The Amazing Race to the Altar

We’re finally home! Our trip back was a 36-hour ordeal of delayed flights, lost luggages, special security checks and a host of other troubles. Looking back, it’s amazing how we were able to get here on time to shoot Bryan and Ivy’s wedding in Tagaytay last Saturday despite all that we went through.

Our troubles started when Mimi’s roaming cell stopped working a day before we were scheduled to leave. We figured it was a minor inconvenience since we’ll be going home anyway. We arrived early at the Las Vegas airport only to find out that our United flight to San Francisco was delayed by almost 3 hours due to the flight’s crew being delayed the previous day. We tried to get an earlier flight but the earliest was a US Airways flight that arrives the same time our plane to Tokyo departs. The United Airlines ticketing agent couldn’t give us a travel itinerary that would have us arrive Saturday morning, it was either Saturday night or Sunday morning so she suggested we take the flight to SFO and try our luck at being standby passengers for the next Tokyo flight. So that’s what we did.

Upon entering security, we were marked for special screening… meaning we would go through a more detailed hand search of our bags. That includes swabbing every equipment we had in our carrying case and have it analyzed by computer. Our equipment would include 1 laptop, 3 camera bodies, 1 handycam, 1 cellphone, 1 PDA, 1 ipod, 3 flashes, 6 lenses and cf’s and stuff. It took around 15 minutes to screen all those equipment and in our whole trip back, we had to go through 3 different screenings. :p

At the gate, we informed Dan Cercado that we might not make it back on time. Dan is one of our photographer friends and our plan B for Bryan and Ivy’s wedding. Before we left, we discussed all the possibilities with the couple and and had a plan in place. Thank you Dan!

When we arrived in San Francisco, we had to rush to the check-in counter as the next Tokyo flight was an hour away. We were able to check in our bags as standby passengers but unfortunately, the flight was overbooked and when we claimed our baggages, one bag apparently made the flight to Tokyo. So with 3 bags left we decided to look for other flights to Manila. We asked the agent to book us a PAL flight on either the one from San Francisco or LA but all the Manila flights were full. We were getting a bit disheartened and resigned to our fate when the agent said he found us a flight to Manila that would arrive Saturday morning. Hurray! It was the PAL Vancouver to Manila flight. We asked him don’t we need a visa to enter Canada? His response was you don’t need a visa if you’re transiting within 24 hours. So he made a ticket that would take us on Alaskan Air from SF to Vancouver and take the PAL flight to Manila.

When we arrived in Vancouver, I was looking for signs to the transit counter but all roads led to the customs booth which gave me a terrible feeling in my stomach. Can you say “The Terminal“? Upon presenting our passports, the customs agent gave us a puzzled look and asked what we were doing in Canada without Canadian Visas. Uh oh. Were we in trouble now. Not only didn’t we have Canadian visas, if they sent us back to the US we might not be able to re-enter too since we surrendered our arrivals cards in San Francisco. So we appealed to their good nature if there was a way to transit to the PAL flight that leaves in an hour. The customs agent asked if we would need to claim our bags in Vancouver. I told them that our bags are checked in till Manila which was the truth but I could see the bag carousel and saw what seemed like one our bags. Patay! Anyway the customs agent left and went to find the immigration supervisor. An immigration official came who would escort us back to the gate. So I was under the impression that they were going to send us back to San Francisco. I asked if we could apply for a temporary visa and the agent told me there was a $200 temporary visa fee each. I said ok we’ll pay the fee. And he said, “You’ll pay even if we’ll escort you to the PAL gate?” Hahaha! So I said… THANK YOU! Them Canadians are way cool!

You’d think it would have been the end of our woes but wait, there’s more! So we were able to board the PAL flight but there was a problem. There were two passengers being paged for what seemed like they were on the run or something. The flight attendants had to look for those two passengers on the plane, and one of the passengers locked herself inside the lavatory. So after she got escorted off the plane, the ground crew had to inspect the lavatories inside and out. My fear was the plane might be grounded or something and will be stuck in Canada without visas.

The PAL flight was one hour delayed. I was so exhausted that I slept for almost 12 hours of the 14 hour flight time and when we finally touched down in Manila I clapped with all my heart like a true Filipino! Yebah!

And with our luck, we weren’t at all surprised that all our bags were delayed. Yep, the 3 remaining bags didn’t make it to Manila. But thank god all 4 of them arrived the day after so it’s all good!

P.S. Mimi, Dan and I shot Bryan and Ivy’s wedding without incident, not counting the time when Mimi had another brush with bad luck. Special thanks to Jason for his help on that one 😉

P.P.S. We had so much fun in Vegas! Will blog about it later!