After 111 days in Boracay, I am finally home! I still have a few more blog entries about Boracay – I’ll probably be writing about it for months and posting about it on Instagram until 2022 – but I will blog first about our experience going home from Boracay while still in GCQ, wherein only essential travel is allowed.
The Greater Manila Area (I refuse to call it NCR Plus *rolls eyes*) has been in ECQ since late March and they stopped flights to and from Caticlan. Boracay is, essentially, a travel destination, so it is understandable why there are no flights coming in, however, I hope there are at least some flights coming back to Manila. When they stopped the flights in late March, we decided to wait it out because the number of cases in Manila was at an all-time high back then and we were scared to go back. However, May came and the flights are still getting canceled (and cases are still quite high).
When GCQ was announced, we were hopeful that the flights will finally push through but unfortunately, again – only essential travel is allowed. We were originally booked with AirAsia and after canceling all their flights until the end of May again, we decided it was time to look for an alternate option to go home. Irick and I were ready to go home and I, personally, have tasks to do. My mom gets her second dose of the COVID vaccine on the 24th and I wanted to accompany her then. Also, I have some other tasks that I need to complete in relation to the vaccination.
Cebu Pacific and PAL have flights from Caticlan but they are all via Cebu so it is longer and more expensive. So, our options were:
1) Go home via 2GO from Caticlan to Batangas, and then travel by land to Manila. However, it is 14 hours by boat (from 11pm to 1pm the next day) and then roughly 2-3 hours from Batangas to Manila. Also, we were worried about physical distancing since we will be around strangers for 14 hours. I mean, I don’t mind the long travel by ferry since I’ve done it before, but then, that was pre-COVID. I am really not comfortable staying in a ferry for that long during a pandemic.
2) Go home via Kalibo. This was definitely one of the options we were highly considering at the end of April but we, unfortunately, didn’t have time to figure things out and we didn’t want to book a flight without knowing if anyone has actually done that. I remember someone (total stranger!) in my FB group (WFH in Boracay) who was planning to do this before, so I messaged her and asked if they were able to go home via Kalibo and asked about the requirements. Fortunately, she replied to me and was actually really helpful. We were more confident then to book a flight since someone has done it.
We booked our flights through Cebu Pacific via Kalibo for Wednesday, May 19th. The flights were expensive during the weekend until Monday, so we decided to book on a Wednesday. That would mean extending our accommodation booking again (that we just extended literally the day before) and our Boracay QR code. We actually thought of going to Kalibo on Monday (since our last extension was until Monday), stay there for two days while waiting for our flight. However, Malay Tourism advised that side trips aren’t allowed and we can only go to Kalibo on the day of our flight. Kalibo Tourism, unfortunately, didn’t respond until the night before our flight and had an unclear answer. Looking back though, I truly think we could’ve pulled that off because at no point did they check our flight details until we got to the Kalibo Airport. It was really more chill than what we were expecting.
Our flight was at 10:05 am and we estimated it will take us 2-3 hours of travel from our accommodation to the airport. Technically, it is just roughly 1 1/2 hours from Caticlan Jetty Port to Kalibo Airport but then we had to factor in the travel from trike + boat travel, as well as the wait time. The person I asked on Facebook left their hotel at 6:13am and arrived at the airport at 8:50am. I would be so anxious if my flight is at 10:05am and I got to the airport at 8:50am so for our peace of mind, we left early. Cagban Port opens at 6am so we decided to leave at around 5:15am. (I actually had to do a slide shift so I can end my shift at 5am. Yes, I was working the night before our flight, clocked out at 5am, dragged our luggages to the trike, and then went straight to the port.) Our accommodation arranged a trike to pick us up at 5am. We paid PHP200 because it was a special trip.
We got there before 5:30am so we had time for some breakfast at a nearby carinderia. The port opened a little early, too, I think at around 5:45am so we were already on the boat to Caticlan Port by 6am. The process was pretty simple, unlike before where you have to go to different windows to pay for the fees, etc. There is just one terminal (well, there is a separate one for residents and locals) at the entrance where they check your QR code, ask your destination, and where you pay the fees (PHP100 for the terminal fee, PHP400 for the boat fee). Then you go straight to the boat.
Upon getting off the boat at Caticlan Port, there are vans waiting going to Kalibo. It has two stops: Kalibo (I believe it stops in Pestrana) and Kalibo Airport. Of course, we paid to go directly to the airport (Fare: PHP250) and we arrived maybe 5 or 10 minutes before 8am. There is physical distancing inside the van since they only allow 7-8 passengers inside.
Ok, this is important. Make sure that the Traze app is updated before coming to the airport. We haven’t used this at all since I scanned it for the first time at NAIA when I left in January. The app kind of sucked. It had ads and even if you have updated it, it still won’t work. It needs to be reinstalled and if you are like me who doesn’t remember her passwords, then you’re screwed. I almost gave up until my phone finally remembered my username. It literally took me maybe 10-15 minutes to scan the code and get inside. Imagine if I left at 6am, got to the airport at 9am and still had to figure out how to log in to Traze? I would go insane. The plane has probably left already and I’m still there figuring out my username. LOL.
The check-in process only took around 15 minutes because there isn’t really a lot of people. Also, we have checked in online. We just had to drop our bags and they gave us our printed boarding pass. We actually registered for an S-Pass because we were advised by Kalibo Tourism that S-Pass is one of the requirements usually asked at the airport but no, they didn’t ask for that. It was a normal check-in process and we were only asked for our boarding pass and ID. Then, we scanned via Traze again at the boarding gate. We were all checked in and waiting by 8:20am. Whew. Whenever I fly, I would rather be really early than get all anxious about getting left behind the plane.
Actually, the flight took off earlier than scheduled, too. The flight was at 10:05am but the actual departure time was 9:45am. This means, we also arrived earlier than expected. Love that for us. LOL.
We also decided to get a COVID test before going home for our peace of mind. That took around an hour because we had to wait for the result as well. I was finally home at 2pm. Whew. It was a really long day. I was awake for about 14 hours, had to work for 8 hours, and then traveled from Boracay to Manila. But yes, finally home. Honestly, would love to be at the beach still but I need to do some adulting in the city for now. I definitely would love to go back. Maybe in December? TBA. LOL.