In My Eyes: by Edward B. Antonio
You couldn’t help but agree with tourists and visitors coming to RP that indeed, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is one of the worst airports in the world.
I did not go abroad and came back, fellas.
It happened that our mother, Lourdes died last August, and my brother, Danny, had to fly from Calgary, Canada, to join us during the wake and funeral.
His story is indeed a horrifying one, embarrassing to any Filipino.
He got a ticket that would fly him from Canada to the NAIA then to Laoag International Airport (LIA). Before alighting, the stewardess warned him of dorobo people at the airport. Dorobo is Japanese term for a robber. Upon arrival at the NAIA, a swarm of airport personnel hounded him, volunteering to carry his baggage.
When he said he could manage, these people became belligerent, staring at him with intent to harm.
“Magbigay naman kayo ng pamasko, sir!” one shouted.
“Sige na po sir, mag-be ber month na!”
Seeing him hounded and pestered by these people, the airport security guard came to his “rescue,” ferrying him down a long hallway.
“Where are we going?” my brother asked.
“To the upper floor, sir, where you can transfer to a connecting flight to Laoag,” he said.
“Hey, the place is just a stairway away,” Danny replied, pointing to a 15-step stairway leading to the domestic airport.
“Oo nga po, sir, pero mapapagod ka lang diyan,” was the security guard’s reply.
Why they were walking along the corridor, Danny became suspicious.
“Where are we going?” he asked again.
“To the elevator, sir.”
Then it dawned on him of a story about a balikbayan from the US who was escorted to the elevator and right there inside, he was robbed and divested of his money and valuables by a security guard!
Sensing the danger, he stopped and told the security guard (an Ilocano who professed he is from la Union) that he’d rather take the stairs.
The security guard’s face changed. It turned sour.
“Okay, here’s your pamasko,” Danny said, handing him some paper bills, then made a U-turn. The guard stopped following him and pocketed the money with a wide smile.
While there at the domestic airport conveyor waiting for his other baggage, he noticed that his baggage seemed to be taking too long to come out through the conveyor.
“The rotating conveyor must have been circling for 30 minutes and yet, my baggage has not come,” he said.
All along, a man had been watching him.
The man approached him and said, “Is your baggage tarrying too long, sir?” he asked.
“Yeah, been here for 30 minutes already.”
“Siguro, sir, natambakan. Sandali lang po at titingnan ko.”
The man went inside the baggage holding area and came out after 5 minutes.
And presto! Danny’s baggage was coming out!
“Sir, andyan na po ang bagahe ninyo,” the man said, pointing to Danny’s baggage with a begging hand.
When Danny saw the begging hand, as if asking for a lagay, he became worried because he just gave his last peso bills to the security guard a while ago. With no other option, he took out his wallet and gave him the lowest denomination available, a 10-Canadian dollar.
The man took it with both hands, smelled both sides, and then pocketed it with a wide, wide grin. Danny later learned that the man had some companions lurking around waiting to pester him in case he refused to give something.
After the ordeal, Danny “safely” boarded the Philippine Airlines that would fly him to LIA, in Barangay Gabu, Laoag City. He thought he was already safe because he knew Laoag City well as he studied there for a time in college.
As he was alighting, the stewardess warned him: “Sir, mag-ingat po kayo dito.”
He had phoned earlier my sister Judy and his husband, Gary, to fetch him at the airport via their car.
At the tarmac, he was met, again, by some men, trying to grab his bags and baggage. It was literally a tug-of-war between him and the men.
“Sir, ako na ang magdadala!”
“Sir, kami na!”
Danny got nervous. The trauma that he got from the NAIA had not subsided. Luckily, Judy and Gary arrived at the scene.
“Manong, kami na ang magdadala niyan,” she said.
The men withdrew in sour notes, murmuring things they could not understand.
And so, after a horrifying day, Danny arrived safely in Cabugao town, here in Ilocos Sur.
Claret, her ticket agent said: “Ang samasama talaga ng ugali ng mga kapwa nating Pilipino sa ating mga airport. Nakapagtataka at hindi maluna-lunasan ito kahit na tambak ang mga reklamo.”
Arnel, Danny’s friend who is presently based in the US advises: “Punta ka sa lugar na maraming tao. Titigil sila kapag sila’y pinagtitinginan na. Pero kung ikaw ay nag-iisa, patay kang bata ka!”
This is how bad our airports are, fellas.
Tourism surely won’t escalate because of these airport termites.
It’s about time PNoy and his airport henchmen bury these termites alive.
Or murder them secretly, including their airport patrons.
That’s the only way to make our airports more pleasant for tourists, balikbayans and the Filipino people.
And to Brother Danny and the thousands of Filipino overseas migrants coming home to savor once more the fold of their native land.#