So… I did it!!! After a number of times of booking ang cancelling my flight schedule, I finally arrived in Ninoy Aquino International Airport in December 27, 2021.
I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised if I say that it wasn’t a simple trip as it used to be before we all heard of “Coronavirus.” It has been 2 years since Covid-19 grew into a global health crisis since it first surfaced in December 2019 and since then our realities shifted and coronavirus slowly took over and changed the way we live our normal lives, and travelling was one of the things that changed in a number of ways.
While, I was on the plane, I thought that I should document this experience, maybe because I am wishing that on my next travel, it will not be this way, that travelling to any parts of the world will be back to how it used to be. So, on this article, I am sharing the nitty gritty of this experience with you with the hope that this will be the first and last time that I am travelling the new normal way.
I am supposed to travel to Japan and Philippines in April of 2020 with my family, but because of the travel restrictions and my fear to risk our health and safety, I decided that we will not go on this trip that we planned for 2 years. We thought that in Spring of 2021 we are able to push through with this trip but again, we didn’t. It was on the last week of November when I decided that I need to come home and a week after that I decided to book my ticket…. This time, I did not include my 3 children in my plan, I am travelling alone… and there I was in the evening of Christmas, I boarded on a Philippine Airlines flight from Canada to the Philippines.
Nowadays, there is no travel that we can considered as risk-free, but my answer to people asking me why I still decided to travel – with or without corona virus, life has to move on, I can’t continue depending my plans on when we are going back to the “real normal,” I know that it maybe risky, but I still believe that it is still possible to travel safely.
Other than the extra steps and documentation required from travellers, I can say that I pretty much have a safe and smooth travel and speaking from my personal experience, here are some of the things that I did which may be of help to you should you also decide to travel – – –
I went with a travel agency to book my ticket so someone will be able to help me monitor any flight changes or travel rulings, also should there be any unforeseen situation, I can call my travel agent to help me fix any issues or changes in my flight. I opted to get a direct flight from Vancouver to Manila via Philippine Airlines, considering that since the pandemic plane fares are more expensive, I had to pay more than double of the regular ticket price (pre-pandemic), but I’d rather pay extra than getting stressed out with flight delays and cancellations from flights that has layovers in other countries.
After securing my plane ticket, my next step is to always get the proper travel insurance, my Canadian Health insurance through work as well as my provincial health plan may not pay for all medical fees should I incur while outside Canada. That is why whether I am travelling with my family or alone, I always make sure that I purchase a travel insurance.
Proof of full vaccination is also part of the additional protocols when travelling nowadays. For non-OFW Filipino like me who’s travelling to the Philippines and got vaccinated abroad, I need to have my national/state digital certificate of the foreign government where I was vaccinated, fortunately, I already received my physical vaccination card but what is needed and is more important is the printed or electronic copy of Pan-Canadian card (PVC) which I downloaded from the Province of Manitoba website (or phone app). In some readings that I did, there are countries that require a document called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICV) as proof of vaccination, just to be sure, I also obtained this from a yellow fever vaccination centre in Winnipeg (list of Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre is available in the Public Health Agency website), In my case, no one asked for the ICV, the printed PVC that I have was already enough.
Travelling to the Philippines and to most international destinations including my originating country – Canada, requires negative Covid test result. I made sure that I checked the requirements of both the airline I am going with and the country or territory government (Philippines in my case), there are instances that they may differ in the type of acceptable tests and how long before departure or arrival you must take the test. At the time of my travel, a negative RT-PCR test result taken within 78 hours prior to departure was required by Philippine Airlines. (Update: As of January 13, 2022 Negative RT-PCR test result taken within 48 hours prior to departure)
My final destination is Pasig which is within Metro Manila, at the time of my travel, regardless of the passenger’s final destination, facility-based quarantine is a requirement to travellers at the first part of entry in the Philippines. I also had this arranged a couple of weeks before my flight, I made sure that I secured a hotel reservation at an accredited hotel by Tourism and Health Agencies. (Here’s a link to the Quarantine Hotels in Manila – I did my hotel booking online via Agoda.com, an online hotel booking platform.
Though we have been repeatedly assured that aircrafts are equipped with high efficiency particulate air filters that remove viruses and bacteria from circulation, all airlines still require masking in the plane, so stock up on masks. My friendly advice, use mask that will provide more protection, recent studies suggest that high quality masks like N95 and double masking work better than cloth masks, so use these ones and make sure that you also have enough hand sanitizer and hand wipes on your travel kit.
One most important travel requisite in the Philippines right now is the One Health Pass (OHP). OHP or the electronic Health Declaration Card (eHDC) is submitted electronically, you will then be issued with an OHP personal QR code, this QR code is required before boarding your flight to the Philippines. The Philippine authorities use this to track arriving international passengers in the country. OHP website suggest that a passenger maybe able to register 3 days prior to their arrival but I was only able to register after I obtained my RT-PCR result. Upon arrival in the Philippines, we needed to present this QR code for verification of the submission and the information I provided.
There were a few queues that I need to go through when I arrived in NAIA, all I had to do was show my passport, my vaccination certificate, confirmation of my hotel booking and my OHP, then I just went to the immigration/security check like the usual, after which, I was on my way out of the airport to meet the transportation service that will bring me to my quarantine hotel.
As of the time of my arrival to Manila, the required quarantine period for travellers from yellow countries was 5 days. On the fifth day of my quarantine, I need to get tested again. Even before I landed to Manila, I already received an email from the Philippine authorities accredited diagnostic laboratory who will perform my RT-PCR swab test, providing me information how to choose the time of my swab test and how I am able to pay for it. The test result will be released in 24 hours from the time you got tested, after receiving an email confirmation that I tested negative, I logged to OHP portal to download my quarantine certificate which I presented to the hotel staff upon checking out.
I just got out of the quarantine facility today…. I guess what I really want to say is that planning the necessary testing and paperwork ahead of time and wearing adequate protection did it for me.
A lot of social media posts that I have been seeing were saying that it seems that we are back to 2020, I don’t really agree that we are back to where we started. Yet, we are welcoming 2022 with a bitter surge of the highly contagious omicron variant, but we are on a different situation now, medical experts have been doing their research about this virus, that’s why we are more aware of what this virus is, how we can avoid it and what do we do if we catch it, we now have vaccines and medications for it. Yet we still need to ensure our safety and follow protocols but we don’t need to pause our lives again, just like what we did 2 years ago. The pandemic is evolving, the rulings, the requirements and the restrictions continue to change day to day and if there is one sure thing that most of us should have learned from the past 2 years it is how to adapt and live with uncertainties. Up to now, none of us can say when will this coronavirus will truly go away, but it doesn’t mean we have to put life on hold because of it, we have to go on and learn to live with coronavirus…