush hours end. 

After missing our DVO-MNL flight, a very uncomfy stay at the airport, the three changes of new flight schedules and endless dealings with 5 ground crews of 3 Airlines, we made it to KK!
Looking back, we learned of three things in all those troubles: first, have presence of mind even in the most pressing moments; second, kindness begets kindness (thanks to the airlines' ground crews); third, never give up until the last second expires.

We got through it all not only because of our selves. The crews from the three airlines worked together to assist us. The CebuPac and AirAsia ground crews, especially, led the inter-airline squad. I may have forgotten their names but never will I forget their acts! 

And the KK adventure begins! []

The KK adventure begins!

7 comments:

  1. AHahha. di ko nagets yung ticket nyo DVO -MNL Sir. ahaha. nakailang bili kayo ng ticket? 3x ba? wahah.

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    Replies
    1. we had to buy a new ticket to MNL, naiwan kami ng plane because of the flood d ba? :)

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  2. Whoooaaaa what an adventure! Parang amazing race lang. True, yung junction ng Buhangin diversion road, near la verna hills used to be a catch basin. Pag umulan nang malakas for more than one hour, nganga!

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    Replies
    1. Nganga to the nth level! prominent na sa travel history namin ang Buhangin diversion road. haha!

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