BLOG: Hey there, Manila!

The 16th of June 2017. I woke up early in the morning, checked out FlightRadar24 for updates about my flight, ate my breakfast, prepared my things, and went to the airport. I hurriedly exited the cab at the airport, excitingly lined up for security.

"Today's the day," my mind exclaimed.

Being at an airport takes you to a whole new world. Airports are just like portals to new dimensions. They take you to so many places, wherever you like.

So much for those dramatic intros. Let's get real.

So, we're actually taking a flight to Manila by plane (like obviously). Being an aviation enthusiast, it's very exciting to imagine yourself soaring through the skies complemented with the quiet roar of the engines in the next few hours.

We booked Cebu Pacific flight 5J963. It is an Airbus A330-300 service to Manila. Quick fact: Cebu Pacific's Airbus A330-300's can fly up to 436 passengers in a mono-class configuration. It's one of the densest configuration for an Airbus A330. Normally, full-service airlines configure their A330's with 250-350 seats in a bi- or tri-class configuration.

This is my first time flying with this type of aircraft. I'm hoping not have last-minute equipment changes.

From Davao, we can fly directly to Manila in less than two hours. Three airlines are currently competing in the route, namely; Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, and Philippines AirAsia. The trio offers up to 20 daily flights between the two cities.
Check-in counters at the Davao International Airport.
We lined up at the check-in counter for our flight at around 8 o'clock in the morning. I'm surprised to have seen the old flight information displays already replaced with LED TV screens. I saw a huge difference inside the Francisco Bangoy International Airport since I last visited four years ago.
New LED TV screens installed as flight information displays.
I've noticed the airport has more air-conditioning units. Air temperature inside the terminal is okay. However, I wasn't able to check on the comfort rooms.
Gate 5 Pre-Departure Area at the Francisco Bangoy International Airport
Only a little has been improved at the pre-departure area. I expected to see more food stalls, only to be disappointed to have seen quite a few. Well, considering the terminal's space, airport authorities cannot anymore put in huge food establishments such as Jollibee and McDonald's. In this aspect, I find Mactan-Cebu International Airport's pre-departure area and Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 better. More food choices, happier fliers.
Cebu Pacific's Airbus A330 preparing to take us to Manila in a while.
We waited for about an hour at Gate 5 pre-departure lounge. Cebu Pacific's Airbus A330 flights usually utilize this gate due to the availability of facilities and equipment. It is being serviced by MIASCOR Davao, a full aviation services provider in the Philippines.

Less (air) traffic was observed for our flight was scheduled on non-peak hours. During rush hour, planes would fill the airport terminal. It would be chaotic to join the simultaneously batches of arriving passengers.
Waiting at Gate 5 for our flight to Manila. Boarding has started, but we preferred to let other passengers get in first. The line's very long.
As expected, the flight was full. I read in a post that Davao's been doing good for Cebu Pacific for the past years. Flights were mostly fully booked, same with rival AirAsia.
Full flight to Manila! More than 400 passengers in one single flight.
Boarding has started, but we decided not to line up immediately. Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) boarded the aircraft first. The long lines made our minds exhausted already. A few minutes later, we jumped in line. Final checks were made by ground staff; we're good to go!
Boarding the aircraft.
After boarding, we took our seats. Being an aviation enthusiast, I'd like to take the window seat. I'm seated at 25A. If you want to have a nice wing view, I'd recommend this seat for you.

Sitting next to us is an Airbus A330-300 service of Philippine Airlines to Manila. They were already delayed for about an hour or so. 
PAL flight 1812, also to Manila, has been delayed.
Anyways, we departed around thirty minutes late. The original scheduled time of departure was at 10:10 AM. It was probably because we were waiting for ATC clearance to Manila. Have you heard of EDCT? That's it. However, arrival time is actually still on-time.
Cruising at FL400 (40,000 feet). Passing right beside Boracay island. Airway: B473!
In flight, you can see the infamous CEB In-Flight games headed by the cabin crew on-board the flight. Speaking of cabin crew, they were very accommodating and helpful. They helped us locate our seats and provided us our needs during the flight. And BONUS, they have cute smiles! I'm not denying, and you can't, too!

I pre-ordered a hazelnut banana croissant upon booking the flight. It was priced at 180 pesos for a croissant at the size of your palm. However, the food actually tastes good. The croissant was paired with a C2 solo (melon flavor) which I didn't like. Next time, I'd bring my own juice instead. 
Checking Cebu Pacific's in-flight safety card for the Airbus A330-300 fleet. It's good to take time and read these safety cards for these may save your life one day.
Upon descent, as usual, we were reminded of things to do in preparation for landing. Tray tables up, window shades down, and seats reclined. I'm liking the airline's pre-recorded cabin announcements already. For the cabin crew's part, it's less hassle.
We used Runway 24 for landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The landing was fairly smooth. We exited via Echo 5, taxied via Charlie, crossed Runway 31, turned left upon Delta, right on Gulf 14 then November to Gate 116.
Ground services coming in to meet the flight.
Passengers hurriedly stood up to retrieve their bags in the overhead bins. It's a normal thing you see on-board arriving aircraft these days. Seat belt sign was not even off! Upon disembarkation, we decided to deplane late. Well, this gives me more time to enjoy my last minutes with the aircraft.

Deboarding was orderly executed overall.

We proceeded to the baggage claim area on the first floor. We waited for about half an hour to get our bags. They have consolidated baggage conveyors for each airline operating in Terminal 3. Perhaps, that's fine for me.
Passengers lining up to claim their baggage.
It's my first time here in Manila, so I can't actually compare it to the airport's previous looks. Nevertheless, based from online comments, Terminal 3 has improved a lot. Air temperature at the terminal is normal. The comfort room is clean. Everything's fine and in order except for some parts where construction is on-going.

I'm surprised Terminal 3 has so many food stalls, just like what you see in malls. We have Jollibee, McDonald's, Wendy's, and much more. But you'll only be able to access these stores upon departure.

Also, I'm eager to fly via Terminal 1 during our next trips. I wanted to see how this three-decade-old has improved since its opening in the '80s. Terminal 1 once topped the list as the World's Worst Airport by SleepingInAirports.net.

Overall, the flight to Manila was excellent. Excellent service provided by a low-cost airline. We got seats at huge discounts! I'd rate the overall flight as 8/10. I'm eager to fly again with this airline soon!

BLOG: 6th ASEAN Scout Jamboree

It's good to be back again in Tagum City for another scouting event in the Philippines. Excitement awaited us even from our planning stages down to the actual jamboree. No wonder why this became the most talked about scouting event in Asia for the year 2017.
Scouting, until now, played a significant role in my holistic development. Although some may proclaim this career quite boring and exhausting, I'd like to prove them wrong some time.

What I love the most in joining scouting events is meeting new friends from around the country, and even around the globe! I've met and greeted people from Maldives, India, South Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore. I'm still wondering what they told me as they greeted us in their own languages until now.

"Good morning!" -- It is a greeting which connected all scouts during the much-awaited 6th ASEAN Scout Jamboree in Tagum City, Philippines. Foreign languages hindered us from understanding each other, but this two-word greeting made it all possible. It is the scouts' universal greeting. Interestingly, we say "Good morning!" all throughout the day, even though it's already night time.

Being able to cover this huge event in Asia turned out to be another avenue for me to write my experiences. I am keen on writing down my experiences especially in these kinds of events. I would like to sincerely apologize for the delay of this blog post for I was very busy accomplishing more tasks than expected. I have more priorities than this. Anyways, it's here just merely a month late.

After several months of painstaking paperwork and coordination, the largest scouting event in Asia finally kicked off. Covering the most attended scouting event in Asia is fascinating. You'd be able to witness the capabilities of each scout, make friends with them, and even test your own skills as well. This is one of the reasons why I joined this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Oh, and I failed to mention: almost 30,000 scouts from 20 countries and 121 local countries attended this jamboree. Because of this, it is dubbed as the largest scouting event in Asia. This week-long activity aimed to light the torch friendship, prosperity, and love as clearly mentioned in the Jamboree Hymn proudly made by Tagum City.
For your information, our outfit registered more or less 30 senior scouts from the Junior High School department. This is quite a boost since our last participation during the 16th National Scout Jamboree also held in Energy Park, Tagum City. Thus, the school is currently encouraging more scouts aspiring to be developed not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, to join us as we track our road in scouting.

DAY ZERO - 26NOV17

Preparations were in full swing. Call time was at 10 o' clock in the morning before the bus departs. I'm busy, my co-scouts' are busy, everyone's just busy yet excited. During this day, we were already en route to the camp site to set up our shelter and other equipment. Fortunately, everything went unto plan until heavy rain poured upon us as we traverse the border between Davao City and the province of Davao del Norte. It reminded us of what we experienced in our last jamboree; I won't disclose it to you! Sorry.

Unsurprisingly, heavy traffic welcomed us upon arrival in Tagum City plus heavy rain summing up to our early exhaustion. Well, I'd rather think of it as part of God's warm welcome as we arrive in our destination. Rain stopped when we arrived in the park, though.
Not only had the rain welcomed us, but our hungry stomachs as well! Upon disembarkation of the bus, we hurriedly asked if it was time for lunch. We received a negative answer at first, but they acknowledged it afterwards. Everyone rushed to the Jambo Market, a local food market inside the park, to buy some food.
After lunch, scouts set up the tents in which they will be sleeping for the rest of the jamboree. A canopy was also installed to serve as the command center or 'the central place for all those nonsense things we've been talking about.'

At night time, we bought some goodies from the market together with our funny-as-hell outfit adviser who made our camping experience even funnier. We talked about nonsense things even past midnight -- but I'm not complainin'. Drowsiness didn't stop us! Oh, and I also failed to mention that we've been talking about philosophy and love for the whole week.
As the moon continues to set, I decided to close my eyes to prepare for the big grand opening ceremony tomorrow. Day zero was lit, what more with the upcoming days?

DAY ONE - 27NOV17

"Good morning, scouts!” I shouted as we woke up on our first day. An empty stomach also greeted me as I woke up. I can already imagine walking a kilometer every time we take our meal in an apartment we rented outside the campsite.

We walked in line to the apartment, where kitchen equipment and food were prepared, to fill our tummies with pampainit sa malamig na umaga. I swear! It was cold out there. Lucky for those who chose to sleep in the apartment; I'm not regretful, though. Milo and coffee were the top orders in the cold and breezy morning.

Our morning schedule was empty. That's why we decided to use our gadgets to pass time. Most of the scouts played only two games in their smartphones -- Mobile Legends and another one that I won't mention.

As we came back to the campsite, I was shocked to have seen Philippine Air Force's Bell UH-1 parked at the baseball field with a Sikorsky S-76 on its side together with my aviation-buddy! My aviation enthusiast spirit was suddenly lit and brought back to life. It was an experience of a lifetime having met pilots from the 205th Tactical Helicopter Squadron based in Zamboanga. We also witnessed the two helicopters taking off one after the other. The winds generated by the rotors were at full blast it hit me hard. Witnessing such an experience for an aviation geek is a must!
After consuming our mouth-watering lunch, I decided to wear my Type A uniform in preparation for the grand opening ceremony in the afternoon. We also took a bath before wearing it, of course.
Before the grand opening ceremony, we were asked to line up for the parade by council. As expected, the Davao City council had the most number of participants, so it was very confusing for us where to join the line.
As we took our spot at the baseball field, our shoes were filled by mud caused by heavy rain early on. A centipede even crawled on my knees! Yuck!
The ceremony started with an inter-faith prayer followed by the singing of the Philippine national anthem. Flags from different participating countries and organizations were raised snappily by scouts from the Tagum City council.
The Philippine Army showed off its parachuting skills by dropping men from 7,000 feet up in the air with their parachutes. Each parachute had a banner tied on them. The Philippine Air Force also shook us as they performed a low-pass using their Huey and showered flower petals upon us. T'was a wonderful sight.
The fourth highest official in the Philippines, Hon. Pantaleon Alvarez, 24th Speaker of the House of Representatives, welcomed us with his opening remarks in behalf of Chief Scout Rodrigo Roa Duterte who was declared unable to attend due to more important concerns.

The most astonishing part of the ceremony was the fireworks display prepared by the local government as part of their warm welcome for us. During the duration of the jamboree, Camp Chief Allan Rellon, who happens to be the Mayor of Tagum City, announced that he will be calling us TagumeƱos -- a designation given to locals in the city.

Alas! It has started! The 6th ASEAN Scout Jamboree formally kicked off.

DAY TWO - 28NOV17

We welcomed day two with the highest level of positivity and energy through the guidance of our Lord. Before taking our breakfast, we proceeded to join the 6 o' clock mass at the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus Nazareno Parish near our apartment. We had a photo opportunity with the mass presider afterwards. He acknowledged us for visiting the parish amidst tight schedules.

Our first module was the Global Development Village. In this module, we were toured in an exhibit
with designs crafted by locals. One of the crafts was a tamaraw or most probably a carabao molded using metal parts from different recycled equipment.
An Indonesian guide also explained to us the different crafts that can be made using bamboo. He explained how important bamboo is in making more durable and cheaper equipment. Indonesians are as friendly and hospitable as Filipinos!
We also visited base four which is a bamboo processing center. This is the warehouse where bamboos are getting cut into different shapes, sizes, and thickness. You can make keychain designs using bamboos, too!
Lastly, we went back to base 1, which we skipped earlier. In this base, we learned the effects of global warming to our nature. The center of the discussion was about bamboo plantation. Unknowingly, unlike any other plant, bamboo can emit 35 percent more oxygen and can grow faster due to the fact that it is not a tree, but rather a grass.
Amidst the scorching heat of the sun, scouts did not surrender but untiringly took on the Community Service Challenge. This module required a short walk from the park through the highway. However, this challenge only requires you to plant a plant underneath a palm tree.
In the afternoon, we took the Team Sports Festival and Native Games. There were more sub-modules under this activity. Native games were being highlighted in this module to introduce our culture to international delegates from around Asia.

Next was the much-awaited E-Park Challenge Valley. This was the most challenging module, as the name suggests. There are more than 30 obstacles waiting for you inside. You'd experience climbing through obstacles, swim in mud, and do a commando crawl in mud among many others. I won't elaborate on this that much but I'll just share to you some photos.
Challenge Valley was easy for others especially those who were experienced, but challenging for those who were not. We finished this module at around 8 o' clock in the evening. T'was very tiring.
You need to look for shower rooms around the park since there is no water supply available! You'll get some relief when you find one.

DAY THREE - 29NOV17

Day three is here! We've got four more modules to accomplish today. We hurriedly took our breakfast and prepared our equipment for an early hike to the City Hall. Amidst all efforts to depart early, we still arrived late.
We arrived at the New City Hall for the ASEAN Crossroads of Culture and ASEAN Faith in Belief. In the ASEAN Crossroads of Culture, although we failed to cover all sub-activities, we had a chance to craft our own bracelet using abaca rope. Quite impressive, isn't it?
The next module is ASEAN Faith and Belief. It was held inside the New City Hall. Their city hall actually looks nice. It looks like a mall but with malfunctioning air conditioning units. Government offices are located inside like mall shops. The center of the City Hall is the Mayor’s office.
The module was held at the atrium, where audio-visual presentations were shown to us about different religions such as Catholicism, Islam, Iglesia ni Cristo, Buddhism and the like. Flyers and magazines promoting each religion were also distributed to us for free. Gideon International also handed to us thousands of Holy Bibles. Freebies filled our drawstrings to the max!
We proceeded back to the apartment for us to take our lunch. Two more modules will be taken in the afternoon, namely: DRRM – Emergency Preparedness, and ASEAN Better World Village.
Due to exhaustion, we decided to delay our first module until 2 o’ clock in the afternoon. As we were preparing to proceed to the next module, heavy rain poured upon us. Our ‘command center’ was flooded. This prompted us to cancel our remaining modules and help alleviate the damages that may be caused by flood. We transferred our things from the flooded tents to the mother tent. All of us got wet except two who took responsibility in taking photos of us enjoying in the rain.
I was hesitant in joining them. I remembered how hassle it was to look for another shower room with available water supply. However, in the end, I still joined the fun. I cannot resist seeing them all savor the rain!

DAY FOUR – 30NOV17

It was the last day of all modules. There were four more to go. I excitedly took my breakfast to start the day right. We changed our shirts into the pink ones provided to us by the Davao City council. It was a nice print. Others finished putting up their foundation and make-up in time. (Kidding!)

I did not expect that this event will now end in a matter of two days. We enjoyed it so much we were not able to notice our short time left. Let’s better make the most out of it.
We joined the long line to ride vehicles for our off-site activity. We were scheduled to take on the Aquatics and Water Fun, DRRM – Water Safety, Campcraft Activites, and Jungle Trail. Scouts waited for nearly an hour for our turn. Along the way, it was very dusty, but the prime beaches at Hijo Resorts subsided our exhaustion.
The Disaster Risk Reduction Management – Water Safety was the first assigned module. We learned about the basics of saving a life of a drowning person. The facilitator even clarified that in a drowning situation, the one who knows how to swim will most likely be drowned, instead of the one who’s actually drowning. This is because the drowning person will grab the swimmer, making him/her unable to swim above the surface. With this, the facilitator taught us how to get rid of people bringing you down.
Next was the Aquatics and Water Fun. So far, this was the most enjoyable module because it involved games at the beach. We played the game ‘Moonwalking with a twist’. This required us to fill a bucket with water from any rash guard or swimming gear available.
We were allowed to enjoy the beach after playing the game. Our outfit adviser gave us around 15 minutes before pulling out. It was a very enjoyable and memorable time for us. With this, we improved our bond with each other as brothers in scouting.
Do we even get tired?” I told myself as we rode a dump truck going home. Yes, I agree we get exhausted every time, but the memories and experiences from our previous modules came on top of our exhaustion. The event was overfilled with memories – one you cannot simply forget.

DAY FIVE – 01DEC17

Blank schedule. There were no more modules for this day as we finished it the past few days. There were only festivities and other events, but we chose to stay at the apartment. Everyone was holding their phones at that time. I could not hold mine because it’s always out of charge. How sad for me.
Eat, sleep, and play. It was the schedule of the day. Luckily, we were able to grab some tickets for a special module: rappelling.
It was an experience of a lifetime for me. I admit I have fear of heights, but I bravely accepted this challenge. It’s not every day you get to rappel, right? I courageously took this chance. At first, I was reluctant to try.
When I was released from the gate above the ‘billboard’, my wrists were shaking and were very painful. I could not try to let go of it! What if I die? What if I fall? What if I never see my family again? Those were my exaggerated ‘what ifs’ my mind made up. Fortunately, I came down safely yet nervously.

As time passed by, I’ve already been feeling separation anxiety from my close buddies. We were going home the following day. I started packing up my things in preparation for our departure back home. I couldn’t resist but be emotional through writing this blog. I’m missing it!

THE FINALE – 02DEC17

Disassembling the tents, packing up the things, breaking the canopy – those were the things we were doing as we prepare to leave the campsite. I could not stop myself to reminisce this very moment.

As the days pass by, we were getting closer and closer with each other. Have you ever felt wanting a person not to leave by your side? It was what I felt at that very moment. When we boarded the bus, what I can only do was remember the past and the memories we created together as one outfit.

For the past years, I am actively joining in camping activities for my own pleasure. I am honored to be part of national celebrations even on holidays. Scouting is actually the one with the biggest share in my life. Memories of this will last decades, not only years.

It’s time to say goodbye to everyone. Thank you to the international service team of the 6th ASEAN Scout Jamboree, Tagum City Council, BSP National Headquarters and everyone who made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible. See you in the 7th ASEAN Scout Jamboree in Singapore in 2020!

Thank you for all the memories you created with me in 2017. I appreciate all people who helped me develop in so many ways especially those people who taught me the beauty of life. I would like to thank everyone who are patronizing my blog posts. I thank my family for the support and guidance, and most especially, I would like to thank our Almighty Father for the protection, guidance, and blessings He gave me throughout the rest of my life. Thank you everyone! Happy New Year.