Dream gap year turns into nightmare for Burnley couples stranded in Philippines
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Sisters Gemma and Nina Greenwood and their partners Jonny Bolt and Liam Eddleston set off on their adventure in January but found themselves with nowhere to go after flights were cancelled from the island nation.
Thankfully 22-year-olds Nina and Liam have now managed to find a flight to Doha in Qatar before catching a flight to Heathrow, but Gemma and Jonny are still in the Philippines town of Cebu.
Teacher Jonny said: "We are just two in a large number of people out here who are stranded, we are in a WhatsApp group chat with over 200 British nationals and I’m assuming that won’t be everyone who’s stranded on the islands.
"We have tried getting help from the British Embassy here but they’re being very little help, often directing us to other sources of information which aren’t very helpful, or asking for us to email them, which we have numerous times, to no reply.
"We are getting more help off other embassies such as the Dutch and German embassies who are giving us more useful information.
"The embassy keeps directing us to sweeper flights to Manila, which have increased in price from £30 per ticket, to £168 per ticket, but once in Manila there are no commercial flights back to the UK, unless you’re willing to pay upwards of another £2,000 each, and once you’re stuck in Manila because you can’t afford these flights, there are no taxis anywhere and only a select few hotels that still take foreigners, which are extremely expensive to stay at per night.
"We know this because my girlfriend‘s sister and her boyfriend had to do this and they were stranded on the streets of Manila for hours with their bags at night, looking for a hotel to take them in, they tried eight hotels before finding one.
"We have had flights home cancelled twice totalling in cost at nearly £1,500 each, we have heard of people who have had more flights cancelled for higher prices, one couple claims to have spent £6,000 on cancelled flights.
"Cebu is about to undergo more intense lockdown measures, with many people facing the prospect of their hotel closing, forcing them out onto the street and struggling to find more accommodation.
"Whilst other people are also running low on funds and could very possibly run out of money soon due to the cost of cancelled flights and not receiving a refund. With the increased measures it is going to make things like going to the supermarket more difficult for essentials.
"Other countries have organised repatriation flights for their nationals to be brought home from numerous countries including the Philippines, many free of charge as they understand the difficulty of the situation we have all been in, but all our government have offered us is the advice of returning home ASAP, although there are very few flights that are doing that and at great expense which many of us no longer afford because of the money spent on cancelled flights.
"We really need some help from the UK and we are exhausting every possible avenue but the outcomes look extremely bleak at the minute."
Their anxious father Andy, from Brierfield, spoke of his worries but also pride over how the couples have kept a stiff upper lip.
He also revealed that an ex-Burnley man, Joe Hobley, who owns a backpacker hostel in Angeles, elsewhere in the couintry, had been in touch via Facebook and offered to put the couple up.
"The four of them had been having a great time travelling around Thailand, Cambodia and Malaysia but unfortunately they reached the Philippines on lockdown. Family and friends have been brilliant in having a whip round.
"They'd budgeted for their whole trip but this has obviously virtually gone now. I think they may now try to get to Angeles if they can't find a flight out to the UK. They've all coped remarkably well considering."