One evening, a group of Filipino teachers were talking at MBK Shopping Center in Bangkok. One teacher asked, "Where are we going to get our visa this time?" " "In Laos." Someone suggested. "Oh not Laos again" said another.
Well you can igore the negative comments - three VIP buses full of Filipino English, Math, and Science teachers from Chulalongkorn University's, English Teachers' Project recently made an exciting visa run trip to Laos. This fun-filled experience for the 'visa runners' was part of their yearly routine to leave Thailand because their teaching contracts had expired. Fortunately the teacher placement agency improved the contracts from nine months to twelve so that teachers need not exit Thailand next year. So will this be their last trip to Laos for the ETP teachers?
Inspired by the sponsor, Chulalongkorn Uni-search, Harry Sucuaje, together with Nathan "the Great", Jay Cammer, Philip Santiago, Gareth Charles and Joremar Delfin, (Miles) the fantastic emcee, organized a pageant - dubbed Miss Uni-search 2012 - to mark the end of their 7-year visa run ordeal. It was held at the panoramic poolside of one of Vientiane's most elegant hotels, The Hotel Nakhonesack.
Before coming to Laos, the organizers prepared the red carpet for the contestants to make the pageant even more exciting. After dinner, the 6-man event committee invited all promising candidates. Several pageant enthusiasts encouraged friends to participate but a lot refused. Finally five gutsy ladies joined in the fun. That night, while only a handful of night owls painted the town red, most of us stayed at the hotel to witness the most exciting and the most unforgettable visa run extravaganza.
Instead of staying in their comfort zones - chatting with roommates, playing cards, watching TV, playing games on their ipads, working on their notebooks, dozing off, hopping from one club to another, eating and drinking with friends, going to disco pubs or just simply strolling around Patuxsay Park - people decided to watch the pageant. Not only the Chula project teachers but also friends from Ramkamhaeng University and even some tourists who had booked in the hotel all witnessed the big event. The teachers combined business and pleasure to experience a most memorable night in Vientiane. As one teacher said, "When I go to Laos, I shoot two birds with one stone. " I get my visa and have a good time as well. Since this is my last trip to Laos, I'll make the most of it."
It was an hilarious event. The contestants, in their fashionable attire, walked around the pool doing funny tricks, introduced themselves in an over-the-top way, answered crazy questions, and showed talents that made us laugh till we ached. The spectators went wild, cheering and yelling for their favorite candidate and telling the judges; Lota Apostol, Ann Zappe, and Jacycee Delan who their favorites were. It was a unique pageant because the winners were judged primarily on their creativity and their ability to entertain the audience with wit and humor.
Antonette Ramos, "Catwalk Diva of the Night" was crowned Miss Uni-search and bagged 3,000 baht; Lu-che Geroche, Best in Talent snatched 1st runner-up with 2,000 baht; Maria "Miss Body Beautiful" Wilza, was 2nd runner-up with 1,000 baht. Raquel "Deepest Quote of the Night" Anibar took home 500 baht; and Claire "Darling of the Crowd" Iran was awarded a special prize of 500 baht.
Smiles, giggles, and laughter while everyone watched the pageant made everyone's troubles melt away - at least for a short while. It was a "bonding event" for all teachers and it brought out the "other side" of the amazing Chula babes. Everyone felt "sao" (nostalgic) upon leaving Laos because the pageant was one of the best nights many of us had ever had.
After October 2012, will there be another emotional encounter with the immigration official who didn't look like one (the checking at Rattanathibet in 2011 before the bus left?) Will there be more reservation conflicts, more wallets lost, more new acquaintances in Nongkai, more excitement, more disappointments of not getting a visa because only 15 days were given, more anxiety of not getting a visa for the passport lacked required number of days?
Will there be more new relationships on the border, more bus seat romances during the trip, more buying of cheap cd's and rare souvenirs in Laos, more scenery like that in the Philippines just to make Filipinos homesick, more balut to eat, more sightings of beautiful Lao girls, more million kip, more foot long sandwiches, more sight-seeing along the Mekong river, more thrills? I guess none. So, la kon 9-month contracts, la kon exits, la kon Laos. Chok dee.