That should be the headline of the local papers tommorrow. Cebu is crazed with final preparations for the re-scheduled Asean Summit. I find myself in the midst of the â€œheadless chicken syndromeâ€ that has descended on parts of the city. Worse, my regular home/hotel in the city is one of the hosts to the Asean delegates, so the foolishness extends there. The city is CRAWLING with police, army personnel and plainclothesmen, all with IDâ€™s the size of a notebook cover hanging around their necks. They seem to be stationed every 100 meters or so along the ceremonial route, an artery of roads that connects the hotels with the venues and incidentally, when blocked off, effectively cuts off any Cebuanos on the North side of the road from crossing to the South side of the road. It would be like forcing everyone in Manila to stay on one side of EDSA or the other, period. I am sure you have all heard about the fleet of BMWâ€™s that was brought in for the dignitaries (lots of 5 and 7 series cars). At least we spent almost nothing for these as they have been â€œpre-soldâ€ to highly liquid Filipinos who want a car previously sat in by some fat cat, literally or figurativelyâ€¦ But guess what I came across as I exited my hotel yesterday just before the biggest dry run of convoys in Cebuâ€¦ the 5-series BMW assigned to the Australian or New Zealand contingent already has a bumper ding on it. The driver miscalculated and the front fender is seriously scratched. Yikes! I hope the buyer is prepared to accept his car already damaged before it hits 100 kilometers in useâ€¦boohoo for you! Once the dry run got under way there was one accident along the route, one of the hagads or motorcycle troopers flew off his motorcycle at a corner near the convention center. He is fine, but can you imagine if the Sultan of Brunei were in his convoy?
But even better is a typical â€œThis could only happen to Marketman story.â€ I think it is amusing. Lighthearted fun, really. But the hotel was discombobulatedâ€¦ Two nights ago I arrived at the hotel crawling with security. The parking lot alone felt like a PNP Christmas Party. Then at the doors of the hotel, they asked me to check in my drenched umbrella, for which they gave me a claim tag and I noticed they placed in a LOCKED umbrella stand, along with 25 other umbrellas. Each umbrella was individually locked, it wasnâ€™t just a big collective closet. Then the next day, I tried to claim the umbrella but it seemed to be missing. Hungry and low on sugar, I told the doorman to look for the umbrella and I would claim it after I had eaten dinner at a restaurant outside of the hotel. I got very wet on my way to the car and back to the hotel. Two hours later, I returned and it seems they still couldnâ€™t find the umbrella. Increasingly, the staff seemed at a loss for this petty theft in the making. Ironically, to GET INTO the hotel, I now had to pass through a metal detector system, strip myself of goods that were to be xrayed and subject myself to a serious body pat-down, not a cursory Shoemart mall â€œfeel the small of your back hipo routine.â€ Such high security was in preparation for the summit guests already trickling in. Inside the lobby, security lookouts on the mezzanine, probably snipers on the roofs, you name it were there to make sure we were all safe! All this and my umbrella was stolen!
So more than just amused, I took my claim stub to the front desk and told the folks there that I was appalled that with all the bloody security in place and all the security checks I was subjected to, they couldnâ€™t keep track of a simple umbrella! I asked that they send a brand new umbrella up to my room before 1 hour was up and that I hoped they didnâ€™t lose a delegate who was checked in in the days aheadâ€¦ All the ASEAN type flunkies were all ears with my minor Marketman drama/outburst and scurried over to see what major security breach had been discovered. Thank God I am not one of those folks that fancies their parasols and carries a $300 Louis Vuitton number, it was a freebie bank giveaway instead. About 40 minutes later, a knock on my hotel room door yielded the duty manager and a new hotel umbrella to replace my lost one. He apologized profusely and I let him off the hook with a light scowl. But he was so stressed out that he launched a full-fledged investigation into the case of the missing umbrella, interrogating the three doormen and four guards at the umbrella stand area and I had visions of a SWAT team arriving with fingerprint experts in towâ€¦heehee. They never found it, by the way. They were so put out by the incident they came up to the room with another umbrella so that I could have 2 for the lost 1. Heehee. Stay away from Cebu for the next week or so. It is just crazy as can beâ€¦ I am flying back to Manila nowâ€¦