Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Briones: Airport trip

I ALMOST missed my flight to General Santos City last Friday morning. In fact, on an ordinary day, I would have.

You see, I arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport with 25 minutes to spare. By the time I got to the Cebu Pacific booths in the departure lounge, there was a line for Manila, Davao and Bacolod, among others, but no line for General Santos City. It had already closed.

I was directed to a booth with no signage. The woman took one look at my ticket and my ID and immediately began pounding on the computer keyboard. My heart, too, was racing. I couldn't miss the flight.

I was going to Norala in South Cotabato to attend the wake and burial of my 56-year-old first cousin. Her passing came as a shock as she had gone to the hospital only a month and a half ago for a checkup. She never checked out.

Then the woman looked up and handed me my boarding pass. I thanked her profusely, while she reminded me to check in earlier the next time.

Excuse me? I had packed up the night before. I had arranged for a taxi to pick me up at 8 a.m. Okay, it was raining when I woke up, and it was a Friday. I already anticipated traffic to be bad, but I had given myself a two-hour window so I figured I'd be safe, right? Wrong!

I started to panic when the taxi arrived around quarter to nine.

I told the driver to take the Cabancalan Road since I didn't want to risk going to A.S. Fortuna and be caught in a flood. But as soon as we turned left from Sto. Niño Village, I knew I was in for a nail-biting, deadline-beating, calling-on-all-four-saints-that-I-know kind of ride.

Traffic to Talamban was bumper-to-bumper. To say that it crawled would be an insult to all creepy-crawly things. The situation didn't improve when we finally got to Cabancalan. Traffic there was also bad.

A portion of the four-lane road has been closed for—oh, I don't know how long—while it is undergoing rehabilitation. Admittedly traffic was an improvement compared to the same period last year but when you're in a hurry to catch a flight, an “improved” traffic situation can easily morph into grief.

I was optimistic when I got into the taxi. It helped that Super Bob was on the radio. I texted him about my predicament and he reassured me, on air, that I'd get there on time. And who am I to question Super Bob, right?

But when we were still in Cabancalan at 9:30 a.m., anger set in. How has traffic gotten out of control? Twenty years ago, a trip to the airport from the house took 30 minutes. Tops.

So I told myself, just get me there on time and for my next trip I'd leave the house three hours earlier. But the possibility that I would miss the plane was slowly sinking in.

By the time I made my way to the departure lounge, I was resigned to the fact that I might not make it. I'd just have to call my cousin's family and tell them what happened.

But I did make it. For once, I was thankful the flight to GenSan was delayed.

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