MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – For 10 days, Australian tourist Michael Martin Caruana roamed around a mall in Malate, Manila hoping to find her Filipina girlfriend Veniz Jane Galvez.
The couple met through an online dating site and was set to marry on Thursday, March 29.
Caruana arrived in Manila last March 17, more than a week before the planned wedding.
However, the 55-year-old Australian went missing shortly after he arrived in the country because Galvez failed to fetch him at the airport.
The 27-year-old Galvez, who came all the way from Bulacan, said heavy Manila traffic kept her from meeting her husband-to-be on time.
Caruana said he became afraid when he stepped out of the airport terminal and did not see Galvez.
“I really had a bad experience because I wasn’t feeling well at the airplane so I was really looking forward to see her at the airport,” he told dzMM’s “Pasada Sais Trenta on Wednesday.
Caruana said that while he was waiting at the arrival area, he was harassed by a taxi driver, who kept on telling him that the person he was supposed to meet won’t be coming.
“The taxi driver said, ’Come on sir, she’s not coming,’” said Caruana. “Then 3 other men came out of nowhere and tried taking my luggage. They scared the hell out of me.”
MIAA probing harassment
Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) media affairs chief Connie Bungag told ABS-CBNnews.com in a phone interview that airport management is investigating the incident.
Bungag said the probe will focus on the accreditation of the taxi driver that allegedly harassed Caruana, saying that tourist-accredited taxis usually queue at the airport’s passenger pick-up area.
However, she noted that several white taxis or regular-metered taxis also have access to the airport.
She added that the incident was not captured on closed- circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
Caruana was eventually convinced to ride the taxi and head to Pearl Manila Hotel, where he and Galvez had stayed before.
“Kaya doon ang sinabi niya , kasi kapag hindi kami nagkita sa airport, doon ko siya pupuntahan kasi doon kami unang nag-stay, so understood ‘yun,” explained Galvez.
However, bad luck continued for the Australian as the taxi driver dropped him off in another hotel.
Caruana said the driver even ripped him off and charged him P1,250.
Without Galvez’s contact information, Caruana roamed Robinson’s mall in Malate hoping that he would bump into his girlfriend.
“Paikot-ikot siya doon, nagbabaka-sakali siya,” said Galvez.
Caruana's family was able to trace him to the hotel after he used his credit card.
They immediately relayed the information to the Galvez family with the help of Australian police.
The couple's meeting was delayed for 10 days, but it was still worth it for Caruana.
“Veniz called me at the hotel and I was surprised. When she picked me up and the first time I laid my eyes on her, I just cried. I was just so happy to see her,” said Caruana.
Galvez is thankful that nothing happened to Caruana.
Caruana, meanwhile, said he has learned his lesson and will no longer leave things to chance.
Because of the incident, their wedding has now been moved to April 3. -- With a report from Alex Santos, ABS-CBN News