Reality survival shows are shot in remote islands because participants have higher chances of surviving snake bites than the aggravations of urban jungles.
I’d been repeatedly warned, so much so that by the time I got to the airport, I just wanted to curl up and suck my thumb. They should’ve known I had enough supply of paranoia to drive myself crazy, but they didn’t, hence the overflow of travel advice enough to scare even Indiana Jones from visiting Metro Manila.
I tried to condition myself to believe that Manila would be no different from any other place. The only way I’d get into harm’s way, I figured, was if I forgot to pack some common sense.
I arrived in the evening carrying in my inbox my mom’s explicit stories of the sad fates of provincial looking girls in the backstreets of the area. I strode out determined to pretend to be a native of the Metro but an airport employee’s first words to me was to declare my place of origin.
Gasp! My cover was blown and so soon. What gave me away? Was it the accent, the lost dog look or the clothes of Christmas past? My mom swore she could imagine me with a huge backpack that would be the highlighter that said, “This here is a country bumpkin.”
Fortunately, despite my obvious origins, the one night I was required to spend in Manila en route to Tagaytay was uneventful, thanks in large part to friends who rescued me from the bowels of MOA before staff could announce, “Paging the parents of a lost child,” over the PA system.
The only distressing scene we witnessed was not caused by my provincial sensibilities or my lack of urban jungle survival skills. We saw the charred remains of a car on the road to NAIA 1 (an occurrence conveniently left out of the news) where we were to pick up a few other pals from Australia.
It was the trip back to NAIA two days later from Tagaytay that was more disconcerting. My friends could not drive me back to Manila due to coding restrictions so a sitter was appointed among their ranks to make sure I made it back home in one piece. Halfway through the bus ride we already had two bags of puke to add to our luggage (hers, not mine), the result of our bus driver’s passionate affair with reckless driving.
The bus might as well have been a ferry to the afterlife, faster than a speeding bullet in lanes so narrow the passengers in buses speeding alongside ours were already my seatmates. Hollywood movie producers should know about this. They want heart-stopping hi-way chases? They should ride a bus from Tagaytay to the Metro.
In Pasay, the passengers lined up in front of the bus exits like fearless paratroopers and jumped straight into moving traffic. I remember watching them weave expertly through chunks of metal thinking I was either watching Swan Lake’s final act where the prince loses his mind or a modern demonstration of survival of the fittest.
I must have blacked out. I can’t remember if I made the jump myself. The next thing I knew, I was on the sidewalk wondering how the chicken crossed the street with my friend beside me receiving instructions from a vendor to dispose of our bags of puke wherever we pleased.
My friend, having discharged her duties and her breakfast chucked me into a cab for the ride to the airport. My driver was a nice, chatty chap who was from Mindanao too and was so solicitous of my safety that he drove me smoothly to NAIA 3 where I wasn’t supposed to be. My plane was in NAIA 2.
I wish I’d just applied as an extra in the Bourne Legacy. I would have been paid for the aggravation.