Lessons from the edge

Published September 26, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Grace M. Pulido Tan
Grace M. Pulido Tan

After a long while, I was finally able to take a much awaited R&R with my husband, some relatives and friends.  It was a trip that took almost three years to save for, to places I call the “edge” of the world for their remoteness and almost mystical allure.  We went by both land and sea to these faraway lands I am sure are on everyone’s bucket list.

There was a considerable number of Filipino tourists, mostly seniors like us and always banding in groups.  Most of them, however, introduced themselves to us as Americans, or Canadians, or Californians, even if in speech, looks, and demeanor, they were unmistakably Philippine-born, at least.  One time, the Californian called us out for being “noisy” while playing some games, and how we allegedly shamed her for that.   Duh, didn’t she say she was Californian?  What was so shameful to her about Filipinos having a good time?

The bitter lesson, dear readers, is that some of our immigrant brothers and sisters still look at us, locals, as second-class and must therefore stay obscure when in their company.  Perhaps, their sense of a Filipino is anyone like the mostly Filipino service staff, who always serves their drinks with a smile and great alacrity, but with whom they rarely exchange pleasantries. They forget, of course, that without the efficiency and warmth of the Filipino staff, their life on board would have been as miserable and pathetic as their minds.

If only they cared enough, they would have marveled at how Alex, the sushi chef, started out many years back as a waiter in a Japanese restaurant in Manila.  By sheer determination and hard work, he learned the trade and slowly but steadily moved up the ladder without any formal culinary training.  I know, because we patronized the Japanese restaurant then, and we rejoiced at Alex’s success.  Needless to say, he pampered us and our palates just like in the good old days.

They would have also been inspired by Rhon, a young father of two from Mindoro who, aside from his bartending job, was also a papaya farmer back home.  He had just acquired another farm from his savings, and was looking forward to “retiring” when his new farm became productive.  Meantime, he said, he would continue to serve the bar patrons as best as he could so they’d be happy with every dollar they spend.

That’s the kind of service orientation we missed from Turkish Airlines on our flight  home.  We missed our connection in Istanbul because we forgot about the one-hour time difference.  Our phones were on flight mode so there was no automatic adjustment.  Neither did the plane crew announce – as all other airlines I have taken do – the time in Istanbul upon landing.  Worse, the lounge staff did not call our attention that we had only just a few minutes left to boarding.  We were constrained to stay for another 24 hours, till the next available flight, for a hefty fee we were not quite prepared for.

Lesson learned:  it’s not Miles & Smiles, it’s watch out for yourself, you’re on your own.  Time for the airline to also learn, perhaps, how the Filipino takes care of his guests.