Traveling like it was my first time

The return to some semblance of normalcy has awakened the travel bug in many people. Almost two years of quarantine restrictions have kept many of us stewing in our homes itching to go somewhere for a change of pace or environs. The throngs of people that are now seen in our parks and public places testify to the human hunger for moving about to experience new things, to inhale and exhale the air of personal freedom. As many of us are now hitting the road and going places and trying new things, it is noteworthy to remember the safety reminders that have protected us and kept us safe despite the onslaught of COVID19 that has taken many lives and caused illness and suffering among our kinfolks.  I found out for myself how serious our airport authorities are in keeping up the health and safety standards particularly for foreign travel.

There we were by the entrance to the NAIA Terminal 2 International Airport about to embark on what was a break from the 18 months of quarantine-at-home restrictions due to the pandemic. Previous to this, we were fortunate to pass the first of what was to be a series of hurdles to get to our destination in the United States and this was first getting a negative test result from our RT-PCR tests 72 hours before our flight schedule. Philippine Airlines mandated that all passengers are COVID-free and that clearance should come from one of their accredited testing centers such as the Ateneo University in Quezon City where we had ours.  We were alerted by friends who made the trip to and from the US before on what to expect but to just hear about the hassles of travel in these extraordinary times was a world apart from the reality of living through the experience. 

So perhaps it would be useful to describe some details that happened to us to our readers who might hit the road later particularly when going abroad in these times of COVID. My first impression was how empty the airport environs seem to be of people. Compared to the pre-pandemic days, the airport when we left that Friday evening was virtually a lonely place and absent of the usual crowd that gathers by the parking lot and front entrance. We walked through the Terminal 2 doors by our lonesome; no lines, no waiting — just step into the luggage X-ray machine  and into the ambiance or surroundings where the only visible persons were the motley crew of security and airport staff right there by the entrance. 

But the security cordon isn’t just there. A dozen or so meters away is another line of security and baggage clearing staff as the standard operating procedure (or SOP) now is that every luggage (checked in or hand carry) is opened and checked. This layer of security is manned with more security personnel all decked out in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) attire that one associates with hospital wards. They were very thorough and diligent. The crew that was there were very helpful and even assisted us in shifting our luggage between bags so that we comply with the weight restriction per bag or luggage imposed by the airline. 

The third layer of security was the check-in counter where vaccination cards were checked thoroughly, as well as the lab tests certification together with the usual passport and visa documentation. These would require that all documents are ready and easily accessible. It could be laborious if one must sift through folders so it would be useful to have everything close at hand as the checking could take some time. And then on to the departure gate where the security personnel in PPEs attire go through every checked in bag and anything suspicious or banned item that you might be bringing personally on board.  Lastly, there is the fourth security check; right at the departure gate of the airline, where security personnel go through your bags and checking clothing, accessories or anything metallic as well as vaccination documents and lab tests, etc., before letting you step into the plane.

In a word, prepare for everything and get in the airport as early as you can. I allotted five hours for an extra cushion to the three hours it may take for all the clearance and checking to be completed and still allow for one to breathe easy and not feel exhausted from the whole exercise. Happy trails dear readers!

P.s.  With the new Covid virus, the US has amended their policy to have the negative rt-pcr test 24 hours before your date of departure.

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