My Return to Guam

The Departure.

  The decision to leave directly from Manila posed somewhat of a challenge. I had a back-pack full of clothes, a laptop, and a simple Samsung phone that would soon become worthless once in the air. That is all I had. Never before have I ever travelled in one direction with so little. The next few days was going to test me – my courage and my stamina.

Philippines Airlines
   I purchased my one-way Philippine Airlines ticket online at a cost of $267. Normally I could almost fly round-trip from Manila to Guam for a little more than that, but purchasing a one-way ticket on short notice is almost a criminal act imposed by the airlines. I dropped Teri off at the Genesis bus terminal in Cubao, Metro Manila that afternoon about 1pm. Genesis is a major Bus line between Manila and the Bataan Peninsula (goes all the way to Mariveles), and only when she secured her seat on an “express” bus, did Teri order up my final “Grab” ride to the NAIA airport (I really wish they would change it back to Manila International Airport (MIA) like it is currently being discussed).
I arrived at NAIA’s Terminal 2 just prior to 3:00pm and now had over 7 hours to kill until my 10:05pm departure on Philippine Airlines to Hagatna (Agana) Guam. At least there was free WiFi and computer terminals for passenger use. Have you ever been in a row-boat and lost an oar in the water? This is the feeling that kept coming over me… the realization that I was in a self-imposed homeless situation until I got to Guam, and until I got everything done that needed to get done. I would be like a back-packer – actually, more like a vulnerable hermit crab looking for a new shell. I have a few friends in Guam and Teri has a cousin there, but I refused to impose. This was my challenge and I would face it head on. I took the down-time opportunity while waiting on my flight to reserve a hotel room and rental car in Guam upon my arrival.
   At this point I will mention the costs to leave the country. I was assessed a “Departure Fee” of P750, which was included in the ticket price. Some airlines include it in the ticket price and there are a few that don’t. In any case, expect to pay it somehow. I was also charged “Travel Tax” of P1,620 which, as a permanent resident ACR-I Card holder, I don’t remember paying before (maybe my memory is going). And of course, as a permanent resident, I was assessed the ECC and Re-Entry Permit fees totalling P2,880. All “permanent resident” ACR Card holders pay this amount when they leave the country for the first time in a calender year (subsequent trips on an annual basis will be reduced to about P2,180 for each trip out). Then there were other incidental expenses at the airport like food and beverages, which I’m happy to point out did not cost an arm and a leg like at other international airports. So the bottom line here… make sure you bring some Pesos to the airport when leaving. In my case it cost me the airfare plus P5,250 (about $105 USD) to clear the airport and to get on the airplane!  Some things might be cheap in the Philippines but airport travel is not one of those things.

The Arrival

The most memorable thing I have always remembered about Guam was the dense tropical air and the island’s “aromatic fragrance.”  When I first walked out of the old Guam air terminal in 1974, the odor of Guam permeated all my senses and apparently took up some valuable RAM in my head… permanently. Whenever I now arrive here and exit the arrival terminal, the anticipation of that aroma is something I always look forward to. For all those readers who have ever made a trip to Guam, I’m almost sure that entering the fragrant floral atmosphere of Guam left a lasting impression on you also. It is such a distinctive smell, you could blindfold me and put me on an airplane to any destination, from anywhere in the world, and I could tell you I was in Guam, first whiff! The Philippines would be my next most recognizable smell.

Guam International Airport

No Time to Sleep.

There is always (only) one good thing about travelling light… not having to wait for your luggage. As I cleared Guam Immigration and Customs, I headed straight to the car rental area.  As I approached all the car rental desks, I noticed something so obvious, yet not so strangely funny. Another plane had arrived at about the same time as our flight, this one from Japan, loaded with Japanese tourists (Guam is a big Japanese tourist destination.) Now, there are approximately 8 different car rental companies located in the arrivals area of the airport and include Hertz, National, Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty and Enterprise. Every one of these counters were open with NO line. Then there was the Nisson Car Rental company, which had a line 30 deep – all Japanese tourists! I had to laugh to myself but I was way too tired to even think of retrieving my camera from my back pack and taking a picture. I could only surmise that “Nisson” was the only recognizable name to all these Japanese visitors, and that is the name they all gravitated to. I suppose you had to be there to understand the irony of it all. I still laugh when I think about it.

Nisson Rogue

Nisson Rogue

   I choose to rent a car from Alamo, as I always seem to have the best luck with National/Alamo car rentals. My reservation was ready and waiting for me, and as my good luck would have it, all economy cars were rented out and I was upgraded for the same price into a Nisson Rogue, a crossover SUV and a very nice ride, for the price of $20 per day. I would keep this car until I found a good deal on a purchase. I immediately left the airport for Denny’s for a hot cup of coffee and breakfast, and where I would connect to their free WiFi to begin my search for a place to rent. It would be a very long day.

Next up – I Hit a Chicken!