The NAIA Experience: The Bad, The Ugly and The Good News (in that order)

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photo via skyscrapercity.com
NAIA just seems to be the target of many a scrutiny recently, having been voted as the worst airport to sleep in by Guide ToSleeping In Airports and now, CNN Go has placed it in the third spot for the World’s Most Hated Airports for 2011.  Come to think of it, it could have been on the list since after the 1970s, as according to the said report, NAIA is “stuck in the 70’s”. And based on experience, no one would want to be in that era in 2011 unless it is a retro-themed party.

Does not look THAT bad from here… (The NAIA T1 Lobby  via pinoyhalo)
My first ever airport experience was the Terminal 2 Centennial airport on a domestic flight.  It was clean, spacious and has modern design then and was only for exclusive use by Philippine Airlines of which I have then on been taking until recently if only for the miles that I get to use from my father’s Mabuhay Miles (thanks dad).  Although based on what I’ve seen on a recent trip last year, I’m afraid that the Terminal 2 is starting to, shall we say, “peel off at the edges”.  I hope that it gets fixed soon and kept well.  The controversial Terminal 3 has also been recently opened but only a little too late for it to be called “new”.  As for Terminal 1, I only got to experience it firsthand last year.  I have heard so many horrible things about its state that oddly enough I looked forward to seeing it for myself and well, it was an experience where one might say, “Que Horror!” in exasperation.  
OR… Maybe it does. (photo via carabaopowerii.multiply.com)
  The long queue at the entrance alone is a sign of inefficiency and you are not even inside of it!  Once inside, be prepared to witness a seemingly spacious lobby filled with people, mostly standing up and the  “lucky” ones seating on the few seats that seemed to be just thrown in at the center with no particular order.  Noise is everywhere and you cannot decipher what the Public Announcement speakers are trying to say because of this—has your check-in counter opened?  Has your flight been cancelled?  Well you can always look up at the obsolete departure/arrival schedule boards.  The shuffling noise it makes whenever it has to change flight schedules makes one think how such an old board managed to have stayed for so long despite its frequent usage.  Good maintenance? Maybe so, but last time I checked with Siri we are now on the 21st century, maybe its time to give it a rest.  After checking- in you have to queue for the payments for the travel tax and the terminal fee.  Why the travel tax can never be included in your ticket is a mystery and as for the terminal fee well, one wonders while looking around what kind of airport maintenance warrants this but you pay anyway if only it guarantees you’ll be out of there sooner.  Waiting for your flight you might want to do some duty free shopping, eat some freshly-baked croissants on a café and make that trip to the washroom to refresh.  Well, you could forget about all that.  There is no shopping to be done there other than souvenir shops that just by looking at their signage style might have been selling the same wares since, you guessed it, the ‘70s!  How about a lovely meal?  Unless you are staying at a Business Class lounge, you can forget about that, too.  The concessionaires remind me of those that can be found in Provincial Bus Terminals, not that there’s anything bad about them except that this is an airport. There is nothing world-class at all except for their prices.  That is taking the street slang, “ang kapal ng mukha” to a whole new other, world-class level.    And the bathrooms! Oh, the bathrooms.  Let’s just say that it takes more than the big plastic barrel filled with water at the ladies’ room to wipe it off of its sorry state.  
photo courtesy of http://www.news.nfo.ph/
On arrival, welcome your luggage on the retro-ish carousel (hey, maybe it is retro-themed party after all!) and when you get out get mobbed by peasants and dubious men offering to help you with your luggage or suggesting a cab.  Filipino hospitality probably but it comes with a price, as in you literally have to pay or give them tips for well, yanking your luggage from you.  Looking around- and you have to look long and hard– you can tell that this airport was once a modern, well-designed  gateway but poor maintenance, lack of well-trained and efficient management and staff, and quick-fix renovations have turned it to a joke.  What a shame. 
But just in time, good news.   Perhaps partly thanks to these bad presses that there are now plans of renovating the NAIA Terminal 1.  Better late than never, as they say.  An article in Business Mirror reports about the proposal by Budji Layug, Royal Pineda and Kenneth Cobonpue, under the National Competitiveness Council Program, for a redesign and renovation of Terminal 1.  They are also reported to be doing this pro bono which can only mean that this might actually materialize without all that bureaucracy crap that might go on, well at least not on the architects’ and deisgners’ part.  For all the other costs, it is estimated that the renovation would amount to 1-Billion Pesos.  Maybe this time there would be no controversy or no earth-shattering exposes, just a finished project for the Filipino people.  That should not be so hard now, right?  Click here to view the video for the renovation plan.  I really hope and wish for the best for this development because if there’s anything I would want to be stuck in the 1970s, it would be disco balls and not our airport.
by: K
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