Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Automation as a game changer in local air travel

Those who have not travelled via commercial air for the past decades maybe disoriented to new ways of booking and flying. Platform on remote automation was the game changer.
Before, one needed to physically go to an airline ticketing office to see flight schedules, seat availability and to book a seat. Now one just does it online. But one has to have a credit or debit card with a security code and an active email address. Booking is done real time with the current rate on a first come first served. There are still a number of ticketing offices spread over the country but mostly only in the airports.
Rates fluctuate depending on the traffic, date and season. The closer to the flight date, the higher the rate.
Passenger patronage has increased so did new air travel destinations. Checks in lines at the airport are longer but operating hours are longer. There too are added ways to check in: using the internet or mobile phone for web check in or the check in kiosk at the airport. All check in processes are secured by a code where physically printed ticket is no longer necessary.
Boarding passes are bar coded and quickly scanned prior to boarding the plane. One has yet to present an ID for security reasons. Terminal fee is now incorporated in the cost reducing check in steps. In an instance, the service crew could identify who checked in but have not boarded the plane.
Security is more stringent. Scanners are installed to speed up the screening. At time sniffing dogs sniff at the luggage for contraband detections. Shoes, wallets, metallic objects, phones and belts are still to be separated from the body.
Flight changes are accommodated at a cost subject to seat availability and should be done hours before the booked schedule. Cost is adjusted based on the prevailing flight rate of the new schedule which is usually at a premium. System determines availability, rates and updates.
Flying distances are earned by the passenger to earn points for premium redemption. This is made possible through a unique identification enrollment. Services are likewise compartmentalized which can be customized at an added cost. One can opt not to check in a luggage, not have an in flight meal nor a premium seating. Food can be ordered in advance, customized and delivered at the designated seat of the passenger. Flight crew is prompted by the monitor.
Through google personalized for the user, departure and arrival times are prompted in the passengers Android phone. It even cites the airline for schedule not on time.
Lastly, because service is done following a routine, do not expect for a personalized service treatment. This is trade off to a more efficient and safer air travel.
Happy and safe travel.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sutukil in Butuan Surigao del Norte

The entire stretch of widened 11-kilometer Butuan-Cagayan de Oro-Iligan starting from the Bancasi airport to the city proper showcases everything that is in Butuan City of Agusan del Norte.

Modern malls, hotels, global fastfood chains, banks are within kilometer stretch at JC Aquino Avenue. and corner Jose Rosales Avenue.

Interspersed are regional food chains locally tagged as sutukil exclusive to the CARAGA region.

The nationally known food outlets as McDonald's, Jollibee, KFC, Chowking in spite their relatively premium prices in Region XIII are drawing the student and professional crowds.

Transients are more interested in food outlets unique to the region as Bo’s Coffee, Tuna Republik, Tatay’s Sutukil food Grill and Baron’s offering fresh beans, fish, meat at incredibly affordable cost.

These are enough reasons to come back to Butuan even with security threats publicly declared by the local residents. When there is an abundance of fresh food, who will revolt?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Climb Club

Right after arriving from Butuan City and a short stopover at the house, I speedily took the LRT-2 going to Recto to connect to LRT-1 Dorotheo Jose for my final destination, Padre Faura. Padre Faura is the gateway by foot to the Philippine Airlines building housed at the corner of Padre Faura and M. Adriatico.
This was neither to book a flight nor to ask for a refund but to attend an event, the PALMC 38th Christmas Party, my first Christmas party for the year.
This chain of transfers is enough to raise the adrenalin to set up what’s in store at the 4/F auditorium Saturday evening. Not for a climb but to see familiar faces and structures.
The building, in the mid 90’s was associated with mountaineering trainings, weekly, bi-monthly pre-climbs and post climbs and happy memories of camaraderie, adventure and trek to any point in the Philippines accessible or inaccessible via public transport.
This experience was created by the people behind the club mostly by company officers, pilots, in and off flight service staff, maintenance crew and its membership from non-PAL employees who had a passion for nature, travel and possibly escape.
In the program proper, the usual perennial issue was presented by President Ding, “the club has not grown, we have not recruited enough, there is no interest.”
“Is the club then dying, no longer relevant?" This prompted ex president Banny Hermanos to ask, "what’s happening at the climbing scene?”
Ding and Naldy candidly shared their experiences. The millennials are taking over. They go for short terms thus have no particular loyalties. They pay to climb which is through organized tours though not necessarily operated by trained and responsible leaders. They value selfies and real time updates. Pre climb, post climb and group activities don’t interest them. Neither do cooking, training nor team work. Millennial climbers go for immediate pleasures. They don’t care if you are left behind. And in moments of life and death, do not count on them.
But Ding jokingly admitted he associates himself with the young because they invigorate him and can keep pace with their energy.
Why do established clubs like UPM, AMCI and even MESAU continue to still be relevant? Because they are school based with an active new recruit process. AMCI on the other hand has a rigid training process like UPM.
PALMC at this point is neither a training club not a school org with patience for millennials. But it has a history, pioneering in some explorations, with an exclusive unexplored destinations. It has a base of membership that one can consider family who one can look up to cover and complement climbing skills, navigation, equipment need and planning. Most importantly, it has proven that members have a shared interest for nature and its value.
These are the challenges the 2018 Board Members are faced with. We wish them well.
  • Can we transform into a club with a serious training program?
  • Or do we appeal to millennials and convert the recreation into a money making venture?
  • Or do we let is stay as is and allow it to fade out unnoticed?
It is a decision requiring a consensus and a strong will.
In the meantime on the side, Banny, Orwin and I were looking over the professionally photographed Everest Base Camp climb slides over rounds of imported beer appreciating and reminiscing the thoughts, angst, anger and thrill going through in our minds doing this milestone climb not many mountaineering clubs have done.
In the company of fellow mountaineers, Neil, Jojoy, Juno, Fabie, Prince, Daniel, Francis and Elvie, John (via text message), Dom and Sheryl (and their children) and others too many to mention at PAL 4/F Auditorium, we see the hall, the site of action in the 70’s to the 90’s, old and dilapidated, archaic and not modern but still functional. Like the club, the foundation is still there, the spirit alive but needing some boosting to make it still relevant this decade.
Whatever direction the club takes, it has for most members already explored new avenues, deepened appreciation for nature and established true friendship through thick and thin. For that, we are grateful.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cauayan in Isabela

My recollection of Isabela in Cagayan Valley relative to the 4 other provinces in Region 2 is it ranks next to Cagayan in terms of progress, income and development. It still is but a lot has changed since then.

As Tuguegarao is the regional center, Isabela is a pass through access with Vizcaya the gateway from Central Luzon and National Capital Region.

Landlocked, access to the region from the South and the center is via the Pan Philippines national highway. Via air, both Tuguegarao and Cauayan have landing infrastructure but air traffic is still heavier in Tuguegarao. The 150 kilometer stretch of Cagayan River which spans across all the provinces from Nueva Vizcaya to Cagayan has still to be tapped as a vehicle for water surface mass transport.

In the immediate past decades, Santiago in Isabela has emerged as a bustling city establishing it as the center of commerce, education, government and entertainment in central Cagayan Valley. With the development of Santiago, so did the other town Cauayan which is about 45 minutes and 45 kilometers away towards the upper North.

Cauayan though with a modest share of growth has not prospered as fast as Santiago. SM Cauayan opened along the highway in 2014, the 1st SM mall in the region. Several national based fast food chains, boutique hotels, private and public institutions and concept restaurants have sprouted in the original commercial center and emerging business centers.

As a 3rd class municipality, the town’s appeal lies in the preservation of old wooden structures, a laid back lifestyle with the convenience of services of urban necessities as telecom, entertainment and national and international cable signals.

Church bells early dawn Our Lady of Pillar Parish resonate within hearing range of the entire poblacion. Haircut is still done the old-fashioned way, in an on premise ventilated by ceiling fans and an unobstructed frontage door at the calle commercio. Chairs are cushioned not with foam but with an organic fiber which swivels and tilts when maneuvered by the barber mostly from Palanan Isabela. Meat roasting at the commercial center is done in the pedestrian lane fanned manually and slowly by the cook.

Unhurriedly, modern facilities are emerging like hotels, restaurants, large store groceries, banks and fast food chains. Yet even with these, the municipality is still predominantly provincial, the old Cauayan we are familiar with decades ago. Carnivals and mobile ferias and tiangge are housed in the centro near the town halls during the fiesta month.

It is this unhurriedness that is a welcome respite to travelling urban warrior who is forced to slow down from the fast paced urban city lifestyle. You know you have slowed down when you cover the entire centro from North to South, East to West in a less than 30 minute walk.

Savor the moment while it lasts.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Revisiting Iloilo

Working for a transnational advertising agency handling Pepsi Cola, we launched the new generation talents in a concert in Iloilo in the 80’s to support the Michael Jackson global campaign. It was one of the biggest and successful concerts of the decade. Center was at the city proper and the main roads connecting the 7 districts.

 Close to 40 decades after, arriving in the city via plane at the international airport in Cabatuan Iloilo, I was led to the same city not passing through bridges and riverside but in a stretch of 17 kilometer diversion road.

Before revealing its historic districts, centro and heritage sites, it previewed a cluster of modern center showcasing boutique hotels, coffee shops, resto-bars in art deco and high tech architecture.

Yet as one enters the center, the structures of the known districts of Molo, Jaro, La Paz, Mandurriao, Arevalo, city proper and Lapuz are still well preserved.

The food and cuisine associated with the region are still served in the public markets whose taste remains as tasteful and distinct as they were popularly known years ago.

For mobility, shuttles, jeepney, vans roam around freely along with taxis driven by courteous, honest operators, private units, motorcycles, bicycles and walking commuters.

There lies the charm of the city, the convenience of a modern urban center and the richness of its heritage still well preserved. 

But its indisputable appeal is its people where the language, uniquely their own is proudly spoken everywhere, anytime, a manifestation of the city’s diverse, rich and unique, endearing and tender culture.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Uneventful SLEX Travel on 11 Nov. EDSA greeted us with an early "Surprise!"

The travel on a provincial bus from South Luzon to SLEX was uneventful a day before the 3oth ASEAN 2017 Summit until our bus hit Magallanes. Along with about 20 buses at about past 1PM 11 Nov Saturday, vehicles hardly moved for 30 minutes. I suspected the lock down on EDSA in preparation for the arrival of the head of states started. Indeed it was confirmed when the “mani and shingaling” vendor announced to the bus driver that two lanes have now been barricaded starting a gridlock.
From GMA Network
The vendor suggested taking the MRT at the Magallanes station to move faster to the North. Minutes later, hordes of impatient passengers disembarked on the bus fronting the BPI branch to walk to Alphaland.
The line at the station was already long extending to Pasong Tamo Ext. but luckily MRT personnel allowed two lanes for incoming passengers. In minutes, with a card on hand, I managed to sneak in to hundreds of commuters cramped at the entrance. After a security check and the difficult step of tapping my card, I reached the platform in time for the incoming train.
Volume of passengers inside the train was not any different from the usual rush hour but I was expecting worst. Sneaking inside, I was comfortably assured of my destination to the North. Minutes later checking on Twitter and Facebook, situation was not any better.
Just like my trip to the airport, the decision to walk about 500 meters and to use my privileges to get to the platform of MRT came in in just a nick of time.
And I thought my adventure ended with my departure from Manila.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Adventure when you least expect

The transit ad at Cebu Pacific plane 5J 196 says, “Adventure takes you where you least expect.” Even before the plane took off for Cauayan, Isabela, my adventure already started.

At 6AM along C5, a huge concrete mixer truck got stalled at the Katipunan flyover south bound resulting in a kilometer long traffic, unusual for the day and time of day as the students have not even started to arrive.

Passing through it in about 20 minutes, it was a slow crawl all the way to Libis, Eastwood, Ortigas, Pasig easing up a bit after SM Aura. Timing-wise, I projected I will not make it to the 7:55 AM check in time.

Conveniently, Cebu Pacific has a web check in facility. Fortunately, my cellular data worked allowing me to check in. But I still have to secure a boarding pass and pass through security details.

Arriving at Terminal 3 15 minutes before boarding, I still have to get a boarding pass which I usually secure at the Cebu Pacific self-service check in kiosk. However, I was prompted to see an officer for the pass. Lines for the check in were snaking at several levels. Based on pacing, it will take more than 15 minutes making me miss the boarding. Intuition prompted me to ask a roaming personnel, “I’m flying in minutes, I just need a pass.” “Let me put you on the last call counter.” Thanks to the assisting personnel, it worked though to the irritation of some waiting passengers.

Pressed for time, I was not able to sufficiently thank the personnel as I rushed to the security section looking for the shortest line. With an  adventure racer mindset, I managed a well-paced timing. Looking at my boarding pass, the pre departure gate was located almost to the extreme end of the terminal about 500 meters away. With urgency I arrived at the nick of time.

Expecting the prompter to announce, “all passengers can now fall in line,” I instead heard, “passengers bound for flight 5J 196, your pre departure gate has been diverted to gate 120.” Hurriedly, I picked my back pack and moved again quickly to the designated gate along with the rest of over 50 passengers.

Resourcefulness, techno savvy, end-in-mind, presence of mind, time-based worked for me to overcome the set backs.

Strapped to my seat, I declared success for boarding the plane even with the faced obstacles. The plane took off and landed on time ending my adventure, so I thought.

The return flight had a more interesting anecdote. Flight was cancelled due to inclement weather in Manila. The steps I went through looking for land travel and the 10 hour travel was nothing compared to the 2 hour taxi ride to the airport for my departure where I met the timing requirements in just the nick of time.