Hard on the heels of a thoroughly uncomplimentary review of Manila (interesting fact: itâ€™s a dump) by regular visitor Geoffrey James on Travelblog.org, Filipinos have a new reason to feel persecuted with the announcement that NAIA was rated the Worst Airport in the World by the Guide to Sleeping in Airports website. The rating is based on votes of visitors to the website, travelerâ€™s reviews submitted over the previous year, and information provided by airports about their facilities and services. Technically the ranking only applies to Terminal 1, but considering that nearly all foreign visitors are forced to arrive and depart the country through this hellish choke point the assessment and the scathing accompanying comments might as well apply to the whole airport. The Guide does point out that Terminal 3 is much newer, but also links to a recent news story of an engineering report which deemed that building to be â€˜structurally flawedâ€™.
If you donâ€™t wish to wade through page after page of comments (and there are A LOT of comments) from visitors to the airport, the Guide summarizes the main points made by most of them:
- Unfriendly, corrupt staff.
- Bathrooms are a mess
- Corruption, bribery, scams run rampant here.
- Keep your bags close and always have your eyes on them. Don’t get distracted!
- Terminal 1 is in BAD shape. Crowded — Dirty — Limited seating — Toilets are a disaster!
Although there are a few compliments from people who have traveled through Terminal 2 (or found that secret hidden lounge upstairs in Terminal 1, which is pretty nice), the majority of the visitor comments typically sound like this one:
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â€œ…It has to be experienced to be believed. Think of a bombed out ruin and you’ll get some idea. It’s like a cattle yard only worse. Toilets filthy. No seating once you get thru customs (maybe 40 seats for a thousand passengers)….This airport is a joke. Filthy, smelly with virtually no facilities whatsoever. With everyone who leaves the joint being ripped off for 750 pesos local bucks departure tax (around 20 Australian), we deserve better. Shame on the government there. A place to be avoided.â€
Of course, none of this is news to anyone who has had the misfortune of passing through NAIA, and not even the local propaganda machines could avoid reporting the substance of the story. But in a completely predictable, passive-aggressive way they still managed to make the point that the criticism is unjustified, sometimes tripping over each other in the process â€“ a few hours after the Inquirer quoted NAIA-1 Manager Dante Basanta explaining that several rest rooms had already been renovated and that â€œWeâ€™re also improving water services; the replacement of old pipes is ongoing,â€ ABS-CBN posted a story following an interview with MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado and reported:
â€œHonrado admitted that lack of space constrain authorities from giving the airport toilets a modern look. â€˜The challenge is space eh,â€™ he said.
He, however, denied complaints that the rest rooms have no toilet paper and no running water.
â€˜I have to deny the report na walang water at toilet paper dyan. Yung water, we have high water pressure,â€™ he stressed.â€
And just as an aside, one has to wonder who Honrado and ABS-CBN were trying to convince, exactly, since his comments were quoted in untranslated Tagalog.
Just as with the public reaction to the stinging rebuke from Geoffrey James, the Philippines is once again demonstrating its awesome talent for missing the point of outsidersâ€™ criticism. These are not abstract and debatable insults like, â€œFilipinas are easy,â€ or â€œAll Filipinos are scam artists.â€ No matter who you are, your self-image is only relevant to you; it does not become the default image that the rest of the world should be presumed to have. Printing a rebuttal in Tagalog to a poor review of the countryâ€™s only INTERNATIONAL gateway of any consequence is the most sublime example of this willful refusal to be judged by any standards other than the ankle-high ones Filipinos set for themselves that I think Iâ€™ve ever seen. And no matter how many toilets they fix or how many ill-mannered thieves they ferret out at NAIA, as long as that attitude persists that airport, this city, and large parts of this entire country are going to be continued to be regarded as a dump and an experience best avoided at all costs.
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