Two cities

The Malaysian behind the airline ticketing counter at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 gathered the passport, ticket, Covid-19 vaccination certificate, vax and booster cards. Handing the documents back to the Filipino traveling back to Manila, he spoke — curtly, bordering on the imperious, maybe out of exasperation of facing the same situation hundreds of times in a day — like a judge handing down a sentence.

“Your country’s rules. I cannot process your flight without your One Health Pass,” the Malaysian intoned before waving off the Filipino’s explanation that the online registration for the pass on his smartphone was not allowing him to upload pictures of the very certificate and cards for which the originals were offered.

With countries of the world imposing different restrictions to prevent the entry or reentry of Covid-19 and now also monkeypox into their respective borders, international travelers in the new normal have to take extra efforts to know well in advance and to prepare all the documents, ink-and-paper and digital, that would be asked of them.

Good luck, then, to those who have just crawled out of a rock thinking they can live without a smartphone or Internet connectivity. Just crawl back to that rock because travel is not for you, if you don’t know what a brick is from that Xiaomi 12 Lite for which the behemoth Chinese gadget company gathered journalists to KL from across Asia to launch. That Xiaomi, by the way, may be the ultimate selfie phone at the moment for young people who document on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube their every waking moment. But back to traveling, with the conjunction expressly used to start a sentence for emphasis, antiquated grammar rules be damned.

Effective 1 August 2022, Malaysia relaxed travel requirements, with all visitors allowed to enter regardless of their Covid-19 vaccination status. It has also waived obtaining its version of the Philippines’ One Health Pass, and no longer required travelers to take Covid-19 pre-departure and on-arrival RT-PCR tests.

All travelers to Malaysia just have to pass through a thermal screening to ensure they are not running a fever, and that’s it, the closest anyone can hope for to reliving pre-pandemic travel when all that is required by airport authorities around the world were your passport and ticket.

Not so when entering the Philippines. At airports like KLIA2, travelers to Manila need to present the vax certificate and cards and the One Health Pass to get boarding tickets. At the departure gates, the same requirements are checked again not once but twice, or for a total of at least three people handling your documents and phone after handling hundreds of other people’s papers and phones.

What a nifty way of passing viruses and bacteria, isn’t it?

Travelers arriving at Philippine airports are then asked anew to present the One Health Pass, as well as the vaccination certificates and cards to ever-alert Bureau of Quarantine personnel. It’s only after this that you are allowed to proceed to immigration to have your passport stamped.

Our rules, their rules. To each his own, as that song says. Every nation has the sovereign right to impose measures to address challenges, like Covid-19 and monkeypox, even if the restrictions already appear to border on paranoia. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it choice, really.


“No taxi! Just take the bus or the trains,” the elderly male Malaysian tour guide told the over two dozen Filipinos, mostly social media influencers. I and lifestyle desk editor Ronald “RJ” Jayme took that to heart in walking 20,000 steps, taking the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus, and jumping in and out of the many interconnected color-coded train lines of Kuala Lumpur.

As Metro Manila aspires to get interconnected, railway systems for mass transportation, including ones passing through subways like KL’s, RJ and I tried to figure out whether that would work in Manila, even for foreigners.

From the Petronas Twin Towers to Bukit Bintang where our hotel was situated, RJ and I could have chosen to take a six-minute taxi ride or to add another 10 minutes to our day-long walk ending past 10 p.m. But no, we took the circuitous rail route, all of four train rides to cover what would just be 1.6 kilometers of road travel.

Crazy? Yes, but such are the lengths that journalists go to in order to do the job. And our verdict? KL’s train lines are interconnected enough to be a sole option for travel. This is doable in Metro Manila. Let’s go.

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