Traveling Two Miles Through Manila Takes Forever: Part 1

I was well aware of the reputation Manila has. The capital of the Philippines is known for its dense traffic and I got to experience it this time around on my way home from visiting Jenny.

The unfortunate thing about the airport at Manila is the terminals are all pretty far apart. On a map they look walkable. I even contemplated during my first trip to the Philippines walking from one terminal to the next during my needed transfer. I was scared into not doing this because I’d be a target on the streets for criminals or people who wanted to simply poke me for the sake of bothering a big white monster. I blame the Pillsbury Doughboy for this need.

White skin and blue lifeless eyes; am I the Pillsbury Doughboy?
White skin and blue lifeless eyes; am I the Pillsbury Doughboy?

My race through Manila began after my first flight landed safely at the airport in the early part of the afternoon. I exited the airport looking for which direction I needed to head in order to grab one of the buses that allow for terminal transfers. These were free the first time I went to the Philippines, but now cost 20 pesos. This is about 50 cents in US Dollars. The service was worth exactly that.

Finally after tracking through 8 different entrances a guard told me to go back the other way. So that was 5 quick minutes I wasted and could have ended up really using.

It was pretty easy to find where I needed to go as there were a few signs. There was a massive line of people queued up too. The person at the front stood below a sign that said something about terminal transfer in plain English, no tricks at all. Clearly, this was the line I wanted to stand in. I waited in this line for about 10-15 minutes until a bus came that I could fit on; and no I don’t mean all of the other buses were too small. I mean there were so many people we couldn’t all get in on the first one.

My spot on the bus was in the very back left corner. I rested my giant bag on my lap thinking I’d make my connecting flight rather easily. At the most this bus would take about 30-40 minutes to reach its destination. I still had about 3 hours to spare or so. I would be safe on my plane in no time!

An empty airport by Filipino standards.
An empty airport by Filipino standards.

When the driver got to me he asked where I was headed. He didn’t do it for everyone else on this packed bus that had people sitting on the floors. I’m pretty sure I also saw a man climb into another’s mouth just to fit. I told him the terminal and he informed me I was on the wrong bus. The bus I was on would actually go into the middle of Manila. As frustrating as it was, I’m really glad the driver had the courtesy to realize I didn’t belong roaming around in the middle of the nation’s capital. He saved my life or at least an outrageous fee with the airport.

I departed from the bus terribly confused. The same driver told me the bus for the terminal transport had just left, it was apparently the bus lined up at the spot labeled with all of the inner-city locations the other bus was headed to, and I should wait there for the next bus. There wasn’t even a line which made me even more suspicious as to whether I was headed in the right direction. Was I doomed?

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