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Monday, October 29, 2012

Viva Las Vegas! Viva Filipino Hospitality!

The beautiful Bellagio Hotel and Casino in the Las Vegas Strip.  (Picture is from http://hotels547.blogspot.in/2011/07/bellagio-hotel-las-vegas-strip-nevada.html.)
This is the Bellagio room I stayed in for the duration of the conference that I attended in April of 1999 (roughly about 6 months after the opening of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in October of 1998).
Armed with little money in my pocket, and a credit card that's nearing its maximum spending limit, I braved out in the gambling capital of the world.  Las Vegas, baby!  "Now, how do I get out of the airport to Bellagio Hotel?"  I did not think this through!

It was my first time in the U.S. of A. - a memory from a long distant past.  As if 16 hours of flight from Manila to Los Angeles, and a couple more from LAX to LAS weren't enough, I still had a few miles to cover.  The last stretch of the exhausting travel was from the airport to the conference venue.  I was clueless.  I didn't know how to get there.

After retrieving my bags from the baggage carousel I headed out towards immigration and the customs checking counter.  I remember how beautiful the Las Vegas International Airport was.  I thought I was in a 5-star hotel complete with posh stores filled with luxury goods, some opulent carpeting, and an array of slot machines!  On my way out to the arrival area at the threshold, a gigantic man was checking each person entering.  When it was my turn, he said, "Welcome to Las Vegas!".  I could not forget the question he asked me afterwards.  "How much money do you have?", he said.  "Not much.  But I have a credit card…", was my answer.  It felt uncomfortable and a bit embarrassing.  "Maybe he won't let me in because I don't have money to spend.", I thought.  It was a ridiculous thought, I know.  The gigantic man responded with a tilt on his head, a bit of indecipherable expression, and then allowed me in.  Sigh of relief!

"There.. there she is.", my mind was racing.  The girl who has been holding that vintage Victor Wood long playing album in the plane.  For sure she's a Filipino because why would she be holding an old record of a 70's Filipino crooner.  I approached her and then asked her for directions.  Instead of giving me directions, she offered to give me a lift.   She and her husband were on their way someplace, and said that they'd pass by the Strip.  So, I hopped onto their jeep, and I felt tremendously grateful for "Filipino hospitality" in America no less.

Singer and actor, Victor Wood.  Philippines' Juke Box King in the 70's.  (The photo is from  http://victorwood.weebly.com/victors-album.html.)
Since it would be a hassle for them to make unnecessary turns, I insisted for them to drop me off on the street in front of the hotel.  I told them that they don't have to drop me off at the actual hotel entrance.  Little did I know that I would have to walk a few miles to reach the hotel entrance from where I was dropped off.  Hotels in Las vegas are humongous!  Bellagio's dancing fountains on the front stretched for more than a mile, I think.  Although I was completely exhausted, I still couldn't help but laugh at myself and thought that my first trip to the USA was indeed gruelingly exciting!

I actually arrived a day earlier than the check-in day.  So, after a few minutes catching my breath, and drying off my sweat, I went over to the front desk and asked about the conference arrangements.  I thought I could check-in earlier.  Participants of the conference can only check-in on the assigned date.  My option was to get a room.  My eyes went so wide that they would pop out  if I hadn't blinked in disbelief of the rate I was told by the front desk receptionist!  Wow!  Hotels in Las Vegas are expensive!

I needed help!  I went to the pay phone booth to make a call to the office in Manila.  Obviously, I needed a place to stay, and I have no money to pay for an expensive room in Bellagio.  When I saw the telephone, "Holy crap!".  There were so many buttons that it looked more like a control panel in the bridge of Starship Enterprise.  I went over to the corner and started to feel a bit desperate.   Fortunately, there's a lady in a Hawaiian shirt and walking shorts with a name tag inscribed with her nickname and the words "Manila, Philippines".   A Bellagio employee.  I ran towards her and asked her to help me out in making an overseas phone call.  She not only helped with dialing on the rather confusing telephone unit but also let me use her call card.   Another form of "Filipino hospitality".  No wonder FIlipinos are able to easily survive and adapt in foreign lands because they are so gracious in helping out their own "kababayan" (countrymen).

I was able to stay in a motel in downtown Las Vegas with another Filipino attendee of the conference.  The experience in Las Vegas was unforgettable and truly amazing!  For one, I met Elvis Presley and a few showgirls!  (Ha-ha-ha-ha!)  The highlights for me however, are the unforgettable first hand encounter of the so-called "Filipino hospitality".  There is such a thing!  And let me tell you.  It's a genuine FIlipino trait!

Mabuhay!
I met Elvis Presley.  LOL!
Took a picture with two "tall" Las Vegas showgirls.
On my way to the conference.  It seemed a million years ago...

1 comment:

  1. Very nice story...kakatuwa tyong pilipino sobrang maabildad khit saan tyo narooon...kya nnga so proud to be a filipino!

    ReplyDelete

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