I can still remember the first time I set foot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 for my first flight abroad – to Saudi Arabia – a little more than ten years ago. Even though I was not alone during that trip – there were three of us – first time jitters and fear of the unknown got the better of me. It was as if I could not stop worrying about what would happen to me, once I got inside the seemingly humongous structure, not to mention about the thought of arriving in an unfamiliar destination.
Being tense and nervous during your first flight abroad is but natural. Even the most seasoned overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who goes back to his job abroad year after year after year, couldn’t help but get cold feet sometimes. Take it from me, a ten-year “veteran”, of sorts.
This post aims to help you, the OFW, overcome the anxiety of traveling abroad for the first time, simply by eliminating the “unknowns” from the equation.
Are You Ready to Fly?
Are you ready to fly? Before answering this question, you should first ensure that you have all the necessary requirements for departure with you. These include the following:
- Plane Ticket
- Passport with Working Visa
- Employment Contract Approved by the POEA
- OEC or Overseas Employment Certificate
- PDOS or Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar Certificate
- OWWA/PhilHealth Insurance Certificate
In addition to this, the following are also essential for the first timer OFW:
- A cellphone. A cheap one will do, but a WiFi-capable one is preferable, so that you can update your loved ones at home about your trip during stopovers. Almost all airports now have free WiFi.
- A small notebook with contact numbers of your home and employers, and most especially, the name and contact number of your welcoming party at the destination airport.
- A small amount of money – in US dollars – just enough for two to three days contingency, in case “something” happens. The amount should cover your food and communication expenses, in case you get stranded in airports during stopovers.
If you already have all these, but still feels nervous, just think of all the dollars you will earn and all the possibilities that you can do with the money – a down payment and amortization for that new house, an educational fund for your kids, monthly allowance for your parents, even cash for that second-hand car. If you can think about all these and then feel that smile on your face, then you are ready to fly.
Bon Voyage, OFW!
It is time you get into the airport. Let me help you with the aid of the following photos from the photoblogger Unlawyer.
The first picture shows the outside area of the NAIA departure lobby. It is where your car or taxi drops you off. This area can get too crowded at certain times, so go look for a trolley as soon as you step out of your vehicle, to easily maneuver your luggage through the chaos.
The next picture shows the entrance to the departure lobby. But before entering here, you should go to the OFW lounge first to validate your OEC and Employment Contract. The OFW lounge is located at the far right of the departure lobby entrance.
If you choose to stay awhile at the OFW lounge with your loved ones, you should bring in your luggage with you. Your luggage will be scanned by the x-ray machines before you can bring them in. But if you choose not to stay, it is advisable to leave your luggage outside with your sending party, while you validate your OEC and Employment Contract.
After the validations, it is time for you say goodbye to your loved ones. Bid your farewells, give each one a kiss and a hug. And get inside the departure lobby at once. Don’t look back. The most difficult way of parting – and most heavy on the emotions – is when the leaving party keeps looking back at the sending party. It is sometimes unbearable to see your loved ones with all those tears. This can take a toll on your emotions, too and can weaken your physical, emotional and mental conditions for the long journey.
So get inside the airport immediately.
Your luggage will be scanned again upon entering the departure lobby. If your flight is still not flashed on the big billboards inside, you still have time to kill at the departure lobby. Don’t be shy, look for that available seat. They could be hard to look for sometimes, but with a little persistence and a smile, you could easily find one. Constantly monitor the boards for your flight’s status, looking specifically for the time when the check-in counters open, the boarding time and the flight time. Once the check-in counters open, fall in line immediately. Lines can be very long sometimes, so it is better to be at the head.
If you are traveling to the Middle East and other Arabic-speaking countries, you have to pass your passport and visa first to the visa reader situated at the front of the check-in counters. Also, airport personnel will hand you a departure card. Fill it up, while waiting your turn at the check-in counter.
After checking in your baggage, you will now have with you just your hand-carry baggage and your papers, plus the boarding pass – or passes if you have connecting flights – with the baggage claim tags attached to them. Your next stop should have been the terminal fee window, but since you’re an OFW with a valid OEC, you are exempted from paying the terminal fee and the travel tax.
Your next stop is the immigration counters. Look for the OFW express lane, shown at the picture below.
Present your passport, OEC, boarding pass/passes and filled-up departure card to the immigration officer. If everything is in order, your passport will be stamped without delay and you are through.
After passing through immigration, you will have to pass through customs, where you and your hand carry luggage will be subjected to x-ray scans. You will undergo body searches and you may have to take your shoes off. After customs, you will find yourself at the pre-departure lounges, shown in the picture below, surrounded by duty-free shops and other stores and services.
If you have extra money, you can avail of massage services to help you relax for your journey. But don’t spend all your remaining pesos here. You can use them again once you go home after finishing your contract, or you can trade them with returning colleagues at your work destination.
If you don’t feel like hanging out at the pre-departure lounges, you can always wait for your flight at your boarding gate lounge. Look at your boarding pass for your boarding gate number, refer to the various directional signages, and head to one of the two concourses, shown in the picture above, where your gate is located.
Try to relax while you are at your boarding gate lounge. While waiting, you can call or text you loved ones. Cheer up. This will be your last moments in Philippines soil, until your next vacation or contract. Wait for the boarding announcement. Board the plane, and good luck to you. Mabuhay ka, OFW!