Journey into Hell: Manila Airport

Abandon hope, all ye who enter… 

The world’s biggest brothel is called Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Manila. While most pilots assigned to land at this monument to stupidity wisely commit suicide by impaling themselves on their own control columns, cabin crew have no option but to leap into the plane’s engines. This is a great relief to the plane’s passengers, who generally cheer and whoop with delight and joy at being spared a landing here. As their plane nosedives towards the ground at 1000 kph, the singing from the plane’s cabin can be heard as far south as Scott’s base in the Antarctic, and has on more than one occasion been known to deafen the entire population of Cavite.

But let’s suppose for an instant that you are an Atheist, and do not believe in Hell, but would like to find out what Hell is like. You would in this instance go to NAIA. Here is a little of what you might experience there. Be aware that nothing you read here can possibly be as bad as the real thing, so in order to make your experience reading this blog closer to reality, I will ask you to leave your computer for a moment, procure yourself a pair of chopsticks, sharpen the tips, and ram them into your eyeballs. Push them all the way through your amygdala, through your corpus callosum, until the sharpened tips strike the rear of your skull in the vicinity of your pons. Then read on.

 You will approach NAIA via taxi from Manila. Naturally the driver will tell you the meter will not work, and the price is three hundred pesos, even though you can see for yourself the display tells you that the price is currently seventy pesos. However, this is only after you have fought World War Three with him.

When you first enter his taxi, he will repeatedly attempt to “get you a girl.” He will tell you the price is only 8000 pesos. For this price you could almost buy yourself a cruise ship. He will ignore everything you say, and repeatedly attempt to take you to “a nice girl, very young.”

You must fight world war three with him, without making him upset, as Filipinos are the most volatile people on earth if they feel offended, and will kill anyone who offends them. The Philippines has had more journalists murdered in the last five years than Iraq. This is completely true. 

Just before the entrance to the airport you will reach something called a, “Security Checkpoint.” This is a collection of poles holding up a strip of corrugated iron roof. It has four lanes, with four security guards holding torches. If you are a terrorist, just drive straight through without stopping, and nothing will happen to you, as the “security guards” cannot run as fast as your taxi, and by the time they have drawn their guns and accidentally shot one of their number, you will be safely out of range, and at the airport entrance fifty yards away. There you may safely blend into the crowd of thousands who have been waiting to enter the front doors since the time of the T-rex.

If you are not a terrorist you may pause if you wish, though there is no barrier or gate of any kind. A security guard will motion the driver to open the boot. He will not bother looking inside the boot, as he is only checking to see if the car’s boot-release catch works. He will then wave you on to the airport. 

Arriving at the entrance, you will be extremely popular if you bring five loaves and two fish. Failing this, you risk being torn apart and eaten.

It is possible that a pair of security guards may stroll past, with a pair of mismatched dogs on the ends of ragged pieces of rope that have broken several times, and have been repaired with knots at intervals of a foot. These are the airport’s sniffer dogs. 

When you enter the Pit of Despair, you will have to go through an x-ray machine. There’s three of these in total (One at the entrance, one at immigration, and one at the final departure lounge.) 

You may require a visit to the bathroom, called a C.R.- comfort room. Toilet seats haven’t yet made their way to the Philippines- toilets themselves only arrived in 2009. There’s no bog roll either- just sprayer hoses to clean your blurter.

Exiting the cubicle, you’ll immediately draw the washroom attendant- every bathroom in Manila (both of them) has an attendant, whose name and photograph is on the wall. He’ll race over to turn on the tap for you, in case you’ve forgotten the basic operation theory of the common washroom tap. He’ll then proceed to wipe the sink beside you for as long as you take- make it an hour or so, just to see him polish all the way through the countertop. The moment you turn, he’ll race to hand you paper towel, conveniently saving your fingers the three inch trip to the dispenser. When you drop your towel in the bin, he’ll immediately lift the bin an inch off the floor. This reduces the final velocity (v2 in physics. Remember final velocity squared equals initial velocity squared plus twice the acceleration multiplied by the distance- v2=u2+2aS.) of the paper towel, ensuring it does not crash through the bottom of the bin and deep into the earth’s crust, always a sensible precaution in this earthquake-prone region. Let’s not forget the Japanese Tsunami- started by an earthquake. Such things are so frequently the result of careless paper towel disposal.

All of this effort produces a peculiar physical sensation in the attendant’s body, causing his right hand to shoot out, palm upwards. Shake his hand warmly and say, “Guddaymate’ow’sithanging?”

Then leave him feeling delighted to have met you. 

You will go to the Philtrust Bank Money Change Kiosk, who will inform you that they are unable to change your money as they have no Australian dollars. So you go to their opposition next door- who only have $20 Australian. At 11am. How will they deal with the other 200+ Australians today?

Of course, it will take you a long time to arrive at this information, since you will stand in line- behind the single person being served- while SEVEN (!) people bustle about behind the counter. What are they doing? Not serving anyone. Moving from place to place, picking up pieces of paper, and looking at the computer screens. It takes fifteen minutes for the single lady in front of you to be served. Why? She is simply changing 5000 pesos into $250 US. Why does this take so long? What are the other seven people doing? Why can’t they serve?

And why do three Filipinos push in front of you the moment the lady before you leaves? Do they imagine you are a pillar, supporting the roof? An escaped terracotta warrior? Filipinos don’t understand the notion of queuing- as you’ll see repeatedly at every single desk and official- all five thousand of them-that you must pass through before entering the final lounge. Why must there be so many desks? Why can’t the person who takes your 550p “Airport Users’ Charge” also stamp your passport? Why is there another desk to do that? Why is there a separate person to receive your ticket for your Airport Users Charge? And someone else to take the big section of your boarding pass? Why more officials than Mainland China and Soviet Russia together?

You may not be thinking this at all, as you may have perished long ago, waiting for the check in counter. I – and several hundred other people- once sat on the floor for three hours waiting to check in. In Manila heat. Obviously there’s no air-conditioner. Consider it a luxury that there’s even a floor. Since mid 2011 Philippine Airlines has stopped herding passengers onto the backs of carabao and requesting they flap chicken feathers, and this fills Filipinos with immense pride. 

However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because at the check in desk, you will have an experience that will live with you until the end of your days.

As you approach the desk to check in, a security guard will approach you. You will be three metres from the check in desk at this time. He will say to you, “I’ll show you where to check in.”

You will think, how strange. Perhaps this is not the check in desk after all. However, he will lead you three metres to the check in desk, then hold his hand out. You will reach into your pocket for a 100peso note, but accidentally pull out 1000. He will say, “No, two thousand!” Immediately another guard will appear beside him. “Two thousand for me too sir!”

I wish to pause at this moment, to reflect on the enormity of what has just occurred.

One guard has just demanded 2000pesos- $50 Australian- to show you three metres to a desk you were about to approach anyway.

Another guard has immediately demanded 2000pesos- $50 Australian- for doing absolutely nothing.

This is how Filipinos view foreigners. They know that the favourite pastime of Westerners is to throw hundred-dollar notes into the air. Foreigners at NAIA have been known to get so angry at this treatment that they achieve spontaneously combustion. Should this happen nearby, you must immediately smother the flames with Filipinos. They are easily located. Just reach into your pocket. There you will find a hundred hands. These are attached to one hundred arms, which are attached to fifty Filipinos. 

At the airport’s final lounge- many of which do not have a C.R., only a long line to the last x-ray machine, you will see several shops. On the extreme left-or north end- is a shop that sells tobacco and alcohol. If you decide to purchase either of these, note that there is only one possible place you can take them:onto the plane. There’s only one exit from this lounge, and it leads onto the plane. But if you buy any alcohol from this shop, you are not allowed to take it on the plane with you. In case you are thinking of smuggling it on, you-and your carry-on-luggage (your checked baggage is already on the plane. Or has been sold on ebay.) must go through the last x-ray machine. Where the attendant will tell you that you are not allowed to take the alcohol onto the plane. So there is a shop here- but anything you buy from it must go into the garbage bin, according to Philippine law. Put simply, every customer who has ever bought anything from this shop has had to put it into the garbage bin.

This shop represents the Philippines, what it stands for, and how it does business.

This shop, like the taxi driver, and the airport guards, represent NAIA.

When you board your plane- which, if it has two wings- will NOT be a Philippine Airlines jet-(glory be!) two hundred people will attempt to use the Aeroplane toilets at once. Even the steward on the plane- normally a model of calm- will give his opinion of NAIA airport. It will be the same as yours. It will be the same as every passenger’s opinion of NAIA. It will be the correct opinion of NAIA.

And at this moment you will realise the solution to nuclear disarmament, and how to dispose of the world’s land mines. They must be dug up and scattered randomly throughout the airport guards’ houses.

The world’s nuclear arsenal must be safely disposed of. By dropping the lot on NAIA. Immediately.

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