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As some parts of the world are going on lockdown this Christmas season, Filipinos are starting to brave traveling around the Philippines. Truth is being in lockdown for nine months caused a lot of us some serious cabin or city fever. 

I took an opportunity to travel to El Nido, Palawan, with a group of friends to celebrate a couple of birthdays. What encouraged me was that the group will occupy almost all the seats on the plane and the hotel, so we have our very own travel bubble gang! 

As a doomsday prepper and OC traveler, I was quite stressed planning and preparing for the trip. But of course, most of it came from what was unknown. So here are takeaways from that trip to help out those who will be traveling soon.

Booking a hotel and flight

Things have developed with a push for contactless transactions. One of them was the QR coded tourist ID. But before you can get those, you will be required to have a confirmed ticket and hotel in your destinations. Double-check the cancellation policy and rebooking guidelines. Since times are uncertain, it is better if you have an exit strategy without losing money.

Pre-flight preparations

Each LGU has different regulations on what is required. But most of them require a negative PCR testing 48-72 hours on arrival: a health declaration form and the QR Code Tourist ID. 

In our case, El Nido Tourism required 48 hours of PCR testing, which required us to get a test that will yield the result in 24 hours. There is a list of recognized testing clinics or diagnostics laboratories, so check those to lessen the hassle and waiting during check in.

A PCR test with 24-hour results are about P5,000 plus another P1,000-P2,000 service fee, which totals on an average of P7,000 per person. While we were at the airport, one passenger could not travel because her PCR test was not within the 48-hour window on arrival. She basically took a PCR test with 48-hour results, thus missing the LGU requirement, so be mindful of that.

Some LGUs require all guests to get a PCR test, including kids and babies but some don’t. So if you don’t want to subject your little ones to the test, find out first which cities allow kids to enter without a PCR test.

Once you have received your negative PCR test, you may log on to the LGU site, where the QR code tourist ID is generated. You will be asked to submit your confirmed flight and hotel booking, your PCR test. You are also required to answer a health declaration form, which you will need to print along with your confirmed arrangements. They will look for this at the airport. 

Both your hotel and airline will require separate health declaration forms, which are usually online documents, better to do this beforehand.

At the airport

Armed with face shields, masks, air cleaners and etc., we braved NAIA Terminal 3. The bigger airlines such as Cebu Pacific had long lines at the check-in counter, but smaller planes such as Airswift, which we took, barely had people, so that was a plus. 

Upon entering the airport, you will be asked to download the TRAZE app, which helps contact tracing. This sometimes becomes the bottleneck at the airport entrance because some people are just doing it there by the door. Don’t be inconsiderate. Get it before going to the airport.

While you go through the normal traveling processes, such as security checks and all, what came in handy for me was my handheld UV wand, which I used to disinfect all items after passing thru all those possible virus contact points. I had an alcohol spray, Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, and a pocket Lysol. I used those to disinfect the plane seats. A bit over the top, but hey, better safe than sorry.

Social distancing in the bus
View from Maremegmeg Beach Club
Sunset at Angkla Resort in El Nido

Respect for others, help PH economy

Upon reaching El Nido, our group was still very mindful of wearing a mask around the locals for both parties’ safety. I realized that if everyone will be vigilant and follow strict protocols, we will be able to contain this COVID threat, but I saw many people in the airport, using their mask as chin support and their face shield as sun visors.  

Our country needs to restart, and we are on the right path. It was very sad to hear from the El Nido locals that life became hard when the island was closed to tourists. They were happy that people are starting to go to the island so they can have a livelihood. But people who are inconsiderate with the safety protocols and complain about them are not helping. Our government and the private sector are doing their best to deal with the pandemic. It is not perfect, but it’s been effective considering a number of European countries are now going into lockdown this Christmas and New Year period as cases soar. Even our Asian neighbors are now planning to reimpose lockdown measures despite doing the same a few months back.

We are all in the same boat. If all we do is complain, especially those with a habit of flaunting their power and influence, I feel we are giving those who know less an excuse to not follow the rules. This Christmas season, we are allowed to see our loved ones; given the proper safety protocols are in place, let’s be grateful. Let us stay vigilant. We are almost there.  

Merry Christmas!

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