I have to say that the last few days of my time in the Philippines have been incredibly stressful....all of it indicative of the lack of organisation, decision making and trust that is inherent in organisations here.
When I was in BKK last week looking for my new apartment, I spent some time with one of my new colleagues, a Thai lady, about the same age as me, well travelled and with fairly strong opinions on Asian countries...HKG - fine, Singapore - very nice and organised, Japan - interesting, the Philippines....and here the conversation went south....I have rarely heard such a negative description of the Philippines - the end result was she told me that in a past job one of her colleagues had won (at a staff party) an all expenses paid trip to the Philippines for two....the colleague who had won, was so horrified at the thought of going to the Philippines he passed up on the prize and offered it to his other colleagues...nobody wanted it, the prize was unused.
In summary, my week has gone something like this....Visa application.
My new company have been processing visas for their new expats team from HKG, Singapore and KL, they have managed about 4 visas so far by submitting the same required documents in all three cities. They gave me all these documents and I traipsed down to the Thai embassy in Makati. On arrival i was told that my documents were insufficient at the guy gave me a printed checklist of what I needed...so I contacted my HR in BKK and told them...they were a little bemused given that other countries embassies didn't need this but over a period of a few days they organised, scanned and sent me the required documents.
On Tuesday morning, once I had all the documents, I returned to the embassy, the same guy who gave me the list was behind the desk, looked at my papers and then said, this is still insufficient, I now need..this, this and this.....so I asked why it wasn't on the list...the conversation went something like this..."
MC:"Why are these extra items not on the list you gave me?"
Embassy Staff "Who gave you this list?"
MC:"You did, last week, don't you recognise your handwriting at the top showing the opening times?"
ES: "Actually No I don't, I never recognise my own writing, anyway, sorry about the inconvenience but I need those papers before it can be processed"
Now, bearing in mind this was Tuesday morning and I was supposed to be flying Thursday morning, I got a litttle tetchy. I called my HR in Bangkok who (not surprisingly at this stage!) lost her cool and decided to call the Thai embassy in Manila..... she called me back a few minutes later (I was by this time in a taxi, heading at some speed (sod's law - the one time the traffic is clear!) to Wack Wack Road!)...and told me to return and submit the forms..... she had spoken to the Thai people at the embassy who had something along the lines (and I wont write the derogatory terms used) that the Filipino at the front desk didn't know what he was doing..... I went back and submitted the forms.... allegedly today.... I should get a visa.... in hindsight...lucky I've had so many problems with Philippine Airlines that my flight was pushed back to Friday.
My frustration at the whole exercise aside.... it has amazed me the attitude of the Thais to the Filipinos....so much for developing nation/Asian kinship.....Philippine Airlines.
First off, on Monday I booked my ticket on line....at the end when entering credit card details etc, there is an instruction telling the user that if there is a problem after 'submitting' cc details then do not resubmit but contact PAL
Sure enough, after submitting the details there is an error message...allegedly a problem with their system...no emergency contact number is given...just an e-mail address. So I send off an e-mail giving the error message, my mobile number and telling them what happened.....to make it easier to read the sequence of events will now be in point form (!)
Tuesday morning I get an e-mail back from them (an e-mail note, not a phone call as requested), asking for my flight details, which I submitted...I still have not had an answer to that e-mail.
Wednesday I tried unsuccessfuly to get through to their reservation department...in between the movers and all the other bits and pieces going on
Finding that you cannot book PAL online if you are less than three days out on your travel date I have to get through to them by phone.
Finally Wednesday evening I get through....although due to being put on hold and cut off three times, I had to keep calling back - the whole process took about an hour.
You cannot pay over the phone using a credit card, because you have to go to the ticket office with your passport. On asking why this is the case compared to online booking, it is apparently because if you book over the phone they include the airport tax in your final payment...so as a resident foreigner who they take about P2,300 every time you try to leave the country...plus the departure tax, they want to collect that before issuing your ticket. Way to go Philippine Airlines...making it as difficult as possible for the passenger.
And then we now have the small problem of the cat..... three calls to PAL over the last week, to different departments, different levels of management have confirmed (allegedly) that all I need to do is show up at the airport, cat in hand, papers correct and I can check her in as excess baggage.....but last night...the goal posts moved....now I need even more paperwork, I need different forms that no one seems to know where to get and I apparently have to inform everyone of this cat's arrival from BKK immigration to Thai air ground staff and I think somewhere there was a mention of Cherie Blair. However, I cant do any of this without my ticket, which I cant get without my passport which is being held hostage at the Thai embassy......
I would like to point out that whilst in BKK last week I did speak to the Thai immigration and quarantine officials at the airport to check with them on the correct procedures for bringing in a domestic pet....nothing they said...just turn up with the paperwork and the cat and we will check it and issue its entrance papers. The removal people
I have moved countries myself a few times...left HKG twice, left Jordan and with my parents - many, many times.
In HKG and Jordan, both my shipments were larger than they are leaving here...both places the packing was done in half a day, a quick break for lunch and then everything moved out after lunch...all done and dusted by 4pm latest.... here...a totally different story...
Arrived at about 8:30am, still packing at 5:30pm...need to come back in the morning to finish packing and move everything out....
I only have about 40 boxes...the majority of it is books.... the guy packing my bedroom took 2 hours to pack three boxes of items...
In addition, they randomly left out items which I then had to collect up and pack myself last night....
And they are still here....
I won't bore you with ranting about my condo's 'moving out' procedures and security.....
The sad thing about all of this is that when talking to my Filipino friends about this last night...they all shrugged their shoulders and said...what do you expect...its the Philippines....particularly scathing comments were reserved for PAL... most asking why I was bothering to use PAL...my answer... I thought it would be easier with the cat (obviously not!) and I couldn't bear to leave Manila through that bloody awful terminal 3..... I dont want that hell hole to be last vision of Manila!
There will be more positive posts later!!!!!!!!!
Labels: moving, Philippines