Travel stories – Manila

In September of 2006 my colleague and I were on a four country conference tour of Asia. I would speak about AIX and virtualization and my colleague would cover Power Systems hardware.

The first two events in KL and Singapore went off without a hitch but we couldn’t go to the third event # in Thailand because the military had a coup the day I was to arrive. I didn’t know it until then, but I have a firm travel rule : “Never go to a place that has tanks in the streets”

Because we had already canceled one of the four events, we were really determined to do the fourth event, in Manila.

There was only one little problem, and that was that a category 5 typhoon was headed straight towards Manila.

The Manila team assured us that the conference would occur that Thursday morning as scheduled despite the weather. Despite my gut feel that this was a mistake,  we dutifully flew to Manila that Wednesday night.

Well the next morning the typhoon was starting to hit Manila in earnest and the winds were blowing at least 50 miles an hour. Our local country hosts called us and said “Err – we noticed that the wind picked up overnight so we are canceling the conference!”

You can imagine my thoughts. I said a few choice words and then we checked out of the hotel in an attempt to get out of the country before the typhoon struck. We made the drive to the airport in blinding rain and hurried to the counter. Unfortunately by that point the Manila airport had lost power and it was a surreal tableau of desperate people in the dim light of a few backup lights and lightning flashes. All the computers were powered down and the airport was shut down. Nobody was leaving.

After waiting in line for several hours, the airline (Singapore) finally decided to escort us to their lounge past the unpowered security checkpoint. But before we could leave, we had to check our luggage. The clerk HAND WROTE my baggage tag and I remember looking wistfully at that bag as I left the counter. I never expected to see that bag again.

The business class lounge didn’t have electricity but they did have candles, ice and booze. I proceeded to medicate myself in preparation for the typhoon.  I was really concerned about my safety and after the vodka loosened my tongue, I spent a good part of the time giving the local team a frank appraisal of their weather prognostication abilities via my cellphone.

The typhoon went directly over the airport and we watched the typhoon rip pieces off of airport buildings through the big picture windows in the lounge. The lounge was luckily on the leeward side of the storm so none of the lounge windows were broken.

Eventually the typhoon passed and the airport resumed operations. We boarded a flight to Hong Kong about 10:30 that night on an extremely lightly loaded Singapore Airlines plane.

As expected, my bag did not arrive with me (remember the hand filled out baggage tag?) I filed a missing luggage report but frankly thought it was a lost cause. The next day we managed to make the long trip home from Hong Kong, sans luggage.

Over the next few days, when I inquired about my missing bag Singapore Airlines could only tell me that they were searching for it but had no status or information on where it might be.

Three days later, out of the blue, I get a call from American Airlines in Austin – my bag had managed to make it home after all!

That was my first real trip to that part of Asia and it took five more years before I ever got the nerve to return to Manila.

Things I learned on that trip: Go with your gut feelings. Be flexible. Stay at the hotel if there is any doubt about your flight. Don’t worry, it’ll (probably) work out all right in the end and never, ever, ever check a bag.

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About Jay Kruemcke

Jay has had more than twenty years of experience in the information technology industry. Starting from a rather humble beginning at IBM, Jay became a mainframe systems support programmer. Eventually Jay joined the AIX operating systems development team early in that product's development. Jay leveraged technical skills that he built in systems management to establish himself as a member of the IBM Austin Executive Briefing Center. His expertise in systems management with the SAP ERP system enabled his first product management role, as the owner of the Tivoli management product for SAP. Over the next three years he established that product as a success with the help of a strong development team. Jay returned to AIX in a product management position initially focusing on managing new requirements for the AIX operating system. Jay established himself as a subject manager expert in AIX and Power Systems virtualization and became a frequent guest at conferences around the world. Jay succumbed to the dark side and spent four years in IBM marketing in which he introduced AIX version 6 and AIX version 7 and many product innovations including the first every open beta program for an AIX release and a significant restructuring of the AIX offering structure and prices. Jay was part of the cloud software development organization and and focused on managing development engagements for clients deploying clouds using Power Systems servers with PowerVC and related products. In March of 2016, Jay retired from IBM and started in a new role as a product manager for SUSE, the Open Software company. Jay new focus is on enterprise Linux for POWER and ARM processor based systems. The postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of my employer. Follow me on twitter @mr_sles, @cloudrancher and @chromeaix.
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