Inauspicious beginnings and the importance of being kind

To yourself.

SGMT Japan Kyoto Gion 01

Tokyo and I didn’t hit it off right away.

Before I was 24 hours in the city, I had managed to get lost three times. And I wasn’t even mildly lost — I was tired-and-hungry, all-alone, dragging-baggage-in-the-rain, going-back-and-forth-a-dozen-times lost. Thrice.

The bad luck actually started even before I left Cebu. Over the past few months, changes both structural and procedural had been gradually implemented in the Mactan Cebu International Airport, and one change I’d noticed on my last arrival was that Filipinos no longer had to fill up Arrival Cards.

On the day I was to depart for Tokyo, after final luggage check, I looked around and found myself in an unfamiliar “Passport Control” section with several booths manned by Immigration officers. For some reason, I didn’t see anybody filling up or even holding a Departure Card, which you would normally accomplish before going through Immigration. And so — blame it on the fact that I’d had no breakfast, or the paltry two hours of sleep I’d had the night before, or the new airport layout, or maybe I was just being stupid — I thought, hmmmm, maybe we no longer have to fill up Departure Cards too. Nice!

I quickly joined the short queue and soon enough found myself face to face with an Immigration officer. She flipped through my passport and airline itinerary, looked up at me…and then said the seven most horrifying words in the history of seven horrifying words: “Did you fill up a Departure Card?”


(For context, I have to explain that getting through Immigration can already be an ordeal in itself in the Philippines, especially if you are a female traveling alone to a country where females traveling alone can end up in a bad way. Having to go through Immigration twice is no fun. Also, this was the time when random bullets were being found in travelers’ bags by corrupt airport police — it mostly happened in Manila, but tensions were still high in airports around the country. And did I mention I’d had no breakfast? When you’re hangry, every obstacle on your way to food seems major.)

I had to go back…

…to a table at the start of Passport Control to fill up the stupid
Departure Card. (*This is what is known as projection.) And I couldn’t just go directly back to the IO after filling up the Card — I had to rejoin the now kilometer-long queue. I suppose I could have tried and seen if the IO would entertain me right away, but I didn’t have the guts to risk seeming like I was cutting into the line, which I sort of was and wasn’t, depending on how heavily you think silliness should be penalized.

Long story short, I got to the departure gate just in time to board my plane.

Back in the queue — on my second go — I just wanted to kick myself for being so imprudent. Why didn’t I double-check about the Departure Cards before getting into the line the first time? Why didn’t I look more closely to see if the others in the line were bringing Cards? I slightly cheered up when I noticed a few other passengers making the same mistake, but then they went directly back to the IO, so then I started berating myself for being so timid. Maybe I shouldn’t care what people think. Maybe…maybe… On top of all that, I really was hungry, and I’d had so little sleep, I could almost literally feel the weight of my eye bags.

Finally, after gritting my teeth for a good part of an hour, I realized — I forced myself to acknowledge — that there was nothing more I could do. The mistake was done. Additional mistake or not, I’d voluntarily rejoined the queue. I had to live with my decisions. And also…sigh

I had to be kind to myself. People make mistakes all the time. I had to give myself permission to do the same, to own it and live with it and not allow it to tear me apart.

Give yourself permission to fail, said this deer. Actually, no, it was on its way to sniffing and swiping at my backpack. But I like to pretend it's giving me a comforting kiss.
Give yourself permission to fail, said this deer. Actually, no, it was on its way to sniffing and swiping at my backpack. But I like to pretend it’s giving me a comforting kiss.

And so gradually, grudgingly, I found my peace.

Which was a good thing because then I got to Tokyo and got lost three times in less than 24 hours. But I’ll save that story for next time.


What bloopers have you made during travel? Was there something you found hard to let go?

Inauspicious beginnings and the importance of being kind
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9 thoughts on “Inauspicious beginnings and the importance of being kind”

  • Ha–that sweet little deer isn’t as sweet as it appears! It’s still sweet though, really=)

    I don’t blame you for making that mistake though. I can see myself doing the same thing, especially while being exhausted and hungry. I feel your pain on the 2 hours of sleep. Is that your usual before traveling? I never seem to get more than 2-3 before a trip and I always dread that first day.

    I’ve made plenty of blunders traveling and I can’t think of them now, of course, but I do remember the time I opened a restricted door at JFK and a blaring alarm went off and a security guard came running over to me. My friend and I still laugh about it and it wasn’t stressful, just funny so I guess that doesn’t count.

    I love the lesson you took away about being kind to yourself. We just have to recognize what we’ve done, accept it and go with the flow.

    • Blunders are definitely fun with friends! The day before a trip, I always feel like I should sleep early but then I go to bed and I can’t sleep. I usually get more than 2 though, I get maybe 5-6 hours usually. I only had 2 that time because I had so much stuff to do.

  • It’s easy to get lost in Tokyo. I used to just memorize characters and landmarks when I lived there. But people are kind enough to help when you’re lost. Looking forward to more stories

    • Thank you Boots. And you’re right, one of those times I got lost, a lady really went out of her way to help me. Mind you, she didn’t find what I was looking for either but she really put a lot of time and effort into it.

      • Yes that’s very typical of the Japanese especially the women. I hope you had a great time there! Looking forward to your future posts.

  • Vietnam, 2009. We just finished the Mekong River tour and our guide asked us if we still wanted to make a rest/toilet stop on our way back to Ho Chi Minh. I was one of the most vocal ones who said no. Well, after about 20 mins, who got nature’s call and needed to pee badly?! So I approached the guide and he said ‘But you said we’re not going to stop?!’. And wala jud niya gipa-stop ang bus! Mind you, it was also raining and we were still about an hour away from the city! So for your question ‘Was there something you found hard to let go?’ naa jud, because I had to hold it in! Hahaha! I’m laughing now, but it was a very painful lesson (literally)

    • Hahahah! Gipa-tagam jud ka Dais? 😀 😀 Well at least you successfully held it in, mas sakit siguro if wa na jud napugngan haha! Some guides can be a bit vindictive. My cousin recently told me about her trip from El Nido back to Puerto Princesa. The driver of the van was going really fast, and one foreign tourist got mad at him for being so reckless, so the rest of the way, nag-40kph ra jud daw ang driver. Dugaaaaay kaayo sila naabot sa Puerto Princesa. 😀 😀

  • Ask po sana ako how much po ung pinakita mo sa consul sa bank cert mo? Okay na po buh if 60k. Planning to apply po kasi ng visa para sa japan. Hingi po sana ako tips.

    • Hi Little Girl!

      Hindi naman yata nag-set ng parang minimum bank balance yung Japanese embassy para mabigyan ka ng visa. Depende din kasi kung gaano ka ka-tagal dun sa Japan, anong mga activities na gagawin mo dun, anong klaseng accommodations ang nai-book mo, etc.

      Try mo lang yung 60k, pero dapat ipakita mo talaga na yung planong budget mo for your Japan trip ay hindi lalagpas sa 60k. At dapat siguro meron kang stable na trabaho dito sa Pilipinas. Kasi, for example, kung wala kang trabaho, tapos 60k lang yung savings mo, tapos budget mo for the trip e 30k, siguro mag-iisip yung embassy na: 60k nga lang yung pera mo, igagastos mo pa yung kalahati for a trip…baka magduda sila na maghahanap ka ng trabaho doon.

      Ang importante kasi — and I’m talking about if you’re trying to get a tourist visa — you have to show them that: (1) you’re really only going there as a tourist and not to work there illegally, (2) you’re coming back to the Philippines, (3) you can afford your trip, and (4) you will not be a financial burden to their country.

      Good luck!

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