Sunday, May 4, 2008

Driver and Tourist Guide

Summer time is raging in most Asian countries. This means holiday, fiesta festival, and travel. And when these activities dominate the mode of today, transportation services and car rental determine the outcome of your day.


I recalled during the last summer, I was hired by the local car rental company in Manila. I was advised to report at Westin Philippines Plaza Hotel (now Sofitel Philippines Plaza Hotel) for briefings and orientations. I was assigned to meet a foreign visitor –I just named him Robert- at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at about ten at night. It was already late in the afternoon and I was told to be back by 8:00 P.M. for pre-airport update.


I stayed in the hotel lobby for a few minutes: observed how the guests move; get acquainted with the surroundings; how the guests are treated upon alighting from the car; how are his baggages; the courtesy procedures; and parking requirements. I walked a little to the parking area, watched the sunset in the open space –the hotel is located in front of Manila Bay and the guest can have a clear view of the “sinking sun” without any obstruction on a bright noon sky- and have something for food in a driver's inn nearby.


I get back to the travel coordinator and was told to stay and wait. She got back at past nine and retorted: “There is no guide, here is the cell phone number of the guest and his itinerary, ... go!” I was obliged to follow and proceeded to NAIA.


There was no more clogging in the streets and I arrived early. Having enough time, I glanced at the itinerary ... searching if there was any picture of my guest. I found the flight number, by Singapore Airline, the estimated time of arrival, and hotel accommodation... no photo. I begun to worry on how I can meet my guest. I talked to other drivers in the car park and consulted how can I get my guest whom I’ve never met before? One suggested to write the bold name of Robert on a bond paper and show it to arriving passengers... which I did.


Robert was an Englishman and everytime a European-looking-passenger appeared from the exit door, I raised and waved my poster. At last, I met my guest. They were two, of medium built, and in their thirties. After a short introductions and handshakings, we proceeded to the car and moved. While on the way, I suggested that they maybe needing some foods. Or may want to have a midnight snack ... or coffee at Adriatico-Malate –a night life tourist destination. (I did this insinuation and with some intention of earning a commission from the establishment I actually promoting, hehe.) And they approvingly consented. But Robert’s companion chose to have a check-in first at the hotel and for safekeeping of their belongings ...and that we did. Then, they got back and we had coffee at Adriatico Cafe. Then after awhile and a short conversations, Robert told me: “You may go home, we’ll meet at the hotel tomorrow. I’ve been frequenting this place everytime I have a project here. We can manage.” Then he handed me a few dollar bills.


Hesitatingly dismayed, I retreated home, counted the bills and quite satisfied.


I reported early the next morning to the travel coordinator for further instruction as I was acting as the driver and the guide. I was informed that Robert was a member of the monitoring group of a cross-country contest. “ Contestant will be arriving today and travelling on their own.” The coordinator added. Their scheduled course was racing to a jeepney shop builder somewhere in Cavite. They will install the jeepney accessories then ride on the same jeepney to a rice land and a duck farm in Victoria, Laguna.


With these informations, I waited again for my guest ‘till they emerged from the hotel and called me through the cell phone. We speeded to Imus, Cavite, and by 11:00 A.M., contestants started to arrive by pair. They affixed all the required accessories of the jeepney and travelled with the same to the assigned destinations in Laguna.


At this juncture, me and Robert tried to catch-up with the jeepneys which run too fast. There times that Robert would urged me to overtake the jeepneys. He will open the car window, extended his body out and took a shot with his video camera the actuations of the participants in the jeepney. One must be extra careful in maneuvering his car in a two-lane highway speeding at 90 to 100 kms./hr. I used the emergency flasher light and headlights to warn vehicles on the opposite direction and we performed this as if we owned the road... dangerously!


We drove faster and be ahead of everyone to the contest area. Upon arrival, Robert advised those assigned at the site to get ready and cleared with unwanted obstacles.


After completing the two events, the competing fairs rode on a tricycle (side carriage attached to motor bike to carry passengers) going to the highway and took a bus bound to Manila.


We again hurried to Manila. We have to be ahead of any pair to reach the destination. They finished the amazing race stage at the Coconut Palace then to the Sofitel Hotel.


I finished my tourist guiding stint with the discussions, not the tourist spots, but of the shortcuts –the fastest way to reach a point.

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