Space Available Travel from the Philippines

Space A – Always an Adventure!

U.S Navy C40
U.S Navy C40

We left Calbayog City late on Monday afternoon on a DLTB Bus (Greyhound series complete with CR) and arrived in Manila at the Pasay bus terminal early the following afternoon (about 20 hours). We walked about a half block to the Five Star bus terminal and immediately picked up a bus heading for Angeles City in Central Luzon. There we had hoped to catch a U.S. military space available flight out of the country. We grabbed a cheap hotel room for the night, and the next morning (Wednesday) we took a rip-off taxi ride (P300) to the Haribon Passenger Service Center (PSC), which is located at the apportioned Philippine Air Force base at Clark Airfield/International Airport. We were there in time for a 7 o’clock roll call for a flight to Kadena. I was going on about 7:40 am when I became convinced that there was going to be no flight that morning. Nobody showed up to open the PSC office and there were no planes looking to land or take off with passengers, as far as I could tell. There were two U.S.Navy P-8’s on the tarmac and the flight crews, who were hanging out in the passenger terminal building, assured us they were not taking passengers anywhere! I think I knew that anyway. The 3 other passengers that showed up for that flight were a little tardy as they had just arrived via a flight from Tacloban to the Clark International Airport and walked the 2 kilometers to the Haribon PSC. After checking the telephone recording from the night before, it was discovered that the flight to Kadena, Okinawa that morning had been cancelled. After all 5 of us acquainted ourselves and learned that we all lived in the same neck of the jungle (Eastern Visayas), we all decided to hang together until the next day when another 7 o’clock flight was scheduled for Kadena.

SoGo Hotel, Dau, Mabalacat
SoGo Hotel, Dau, Mabalacat

We all headed out together and found comfortable and clean rooms at the Hotel SoGo in Dau, on the north side of Angeles City. After settling in and all enjoying a short nap, we all decided that it was going to be dinner at the VFW. After all, it was Steak Night!  From our hotel we were to come and go, and as it turned out, for the next several days…as each new day brought more flight cancellations with a total of about 4 more flight cancellations over the next 3 days. The very next morning (Thursday), after learning that day’s flight was cancelled, we all decided to rent a van and head down to Subic Bay for a day. There we drove around, had a great lunch at Texas Joe’s at the Freeport, re-visited Cubi Point, Barrio Baretto, and other memorable places of interest. By nightfall, we were back in Angeles and learned that the next days flight for Friday, had again been cancelled.

Texas Joe's at Subic
Texas Joe’s at Subic

As a result of all the cancelled flights, Saturday morning now had 5 flights stacked up all going to Okinawa. By the time noon rolled around on Friday, that number was down to three flights. Teri and I decided that the odds of successfully securing our seats on any flight were dwindling fast, and that we should just head to Manila for a commercial flight to Guam. So we all had lunch, we purchased our United Airlines tickets, gathered ourselves and boarded a Philtranco bus headed for the Pasay bus terminal in Manila. Our new acquaintances decided to hang one more day to try their luck with a flight to Kadena, and as we found out later, they did not get out and subsequently headed back home to Biliran Island, Leyte. We left Angeles City at about 1:45 pm and were in Manila hunting for a taxi to take us to NAIA at around 4pm. As a permanent resident and holder of an ACR-I card, I was curious as to the departing procedures from a military base and I guess I just missed out on the chance to test out Immigration system when departing from Haribon. I knew I would definitely have to pay the P2,880 departure fee to Immigration when I departed Manila commercially.

A comfortable DLTB bus with wi-fi and movies
A comfortable DLTB bus with wi-fi and movies

While the Philtranco bus was supposed to take us to the Pasay bus terminal, we found ourselves dropped off at the Mall of Asia instead. The bus conductor assured us that at this spot, taxis were easy to get and would be closer to the NAIA Terminal 2, and could save us some money. When things sound to good to be true (especially here in the Philippines), caution is advised and should be practiced!  There along the road, we hailed 6 different cabs…all refusing to use their meter citing heavy traffic (which is technically illegal), all offering to take us for a flat rate of between P350-600. Normally a metered ride from this same spot would cost less than P200. About the time my blood pressure was elevating and I was feeling like ‘clocking’ me a cabbie (not that I would), an honest cabbie shows up and offered us a metered fare to Terminal 2, which upon arrival showed P166 on the meter. We gave him an extra P100 for his honesty (who says it doesn’t pay to be honest? (P266 = $5.68USD)).

Inside the Clark International Terminal Building
Inside the Clark International Terminal Building

After checking in several hours ahead of our flight, we relaxed, made use of the upgraded Terminal’s wi-fi, enjoyed some fresh ground coffee and snacks, and boarded our United Airlines flight for Guam at around 10:55 pm. The flight to Guam took only about 3.5 hours, and when you throw in a couple of time zones to the east, we were on the ground in time to meet the sunrise at Won Pat International Airport, Guam. We rented a taxi and proceeded to Denny’s for breakfast, then up to Anderson Air Force Base to check on outbound flights.

Waiting on a Space A plane at Anderson AFB.
Waiting on a Space A plane at Anderson AFB.

As soon as we entered the Passenger Terminal at Anderson, the departure board had one flight listed…a Navy C40 to Luzon (Clark Airfield) departing in about 45 hours (Monday afternoon) with 68 seats available. That gave us plenty of time to visit some friends and do some shopping and grab a Philly Cheesesteak…or three! We hit the base exchanges, the commissary, the food courts, and even got to bowl a game for a dollar on base. We spent two nights in the always wonderful Navy Gateway Inn, and on Monday morning, we checked out, drove over to the terminal, dropped the rental car keys in the box and waited for roll call. Aside from a 6-man contingent of Navy guys in civilian clothes and a half-plane full of equipment (I could only speculate and will say no more), only three other passengers showed up for the flight to Clark Airfield. That left about 57 empty seats and made for a rather comfortable flight.

Our room at the Navy's Gateway Inn
Our room at the Navy’s Gateway Inn

Once on the ground back at Clark after about 3 hours and 10 minutes of flight time, my wife exclaims “I thought you said it was going to take 4 hours to get there?” I told her Navy pilots are faster than Air Force pilots and she was totally satisfied with that answer as we got back much earlier than planned. Now all we had to do is call “Nick” the taxi driver to come get us. We met Nick, who drives for “Best Transport Service” when we first arrived in Angeles City and were so impressed with his honesty and his devotion to service (and low, fair prices), we actually wrote down his phone number. Once Nick arrived to pick us up, he informed us that his boss was heading to Manila in his private vehicle in a few minutes and quickly got on the phone and arranged for a P500 ride to Manila where he dropped us off at the Cubao bus terminal (DLTB). Buy the time we arrived it was going on 7 pm and there were no remaining busses headed to our destination on that day. I suppose we could have checked on Silverstar, Megabus, or another carrier, but DLTB seems to have the most leg room as far as I was concerned. We simply decided to spend one more night to wait for the right bus departing around 9:30 the following morning.

Don't stay at the Hotel Central Cubao! (unless you're a desperado!)
Don’t stay at the Hotel Central Cubao! (unless you’re a desperado!)

We checked in to a hotel just around the corner from the bus  terminal and got a great rate. I will not go into detail about the room but I’ll just say it had a basic bed, basic noisy aircon, and basic running water…somewhat. Okay, it was only P599 and I’ll never do that again but, all we really needed was a place to crash as we were both tired. (Hint – when you approach any hotel and it smells like “umihi” (urine) near the entrance…just be prepared).  Besides, we were in no mood to be doing hotel reviews anyway. We dropped off our bags in the room and headed to the SM mall across the street to a Gerry’s Restaurant where we ate, had a couple of beers, and then retired back to our hole in the wall room for a good nights rest. The next morning we were just a bus ride from home. The 21 hour bus ride from Luzon to Samar includes a 1 1/2 hour ferry ride From the Port of Matnog on Luzon, across the famed San Bernardino Straights to the Port of Allen, Samar. From there, it is another 1 1/2 hour ride to our drop off. Our car was there waiting for us and we got home about 6:30 Wednesday morning. When we walked in the door, about all I could muster up was the thought “There’s no place like home”. I half-unpacked, took a hot shower, and took a well deserved nap. Twice!


Don’t forget when travelling in the Manila or Angeles City area to give BEST Transport Service a call. You will be glad you did!

7 thoughts on “Space Available Travel from the Philippines

  1. Glad you made it back safely. I’m looking forward to hearing a little more about your trip (in person). We found that Rob Evans Transport Service was also very good. Maybe we’ll check out BEST Transport on our next trip to compare them. I figure as long as the service is good and the prices are reasonable, then it really doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to know which places you ‘know’ you can depend on.

  2. Hopefully by the time we ever return to Clark, the taxis will have all been outfitted with meters and the trike drivers have all been jailed!

  3. Randy my asawa and I are in sorsogon right now looking to get over to Samar for a visit in the next couple days.

  4. Randy, just preference to take the bus or another reason you don’t fly to MLA from Calbayog? We have taken the MLA to TAC flight quite a few times which can be pretty economical also if booked in advance. I looked and it’s about $70 USD one way per person from Calbayog (more the TAC-MLA) but for 20+ hours on a bus? I ask because coming into Calbayog would be more convenient for us to get to Catbolgan than the van ride from TAC we normally take and likely cheaper overall. The VFW is a nice oasis in Angeles isn’t it? We stopped in there a few years ago on a trip. Amazingly saw a few people I knew who were still there from back in “the day.”

  5. Basically it is about 4 hours to Tacloban from Calbayog by bus so it takes up some time and costs money. We could fly directly from Calbayog to Manila, but it also costs around P17,000 (close to $400) for round trip airfare (for two of us). When flying space A, you never know when you will return, so purchasing tickets in advance is not a good or cost effective idea. Besides, the bus trip on the DLTB “Greyhound” series buses is not that bad from Calbayog (20 hours) and is fairly comfortable. The VFW will always be on our visit list when traveling through the Angeles area.

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