Brokedown airline

I was at the Naia Terminal 3 by 2 p.m. for a flight to Davao that was scheduled to leave at 3:25 last Friday afternoon.  As I entered the pre-departure area at the lower level of the terminal, the place was packed, like a can of sardines.  There were absolutely no empty seats, and neither was there any  space to move.

Sure there was a mild typhoon which did not even hit the Visayas, and as far as I knew, had already left the Philippine area of responsibility.  The Cebu Pacific ground attendants would blare every now and then that this or that flight was delayed due to the non-arrival of the turn-around plane.  I thought: What else was new?  I had to stand for more than two hours, my legs and lower back in excruciating pain, until around 5:20 when the CebPac ground attendants announced that the Tuguegarao flight was canceled because the airport had “sunset limitations” (God, I thought—even a near-dolt would have figured out that if a plane for Tuguegarao had not taken off by 4:30, it would not reach the place before sunset, that airport having no night-landing facilities). 

Mercifully, two ladies, exasperated because they were waiting in the pre-departure area since nine in the morning stood up and sadly left. Luckily, I was standing close by.

Earlier, the announcement was that the aircraft for Davao would arrive at 5:50 p.m.  By 6:30 in the evening, no plane had arrived.  I went to the ground attendant’s station, still traipsing amid a sea of tired bodies, only to be told after a long wait that the plane would arrive by 7:37 (wow, such precision).  I called up Davao to say that I would probably have to cancel, but was told they could wait. (I would fly in just for a dinner meeting, and get back to Manila the following day).  Still, losing my seat and forced this time to park my butt in a ledge beside the glass panel separating the pre-departure area from the outside perimeter of the tarmac, I patiently waited.  By 7:30, I went back to the station and asked where the plane for Davao was.  The lady, harassed by all the questions flying from all over, was still composed when she apologetically said that the plane was still in Tacloban.  That was when I decided to cancel my trip.

Apparently, Cebu Pacific had just “upgraded” their computer systems the day before, and the same had broken down last Friday, or some such reason that I found out only when an ABC 5 team in the main lobby was reporting the same after interviewing several passengers booked on international flights of the brokedown airline.  How I wanted to be interviewed and raise a “dirty finger” on cam.  But I guess age has mellowed my temper somewhat and I thought the better of the damned situation.

Had those Cebu Pacific attendants been upfront to the thousands cramped up in the one of the “worst airport systems” in the universe, that they had a systems breakdown, I could have rushed to the PAL ticket office and taken a substitute flight.  Lying and giving false excuses, even in a crisis situation, will always reap bitter dividends.

I blamed my daughter when I was on the car headed back home for getting me a Cebu Pacific ticket, which she sheepishly said was “cheaper.” 

I shouted: “I don’t care how much cheaper they are. Never, ever again should you get me a ticket on that airline!”  And then I recalled when she once booked us on a Cebu Pacific airline to Singapore in 2009, to try the “promo” rates of  Marina Bay Sands Hotel.  Cheap thrills of the Filipino middle class.  I berated her for the crammed seats (even on an international flight), and was mollified only when I and my grandson were enjoying our swim on the Sands’ humongous rooftop pool.

* * *

Lying and making false excuses do not reap political dividends either.  As my friend Francis Tolentino should have realized several times over in his now-broken down political aspirations.

I have nothing but sympathy for Francis.  His dad, Judge Isaac Tolentino, was one of three courageous leaders from Cavite (the others being Judge Carlos Batino and the late Nanding Campos) who hosted Tito Doy Laurel and Tita Eva Kalaw, along with my much-admired Rene Saguisag, in what I had then labeled “truth rallies” when we were yet informing the public of the excesses of Marcos’ authoritarianism.  Those were the heady days following Ninoy’s assassination.  Francis and I had remained good friends since then.

Just a remembered footnote:  It was in my modest Tagaytay cottage which I built in 1977, during a birthday celebration of my wife three weeks before that ill-fated Ninoy homecoming, that I broached to Tito Doy and Ninoy’s sister Tessie Oreta the slogan “Hindi Ka Nag-iisa” to be used for Ninoy’s then-scheduled arrival of Aug. 7, later moved to Aug. 21.

But going back to Francis, and the latest misadventure of the “Playgirls” in Santa Cruz, Laguna which mercifully, Mar Roxas had not watched.

See how your “holy friends” in the LP are now excoriating you for that obviously outré “gift.”

PNoy chose to “gift” the loyal Francis with a thankless job.  What this metropolis needs is systemic change, and that can happen only with federalism, so people can elect a governor of Metro Manila.  Coordinating so many agencies of government, national and local, without any real authority, can never solve the problems of a metropolis bursting at its seams.  Problems have gone haywire, and Francis should not be blamed entirely for the bizarre traffic pandemic.  (More about the “crazy” metropolis in another article).

Francis:  your senatorial aspirations are simply not written in the stars, and as a friend,  “payong kaibigan”—  atras na muna, p’re.  You are still in your fifties.  Life has so much more to offer than a doomed senatorial bid.

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