After two long years, finally, I was able to step back into the shores of one of the best beaches in the world, Boracay. It may seem like an ordinary quick getaway, but adventures seem to follow wherever I go.
It started with a “seat sale” from the Philippines’ newest budget airline, Air Asia. Who could resist a round trip to Boracay for less than ₱700 all in (excluding airport fees)? That’s even cheaper that a round trip bus fare to Baguio City! The catch—the flight originates from the nearest international airport outside Metro Manila, Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) better known as Clark (CRK).
I’ve never flown from DMIA before so I looked at it as an adventure on its own. The runways of Manila had probably exceeded capacity as you’d just be lucky if your flight wouldn’t be delayed regardless if it’s domestic or international, arrival or departure. There’s not much room for new runways to be built so unless we build another one on an artificial island like in other developed countries (which is more like wishful thinking) I don’t see any chance the situation will be improving. I had my fair share of delays with Manila so I thought might as well try the nearest alternative if it’s worthwhile for residents of Metro Manila.
Our flight was set 7AM on a Sunday so we had to leave ridiculously early from Manila to get to Clark. Aside from compensating for the extra distance, commute was a serious issue. Getting to Clark was easy, just hop onto any bus passing through Dau and you are practically there—getting to the airport from Clark ironically was not, particularly if your flight is early morning or weekends. Since we were flying early morning on a Sunday, our options were limited to hiring a jeepney (₱350) or getting a taxi from Clark Terminal (near SM City Clark). I was told that taxi from the terminal to the airport would cost ₱500 as they don’t use meters but a fixed fare. I find it ridiculous that the government allows this practice, particularly in international airport areas.
We arrived at DMIA past 4AM, three hours before our scheduled flight. This early, DMIA is still closed but you may stay in the waiting areas outside the airport. There’s
not much nothing to do or see around the airport so you had to be very thankful of the lone convenience store in the area (which doesn’t really have that many items being sold). The airport opens at around 5AM.
DMIA is comparable to other “international” airports in the provinces in terms of size, its edge being only that it’s relatively new. It has separate pre-departure lounges for domestic and international flights where some food items can be bought. There’s Wi-Fi signal in the area which is just for show and GSM signal is unreliable (at least for Globe) so you better bring along your entertainment if you get easily bored.
Travel Tip: Terminal fees in DMIA for domestic and international flights are ₱150 and ₱650, respectively. These are not included with your airfare.
Everything was uneventful as we boarded our plane, until we encountered some “technical problems.” We weren’t told on what it was, and after the long wait, we were instructed to alight and return to the airport—a first for me! Then after the long wait we were told our flight was delayed—by 8½ hours! After leaving Manila in the middle of the night, hiring a jeepney to arrive 3 hours before our flight, we’d be delayed by 8 hours and 35 minutes!
Frustrating! We’re just thankful that we found an outlet as our gadgets were all starting to get drained of their batteries. There’s nothing to do, so I just slept. I must’ve been very tired as I even surprised myself that I was able to get some decent shut eyes in those uncomfortable lounge chairs. Also, good thing that some passengers requested for some blankets as the lounge area was a bit too chilly for someone in his beachwear. 🙂
Travel Tip: Not everything that can be bought in DMIA Pre-Departure Lounge can be seen: e.g. we got this rice toppings (₱75) from a store outside the lounge. You may politely ask the vendors for other items they may have that is not displayed on the lounge area. There are also more stores on the 2nd level of DMIA which you may access regardless if you’re flying domestic or international.
Up until the boarding time of our staggeringly delayed flight, nobody informed us that our flight had been merged with the 3:30PM (3:35PM to be exact) flight leading to a new flight number, and we had to get new boarding passes. Thankfully the airline didn’t bother adding to all the hassles we had already encountered and just issued us new boarding passes while in line, with better seats up front. I’m not sure they announced it since we were sleeping, but the very, very poor sound system of DMIA surely didn’t help.
It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived in Kalibo International Airport. From Kalibo it’s still an almost two hour drive to Caticlan port, and a few minutes more to the island! You could just imagine how many times I asked myself “are we there yet?” out of sheer boredom!
Travel Tip: To get to Caticlan Port you can choose the faster way or the more comfortable way. The faster, more convenient and interestingly cheaper way to get to the port is via vans which leave every few minutes costing ₱200 which includes the boat trip to the island. On the other hand, the more comfortable and more expensive way is via tour buses costing ₱300 also including the boat fare. Vans travel faster because they’re better suited with the narrow, winding roads and they don’t stop for “nature breaks” unlike tour buses. Fees collected at Caticlan Port is not included with your fare.
Arriving at the island presented another “challenge:” getting to our hotel. Because we were so tired and wanted so badly to get to our hotel, we took the first commute we encountered: “habal-habal.” Yes, it is fast and it practically took us to our hotel doorsteps but it’s quite dangerous as only the driver has a helmet on.
Finally, after all the hullabaloos, we got to check in our hotel with no hassles. We had lost our first day to flight delays and long travel times, but luckily we still have a night to enjoy. The weather wasn’t that good yet because of an outgoing typhoon so it was raining occasionally. The sea was also pretty wavy—far flung from the usual calm waters I so fondly remember Boracay for. Anyhow, the bad side of the travel was behind us, time to enjoy our first night in paradise!