Have you ever looked down from an airliner and asked, “I wonder where my house is?” Airliners are fast, high and impersonal. But if you know where to look… .
12:04. KLM B777, Manila to Europe. The January air was crisp and clear. We line up behind a Philippine Airlines A320 at the Ninoy Aquino International airport, holding short of runway 06 as an EVA Air B747 lands.
12:04. Our turn! Lining up for takeoff.
This maze of taxiways is tricky. Some years ago, a PAL airliner blundered into runway 13, on the right, just as a Cebu Pacific DC-9 was rolling on takeoff from the far end. The PAL aircraft fled towards the Terminal 2 ramp as the DC-9 went airborne right above it. Near miss. The public never knew.
12:07. A minute after takeoff, we overfly the American Cemetery and Memorial. The Manila Polo Club and Manila Golf Club are green patches at left, The Fort at center, Market! Market! at far right.
With 17,100 graves (3,600 of them “Known But To God”) the American Cemetery and Memorial in Manila is the second largest American cemetery in the world (Arlington is the largest). The memorial lists over 36,000 missing in action — when a ship or aircraft went down in the Pacific, the remains were usually lost forever.
12:07. Seconds later we are over Pasig, where the Marikina and Pasig rivers merge.
C-5, with its funny U-turn overpasses, runs across the top before bridging the Pasig river. Market! Market!, the British School and the International School cluster at upper left. Carlo will recognize the yellow basketball court of the Lexington townhouses, bottom left.
12:08. Over Quezon City now, two minutes after takeoff.
At upper left, SM Megamall, its rooftop resembling an aircraft carrier’s flight deck, hides behind the tall buildings in the Robinson’s Galleria area. At lower right, the magnificent Mormon Cathedral is a tiny orange polygon from this high. Giraffe Street snakes across the bottom, EDSA curves across the top, and Ortigas Avenue runs down the left of the image.
12:08 still. Camp Aguinaldo displays its parade ground and golf course at upper left. Cubao’s Araneta Coliseum is at upper right. White Plains road crosses the center. C-5 at bottom zigzags up its well-engineered tunnel/flyover interchange with Santolan Road. Hi Mom!
12:09. We are over the Quezon Memorial Circle.
Now you know why they are called, North Avenue, East Avenue, West Avenue, and Timog. This area was all grass when Quezon City was laid out in the 1950s, but there was a neat geometric method to the madness. Metro Manila is home to about 8 million people today.
12:14. Eight minutes after takeoff (it took you longer to read this far), we are two provinces north of Manila, east of Mt. Arayat, headed for the Cabanatuan VOR beacon. It takes me 55 minutes to cover this exact same distance in a Cessna 152.
12:20. This is what the mystical lake in Cuyapo looks like from four miles up. Of course, being mystical, the lake has swallowed entire towns and is home to tikbalangs, aswangs, kapres!
12:21. Higher now, over Pangasinan. Geographical features are apparent, towns like Carmen and Villasis are too small to see clearly. But if you know where to look… .
Rosales airfield, dead center in Carmen barangay, sheltered a few American P-40 fighter aircraft that survived the Japanese bombing on December 8, 1941. American fighter strength in the Philippines was nearly wiped out on that first day of the World War II.
12:22. A minute later, we are over Binalonan’s brand new airport, home to the WCC flying school.
12:25. We are over Baguio. The smudge across Lingayen Gulf is the Hundred Islands. La Union’s famed beaches stretch between Bauang’s river mouth and the airport at San Fernando. Poro Point sticks out like a thumb.
15:24. Three hours later, over the Himalayas. A sea of clouds cascade into sink holes between peaks that reach up to nearly our altitude.
20:54. Eight hours after takeoff, the sun, racing us to the horizon, sets over the Siberian steppe.
15:34 + 1. Twenty-seven hours after departing Manila, I look out on an ice-choked canal outside my hotel in Amsterdam. I’m a long way from home.
Posted from Bangkok, June 8, 2010