Do you have a companion?

Small Matt at press conf 050810 by Matthew Lang

From May 6 – 17, 2010, Rev. Matthew Lang served as an election observer in the Philippines.  He was part of the People's International Observer Mission, which was comprised of 86 people from 11 different countries. This is the first of his reflections. 

I arrived in Manila late at night after traveling for close to 20 hours.  I was tired and sweaty and just wanted to shower and go to bed.  I made it through immigration without problems.  I found my luggage without problems.  Then I got to customs.  The flight attendant on the flight from Hong Kong didn’t give me a customs form.  I asked her about this and she said I didn’t need one.  I asked again, just to confirm we were talking about the same thing.  We were.  She said I didn’t need one.  The women working at the customs desk asked for my form. (I knew it!)  I told her I didn’t have one.  I explained about the flight attendant and all that.

Do you have a companion?

No, I’m traveling alone.

We will find you one.

She stopped the next person in line and stamped his customs declaration. She told us to walk out together and say we were brothers, because, you see, you only need one customs form per family. The man looked very, very confused. I mumbled sorry and we walked through the next checkpoint side by side – he, tall, Asian; me, short, white – and our one form was good enough.  I got a bargain. Judging by the number of 100 peso notes I saw tucked in other declaration forms on the woman’s desk, such treatment usually comes at a price.  I walked out into the night, hot and humid even at 1a.m., ready to spend the next ten days with the People’s International Observer Mission observing the May 10 national elections.

The photo of Matt is by Nancy Eng MacNeill.

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