It’s past 1 am now and am in the de Guzman’s dining room, ‘silently typing’, Maria says. How nice. In a few hours, 4:30 am, she, her son Ching, and I will haul off to the airport and depart for Vietnam. How nice.

Anyway, my flight from Manila was nice. (I like to say nice over and over again because it’s nice.) I did feel sentimental though and tears were just sneaking up and rolling down my face from the cab going to the Centennial airport to the many queues of immigration. At the boarding area, I started reading Paulo Coehlo’s The Witch of Portobello that Maya lent that morning, and emotions kept swimming to shore. (It’s the second day of my period so my emotional hyper-sensitivity is not surprising. At this time of the month, weeping is as predictable as the next Singapore train.)

Anyway, the three-hour flight was comfortable and I enjoyed PAL’s lunch. I would read, doze off and read again. Sometime in between, I filled up the required Immigration Form handed out by the flight attendant. Reading the leaflet that came with it, I noticed a line that said there are no duty/excise concessions on tobacco products. Below it was a short enumeration of duty free goods (basically one bottle of hard liquor, wine and another one I can’t recall). I wasn’t sure what this meant until I landed in Singapore soil.

While waiting to pass through immigration, I messaged La Maria: I have a ream of cigarettes. Do I need to declare it? She replies: Throw it away. Keep one that’s open. Not allowed here. You’ll be fined.

After a minute, she calls and hands the phone to Randall who advised me the same, warning that the fine is in big dollars (200!). My, just as I suspected.

Immediately after immigration let me through, I grabbed my checked-in luggage, changed my pesos, proceeded to the toilet and with a heavy heart began dumping my Marl Reds into the trashcan. I made sure to keep the opened pack in my handbag. But then, I couldn’t resist resisting the law. I opened another pack and tucked it in my knapsack. Now I have two. Not one as per friends’ instruction.

I trudged to the Duty Free Liquor shop and got Maria’s Absolut Apeachy. Then I searched for the exit and found the door of nothing to declare. It was empty except for two airport officials. Expecting that my bags will be checked, I headed towards them. But before I can get to them, I caught sight of flailing arms right across the glass exit door. Ah! There was my welcome party of three – Claire, Yoj and Randall excitedly motioning for me to go out.

Of course, the first thing I remarked about was my dumped cigs. “Di bale, may surprise sa yo si Randall at si Alfred”, they kept consoling me. How nice.

And to think it did not even occur to me to bring cigs had not Belinda reminded me at the groceries the night before that they will be expensive in Sing.

Haha. How nice that I have this story to tell.