It is Christmas Eve, in the year of our Lord 2021.
I was able to fly home to the Philippines to finally see my parents whom I have not seen since before the pandemic in 2019.
Travelling here was no small feat.
Last Sunday, I made an appointment to get an RT-PCR test at 12:00 noon. I arrived at the testing site at 11:40 a.m. thinking that I would be about fifteen minutes early and be done by 12:03 as the place had promised. “Appointments are 3 minutes or less.”
But when I arrived there, it turned out that about fifty other people also had a 12:00 noon appointment, and there were only five testing personnel.
We all ended up waiting outside in the bitter cold for almost an hour. The actual swabbing test itself did take less than 3 minutes. A cotton swab swirl in one nostril, a swish in the other nostril, boom, bam, done.
I paid $175.00 for guaranteed results in 24 hours or less. I figured that was plenty of time for my early morning Tuesday flight. I did not have to be at the airport until about 23:00 on Monday night. However, as Monday afternoon turned into Monday evening and the time was getting close for me to start to worry, I suddenly started feeling sick, mostly with anxiety that (a) I would not receive my results in time, and (b) that I actually tested positive since I had been in the same vicinity as people in my office who had tested positive earlier in the week.
It was not until about 20:00 that I finally received my negative results.
Off to the airport I go. Once I arrived to check into my flight, the agent told me that the Philippines was only accepting passengers that were current Filipino passport holders or former Filipinos with proof of birth in the country.
“Please produce a copy of your Philippine birth certificate, or you will be denied boarding on the flight.”
I thought I had read the travel requirements carefully, but apparently I had missed that requirement. I was thinking to myself how the f*ck was I going to be able to produce my birth certificate at that very moment. I definitely did not have enough time to go home and come back.
And then I had remembered Google docs. I had scanned a bunch of important documents and saved them onto my Google docs account. I logged into my account from my phone and there I was at the airport, sweating and praying that I had scanned my birth certificate.
There it was. I had scanned my birth certificate and saved it on my account sometime in 2011.
Crisis averted. I produced a copy of my birth certificate, boarded the plane, and settled into my seat. The flight was nearly eighteen hours long, but the sheer stress of the last thirty-six hours exhausted me to the point that I had slept through about ten hours during the flight.
When we landed on Philippine soil, we were immediately escorted to this large area that had the Philippine coast guard there. We were approached by guards who checked our papers and asked us a series of questions regarding our health. We were then instructed to complete an application for a OneHealth pass that you would have to carry for the duration of your time in the country. I had completed the application days in advance, but it was never approved because they had sent a follow-up email to me asking if I was pregnant, but I did not see that email because I had been on a plane for the last eighteen hours.
After about three more health station checks, I was escorted to the baggage area to claim my luggage, and after that, I was immediately taken outside to the official government taxi stand and then whisked off to my hotel where I am now to undergo a mandatory six day quarantine period (swabbing on the fifth day, plus one day to receive the results).
I am to be here until Monday, December 27. I will be spending Christmas locked in a hotel room.