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My Calm Life in Cebu

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Recently we had tickets to a pretty big concert here in Cebu. Boyce Avenue (a really good cover group)was going to play at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino along with Cebuano favorite Moira. We bought the tickets, “VIP tickets” as it was close to my wife’s birthday, a month ahead. Two days before the big event we had to fly to Tacloban for some family matter, but no problem. Our return tickets were the morning of the concert that started at 8 that night. Everything was under control.

When we got to the Tacloban Airport, Philippine Airlines had canceled our flight. “Equipment Problem,” they told us. But once again, they would put us on a flight at 6:15 pm; it would arrive in Cebu at 7. All we had to do was swing by our house, grab the tickets and we’d be on time. So for the next 10 hours, my wife, her sister and I sat in the small waiting lounge at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport for our “just in time” flight. My wife spent the last 6 hours of the wait getting crankier and more nervous.

Visa Assistance

We hit the ground at Cebu/Mactan at 7:05. Lucky I had parked my car at the airport so we wouldn’t have to mess with a taxi. “No problem Honey; we’ll make it.”

We sprinted to the car and hopped in; hit the ignition, backed up, “Fwalump, Fwalump.” The right front tire was flat. Newer car; no spare. Now Rachel is really getting testy.

“Don’t worry. I have that “Flat Tire Repair Stuff” I bought at the mall.”

I bounded out of the car, opened the trunk and found the Tire Inflate can and popped open the top. The nozzle broke off in my hand.

Rachel’s blood pressure is now at 150/110 and she’s giving me that Samar Warrior look I saw in the film “Samar: The Gateway to Hell.”

“We’ll just drive out to the main road and find some air at a gas station.”

The traffic leaving the airport was horrendous and about three blocks into the flat tire journey, Rachel jumps out and says, “I’m taking a taxi home to get the tickets. I’ll meet you at the concert.”

Before I can say, “Bu Bu Bu Bu But” like Elmer Fudd, she jumps out and disappears into a jungle of cars.

Within 20 minutes we find a gas station and the tire holds air. I tell Rachel’s sister to call Rachel and tell her the update.

“ No load,” she tells me.

“Here. Try my phone.”

Rachel answers. “Talk fast. My phone’s low bat. I’m stuck in traffic and still on the bridge.”

“Ok, well meet us at the hotel at the end of the bridge. You don’t need a taxi anymore.”

In about 15 minutes more we make it to the end of the bridge and pick her up; there are three of us again.

For some unknown reason on this Saturday night, the Cebu traffic is worse than usual. Not quite Sinulog Festival traffic, but almost.

We still have to go by the house, pick up the tickets, drop off Rachel’s sister and drive to the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug. By now it’s 7:50 and we’re stuck in traffic that makes downtown Manila look like a Sunday drive in the country.

Regarding my wife, can you say, “Stressed Out?” Did you see the movie “Panic Room?”

As we inch ourselves past SM Mall on the way toward Ayala Mall, Rachel decides she’s had enough.

“I’m taking a HabalHabal to get the tickets.” She leaps out of the car for the second time, talks to a guy briefly on a motorcycle in the middle of four lanes of traffic and whisks off.

Her sister and I just look at each other and continue on our way toward The Waterfront Hotel. Now it’s 8:35, but we can see the hotel ahead in the bumper to bumper traffic.

I’m saying Zen mantras over and over as we move forward at 2 mph.

The Waterfront Hotel parking lot is packed. Not only is there this concert, but I think 12 or 13 graduation or wedding anniversary celebrations and a high school Prom scheduled for that night.

The guy tells us, “No Parking. Lot’s full. You have to go park in IT Park (across the road)”

“Where do I park there?”

He waves his flashlight at another car and walks away.

My phone rings. It’s Rachel.

“I’ve got the tickets. This is my last call. My phone’s dead. Meet me at the bottom of the Parking garage. I need 300 pesos to pay the habalhabal driver.”

As I begin to tell her I can’t go there, that the parking lot is full, we’re cut off.

Part of me says it’s time to bash my head repeatedly on the steering wheel when a guy catches my eye and says, “Here. You can park in this space here.”

A guardian angel. The true Luck of the Irish. I pull into the spot and send Rachel’s sister to find her in the Parking Garage to give her 300 pesos.

The lobby of the hotel has thousands of people in it. Some in concert clothes, some in Prom clothes, some dressed in native costumes. It looks like a combination of Mardi Gras and an angry wedding. I look for Rachel and her sister and after 10 minutes find the sister coming up the escalator.

“Where’s Rachel?”

“I couldn’t find her.”

“What?”

Rachel magically appears and taps me on the shoulder, and now she’s pissed at me.

“Where have you been? I told you to meet us on the bottom floor of the Parking Garage. The habalhabal guy is waiting there.”

She grabs the 300 pesos from her sister’s hand and disappears into the crowd.

It’s now 9:15. We put Rachel’s sister in a taxi and tell her to go to our house and run to the concert entrance. We can hear Moira singing.

We ask the usher where to go and he says, “Just go in there and find a seat, uh, over there somewhere. Other people took a lot of the seats.”

There are about 4 inches between the rows as we squeeze our way to a couple of seats that are sort of in the VIP Area. Rachel is complaining that she is hot and sweaty. Other than that she won’t talk to me.

“I told you to meet me in the Parking Garage. The habalhabal driver was waiting.”

I do my quiet Zen thing, honed through years of experience.

Moira, the opening act for Boyce Avenue is about to do her last song. It’s “Titibo-Tibo.”

“I hate this song,” Rachel gasps. Her breathing has almost returned to normal and the color of her face isn’t that red anymore.

I squeeze her hand.

The crowd cheers at the end of Moira’s song. Now it’s Intermission. Not really an Intermission because no one can move. Boyce Avenue takes 1 ½ hour to set up and I have to fight to keep Rachel awake. They do a 70-minute set. It was ok, but at the end of the concert, I realize I like their recorded music better than their live performance.

When my head finally hits the pillow at home, I think back on when I retired to the Philippines. I told all my friends to think of me lying on a white sand beach surrounded by cold drinks with little umbrellas in them. A calm sea gently rolling over me as soft, native music tickles the sunset. My own VIP Section. My Calm life in Cebu.

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Rob Ashley

After travelling to the Philippines and SE Asia perhaps 15 times between 2007-2011, I decided to retire in Cebu and moved here in August 2011. Things changed fast. A month after I was here I met my wife Rachel; In 6 months I decided I was bored after having taught high school English and in a graduate school of education at a Portland, Oregon university for 30+ years; I looked around; I was hired as the Head of the English Department at a Cebu international school. Rachel and I got married; we bought a condo in Cebu City; we got two cats. After 3 years here I was offered a similar position at a Japanese international school, so we went to Japan. After two years there I was offered another position of Coordinator of Languages at a Vienna, Austria international school. Living in Europe was nice, but Rachel said, “It’s too cold here.” So, finally last August, we returned to Cebu for good, and I really am retired. I have learned that you pretty much take your life with you wherever you go. I have a PhD from the University of Oregon and I’m a diehard Oregon Ducks fan. Likewise an NBA Portland Trailblazers fan, so I am often up at 3 am on Sundays or Mondays to watch football and basketball games. Cebu is home now and many thanks to Bob Martin for LIP and the services and opportunities he offers us Expats.

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David HaldanepapaduckPaul ThompsonPeter DevlinRob Ashley Recent comment authors
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John Reyes
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John Reyes

Ha ha ha, this is so funny, Rob. The moral of the story for me is, don’t trust PAL. Go Cebu Pacific.

Rob Ashley
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Rob Ashley

John: it was a wild one. About everything that could go wrong, did. I have had good and bad “on time” problems with both PAL and Cebu Pacific. Most of the time it’s ok though. Thanks for you comments. -Rob

papaduck
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papaduck

John,
Cebu Pacific is worse than PAL.

John Reyes
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John Reyes

Don’t forget, Randy, that PAL is a full service airline and Cebu Pacific is not. If I were flying within the country, such as Rob did – from Cebu to Tacloban and back – the flight is so short that service on board does not really matter that much, if you’re talking about service and amenities. Many of the customer dissatisfaction about airlines occur before takeoff. I understand that it could happen with any airline, but I think for PAL to have an equipment problem before scheduled takeoff and for them to take that long to correct it, what 10… Read more »

Rob Ashley
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Rob Ashley

John: PAL did give us a sandwich in a box and a warm soft drink. Now that’s service. Ha! -Rob

Peter Devlin
Member

Very entertaining article Rob and really funny. It gave me palpitations just reading it! As for your even going to a live concert, you’re a better man than I. I have enough of those t-shirts to last a lifetime – never again. Save me one of those drinks with the little umbrellas – I’m joining you on that white sandy beach!!

Paul Thompson
Guest
Paul Thompson

Rob;
As Peter said, I also was getting nervous too, But I see the solution to your problem…Next time meet her where she told you to meet,.even is she is not there!. “You’re a better man than I am Gunga Din” Said Rudyard Kipling and Peter Devlin.

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

Paul: You are right. I have a friend whose son chose to go to Maharishi University in Denver and when I asked him about it he said, “Well at least he won’t need a car. He can just levitate himself around town.” I wish I could do that. It would save me a lot of trouble and my wife wouldn’t have to give me those Samar Warrior looks. Be well Amigo. -Rob

Peter Devlin
Member

What an honor Paul – being in the company of Rudyard Kipling!!

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

Peter: I wish I could get more of those umbrella drinks and white sand in my life. Life gets complicated wherever you are and gets full of family and personalities and other peoples’ dynamics. Actually I wouldn’t have it any other way. A toast to you. Hope we share drinks one day. -Rob

papaduck
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papaduck

Rob,
Very funny article. I would have just took the loss and missed the concert and absorbed the punishment from the wife lol.

Rob Ashley
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Rob Ashley

Papa: I was on a mission. Besides the tickets cost 6000p (VIP you know) and I do spend a lot of effort avoiding the punishment, but your strategy is something to think about. Bde well, Rob

John Reyes
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John Reyes

Rob – I know Rachel is from Samar, but is she Waray? If she is, I honestly don’t think you want to “absorb” her punishment. LOL I think you’re on the right track for trying your best not to incur her wrath to avoid punishment. In the 50s, a hit song called, “Waray Waray”, a romanticized description of the fearless Waray woman, was made popular by the iconic Filipina singer. Sylvia la Torre. Here are the Tagalog lyrics to that song, followed by the English translation: Sylvia La Torre – Waray Waray Lyrics WARAY-WARAY, HINDI TATAKAS… WARAY-WARAY, HANDANG MATODAS… WARAY-WARAY,… Read more »

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

John: This is great. I will look for a recording and the lyrics in both Waray and English are priceless. Yes she is Waray; it is 5the language spoken in our house when A) her relatives are here. and B) When she is mad at me. I love being cursed in a language I don’t understand. Thank you for this. -Rob

David Haldane
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David Haldane

Very funny, Rob. In retrospect. Also, I’m afraid, typical. Well done story…

Rob Ashley
Guest
Rob Ashley

David: Fear is a great motivator I am afraid. I hate it, but it truly is. So when I see one of my wife’s storms coming, I usually back off and the times I’ve stood up to them haven’t really served me well. Thank you for the compliment. Funny’s good, no? -Rob

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