Saturday, March 3, 2012


Having arrived in the U.S. on the second Friday of Lent, my sister Janine and her husband  Cyril decided to have dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, a New Orleans import to the South Plainfield, NJ restaurant scene. They don't take reservations and it took about 20 minutes for us to be seated. It looked like a fun place, with many big groups chowing down on Alaskan King Crab, shrimp, mussels, and other seafood (They also have meat on their menu).
The very busy dining area made to look like a shack, with tin-clad walls

We ordered the Crab Nachos. Never thought tortillas and crab was a good combo, but then I thought, why not? There's fish tacos anyway. This was really good, a crab and cheese (the Italians would blanch at this mix) base over tri-color tortillas, beans, lettuce, corn and chopped bell pepper. I had this with a mild margarita served in a Mason jar (reminded me of the Nescafe, Cafe Puro and Blend 45 free coffee cups of the 70s). 

Yes, this is how most drinks are served here. Fun! 
The Crab Nachos. I love nachos. Now I love crabs with them.

One of the steampots that we ordered. This is meant to be for one
 The shrimp fritter in the seafood combo was also good, with the fish with mango salsa being the standout. The shrimp fritter wasn't as good but I liked the idea of frying shrimp dipped in a sweet potato hay batter.

The seafood combo platter.

My niece Nicole and my sister Janine showing off their personalized bibs.
Overall, the service was great, the food was good, and I definitely will try the stand-alone crab dip and cake when I return.


Finally, touchdown. The sky was overcast, but the weather was not that cold. The Delta terminal at JFK is small and old, and the Delta personnel and Immigration and Customs Officers tried to make the best of the situation. Being a permanent U.S. resident, I joined the shorter line with U.S. citizens. But it was not an in-and-out for me, having been away for 22 months on a Reentry Permit. I answered all of the ICO's questions truthfully so I had no problems. I've never had problems with my U.S. visas, even when I applied for a tourist visa for the first time. I was warned I wouldn't get one because I had a pending petition for immigration. I aced my interview because I truthfully answered all questions on the form and during the interview. (I think consuls are trained in the behavioral sciences because they can sense it when an applicant is lying).

Funny story recounted by an ICO in the line: no one is allowed to use their phones in the immigration area. The ICO pointed this out to a guy, who answered, "But I'm using a BlackBerry!" Duh.

I also truthfully answer the Customs form and I declared that I was bringing in food. The ICO was smiling at me when I asked if I was bringing in chicharon, longganisa or corned beef. I explained that I only had polvoron (blank look so I explained that it was some sort of milk candy made from toasted flour and powdered milk. He said, "that doesn't sound like candy.")

Since I was arriving on a Friday, in the afternoon, I decided to take the shuttle from JFK to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, then the 114 NJ Transit bus to my sister's place in Springfield, NJ. I figured it would cost my sister more to commute from NJ to JFK, both in terms of gas, tolls and parking, than for me to do the commute. Plus she wouldn't have to deal with the traffic. On a good day, it would be an hour's drive. With Friday traffic, at least 30 minutes more each way. Trawling the net, I decided on using NYCairporter for three reasons: it is the only shuttle service allowed to drop off and pick up passengers at the curb (very important if you have a lot of bags, as I did on this trip), the shuttles have free wifi, and it goes straight to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. As with most web-based products, the experience was far from what is found on NYCairporter's site. To be fair, the service is convenient, but buying your ticket online will save you only 50 cents. The wifi was sucky from JFK to PABT. 

This is the best signal I got on the trip from JFK to PABT
And worst, the driver-cum-baggage handler was surly and demanded to be tipped. He had a tip box in the bus and that's where I placed my tip. After he gave me my bags, he demanded to be tipped. I found this behavior unseemly. He did not even bother to take care of the bags that he loaded and offloaded, banging them about and dropping them by their wheels. I packed two framed pictures and the glass on one broke. Can't prove it was NYCairporter's driver was to blame but he was the only one who banged my bags around.

Contrast this with the NJ Transit driver of the 114 bus that I took home. He cheerfully helped me with my bags. And he was humming Barbara Acklin's "Am I The Same Girl" the whole time. Now that's what I call service!


Our Manila-Narita flight was delayed because of some technical stuff, but the flight to Tokyo was good. We got in Narita just in time for our connecting flight to JFK, but left me with no time to eat ramen at the airport cafeterias. Although not as good as city stalls, still better - understandably so because of access to better ingredients - than most of the Japanese ramen places in Manila. 

Bowls of ramen were calling out to me...but my flight was being called already (Image from
The Delta crew were surprisingly, nice. My well-travelled friend Randy Manaloto had warned me that the US leg of a Delta flight can be bad because of how American flight attendants treat passengers. Thankfully, this didn't happen to me on this trip. What just bummed me on this trip was the turbulence flying out of Narita and flying into JFK. Harrowing. With shrieks from some passengers. And a delay in the meal service.

The bad part of the flight: the movie service. Movies were projected on common screens with poor resolution (the one in front of me had a green cast to it), and the sound coming from my earphones was really bad. After travelling on Asiana and Cathay Pacific on my other U.S. trips - with amazing in-flight electronics - this was really a bummer.
This Delta economy cabin... (Image from

This Cathay Pacific cabin (Image from


Travelling back to the U.S. gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I dread the thought of leaving my comfort zone, the Philippines, because it is home, where family and friends are. Where you hear familiar sounds every day. Where eating good Pinoy food is not a matter of craving, but a matter of course. Taking time off to go to the beach or meet friends for a movie can be done at a drop of a hat, with no dent on the budget.

On the other hand, home is also where the vicissitudes of dealing with the likes of Miriam are ever-present. But then again, one can't have it all.

This trip is my trip back after staying 22 months in the Philippines. And my first through NAIA 1 in 4 years. After hearing so many bad things about NAIA, I braced myself for the worst.

I left for the airport at 3 a.m., so it was a breeze getting a cab. My flight was at 8 a.m. but I wanted to go early because I'd had no sleep the night before. The cab driver was very polite, and did not try to get a fixed fare from me, despite my destination and my 4 bags (2 checked-in, 2 hand-carried).

When we reached NAIA 1, there were already a lot of passengers lined up to go in. It was insane. There were porters who approached me (I assume they will get a fee out of this "service") to get me on the line for business class so I wouldn't have to like up with the rest. I refused. My advise to travellers using NAIA 1 is to be let off on the farther side of the departure area, since the line there is shorter. Despite the lines, it didn't take for me to get in the terminal. The officers in the terminal are well-adapted to the bedlam. There are no announcement boards for passengers to be guided on where to go to check-in, but there are officers - who smiled all the time - who will give you that information. I was dreading the Delta counters, because I'd heard of their poor service. And yet, I was proven wrong. The line, again, was fast and efficient, despite the huge number of passengers. (There was a woman who tried to whiz through by going to the business class line, but was politely told to queue with the rest of us hoi polloi).

The crowds when I travelled was not like this. Thankfully (Image from
Next stop: the airport fee. Again, the lines were long, but moved fast. And the lady at the counter was courteous, smiling, and greeted me a good morning. Sweet!

Thankfully, I have a Diners Club credit card, so I was able to use the MIASCOR Lounge for free. The food was not much (the lugao and chap chae were OK enough), the bar was complete, but the lounge is pangit: worn-out furniture, fake ficus, and weak internet. Worst of all, the entire airport had no aircon until 6 a.m. I paid P550 for a tipid-kuryente airport? Hay.
MIASCOR Lounge. In better days. (Image from 
Balanced conclusion: NAIA 1 may look crappy (the architecture to begin with is faulty) and the facilities may be crappy, but the people manning it are thankfully no longer the same corrupt and crabby civil servants of the 80s and 90s. Maybe management have inculcated in them a better sense of service and values, which to me is a reflection of how we Pinoys are: we are strong on service so we capitalize on this to compensate for our shortcomings in other areas, infrastructure for example.

By the way, it took all of 40 minutes for me to go from the main entrance to the MIASCOR Lounge. Not bad! 


If you like to eat well, live well, listen well and have the patience to go through my kilometric but hopefully entertaining blogs, then this is the page for you. I chose EATERSHIP because it sounds like "leadership," and because if you jumble it up, it could also read "hip eaters." Eat and read on!