Sunday, November 20, 2011


My partner had to go to the airport to catch the 4pm flight to Bacolod. His dear lolo passed away, and he booked a plane ticket on the very day the news broke out. As the boyfriend who doesn't know what to do with his rest day, I decided to go with him to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

Our stop was Terminal 3.

What started as a simple drop-off ended up as a grand tour of the airport. You see, all I ever wanted was to find the exit to the main road, but the guard on-duty said that in order to get out, one must get in. 

Inside the ash-grey building.

NAIA Terminal 3

So there I was, rubbing elbows with the passengers in the departure hall. It helped that I bought my big backpack with me (for I was going to the gym after seeing that JC had already boarded the plane) because it was my convenient excuse to linger inside the terminal.

The problem with Terminal 3 is that there are no connecting stairs from the departure loading bay to the arrival area a few decks below. It is what separates T3 from T1 and the Centennial Terminal. A cheapskate like me would rather walk for miles to find a jeep than pay a hefty sum for a cab going back to the city. The airport designers might not have foreseen this, and it worked well in my favor.

I could easily, so easily, use the stairs so I could leave and see the Newport Mall instead. But like a stray cat in a new house, I could never let the chance to experience what it feels like to stay inside an international airport terminal slip by. 

After all, I have never been into one.

Delta Columns

First thing I noticed was the cavernous interior. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the designers of T3 did well in using natural light instead of using too many lightbulbs to illuminate large sections of the building. The lack of chairs may have forced many to sit (and lie down) on the floor, but I won't find it a hassle as long as the airport provides free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi service.  

JC told me that despite being the largest of the three NAIA terminals, putting all the international flights from the old terminal will only lead to chaos. This was evident when I saw Cebu Pacific and AirPhil Express already occupy half the space set for leaving passengers. 

The frenzy I've seen - from people trying to check-in before the gate closes, to passengers whose flights were delayed, or those who came early to book their international trips surely double during days of long vacations, Imagine the stress of being there when everyone tries to flee the city. 

Shops and restaurants - the mainstays of local malls also operate there. They are all bundled on the third floor of the glass-and-aluminum encased building. There's a Mister Donuts and Yellow Cab Pizza. I also passed by Pancake House on my way to a Mini-Stop Store where I bought my Cobra Energy Drink. I don't know if the other two terminals have these conveniences, but I'm glad the airport authorities have set aside a commercial space for the bored, weary and hungry to rest their feet. 

Despite the pricey items, it makes you feel less abandoned.

The Marketplace: CebuPac Check-In Counter

There are two ways of seeing the NAIA Terminal 3 and it all depends on your point of view. If you are for maximum security - like turning our airports into fortresses than hubs for travel, you will find the guards too relaxed and scanty. Even the bomb-sniffing dog - the only one I've seen in the terminal showed off its other talents to the amusement of passengers

instead of checking personal belongings. 

You can even use your camera to take pictures. No one would stop you from pointing your camera on sensitive places. It's a discovery that caught me by surprise knowing that I could be taken custody for my actions.

But there I was, exploring and weaving a story with photos.

The allure of natural light

I have never been to other airports other than NAIA. Fransisco Bangoy in Davao has been lost to memory and the old domestic terminal along Airport Road could be likened more to a bus station than a gateway to air travel.

So it would be unfair to judge a place without any comparison. T3 might be new and promising but improvements could still be added to make it truly world class.

A jetsetter exhausted

For starters, more benches, in bright colors mean less people sitting on cold floors. While the idea of having a sort of picnic at the airport grounds appear unconventional, authorities still have to put potted plants inside the departure hall. The place is literally dead if not fleeting. Besides, what use is the sunlight filtering through the overhead glass windows if it won't nourish any life?

Sources also tell that there is WiFi available but one has to pay for its use. Isn't it possible for airline companies to shoulder this burden, since passengers only get to use it when flights get delayed? Also, while it benefits only a selected few, having free and reliable access to the web means our airport is business friendly. At a time when work can be done even away from the office, a wired airport is essential.

broken escalators = bad service

Terminal 3 has its flaws. The broken escalators are glaring, and so are the dark unused spaces, which could have been used to accommodate stranded passengers.

Faults may be pointed and so are the praises. The people running the airport - from the security personnel to the maintenance workers are friendly and helpful. Even the bomb-sniffing, playing dead Black Retriever, gives warmth to a usually dull and monotonous edifice. The toilets are clean. There are even plants on the sink with a disclaimer that says "I'm real, don't pinch."

Visitors' Gallery

Sandwiched between the departure and arrival areas is a sub-level with a door that opens to a narrow passage. Hardly noticeable to visitors, the viewing gallery is where well-wishers and welcoming parties catch the first glimpse of arriving loved ones.

It is also where parting couples say their whispered goodbyes.

Standing there, alone in an almost meditative gaze, I checked below to spot if my partner was among the people standing in line. He was not there. Instead, what caught my attention were the throngs of arriving people, waiting for their bags to appear at the baggage carousel.

Airport Chapel

My tour was about to end for I have already covered the entire length of the gallery. On my way to the exit, I saw an overhead sign that says Airport Chapel.

"How nice," I mused.

If I were a pious passenger feeling some jitters about my plane ride, a trip to this small room would ease my doubts. So is the effect for those left behind by the passengers.

And so I went inside to say a little prayer. Upon leaving the room, my phone vibrated.

"Boo dito nako sa erplen.. I'll text u as soon as we land. Hope you're enjoying your airport tour hehehe. Thanks for accompanying me..."

With a faint smile, I pressed the call drop key and slid the phone back in my pocket.

Its time to leave as well.


Nate said...

mugen the explorer.. :)

napa-smile ako at napa-sigh.. ang sweet kasi.. --- And so I went inside to say a little prayer. Upon leaving the room, my phone vibrated.

"Boo dito nako sa erplen.. I'll text u as soon as we land. Hope you're enjoying your airport tour hehehe. Thanks for accompanying me..."

With a faint smile, I pressed the call drop key and slid the phone back in my pocket.

Its time to leave as well.

Nate said...

oh, condolence nga pala to JC..

Anonymous said...

There is a connection between departure and arrival area. The stairs, elevator and escalators are in the far right side. It is mainly use by passengers who leave their car in the overnight parking area. They have to enter the airport through the arrival area and go the 3rd floor for check in :)

Super Mario P. said...

Condolence to JC. :(

Mr. Hush Hush said...

.. and the good thing Mugen is the overnight parking.. It's very cheap, at Php50 per night, I can easily leave Blake when I travel, they have a designated area for that only, so it's safe ^_^

hmmm.. not sure if I agree with you on the plants.. I like it simple this way.. Just the ray of sunlight kissing the floors. hehehe

Mac Callister said...

sweet :-) di pako nakakapang galugad ng todo sa airport natin,too bad

Désolé Boy said...

The government won the latest battle in Singapore High Court versus PIATCO. The court backed ICC's initial resolution declaring PIATCO, indeed, violated the Anti-Dummy Law of the Philippines stating that the operation, management and control of public utilities, such as NAIA Terminal 3, should remain with Filipinos, ergo the government.
This makes me think. While it is good that the government proved PIATCO, not only violated the code, but also maneuvered the contract to favor them, somehow there's that small idea that privatization would mean better operation and maintenance of the airport. There are photos of the former MIAA spreading on Facebook and other social networking sites during it's prime years and it looks more than nice. I think the worst would've been avoided had it been properly maintained and continuously developed.
But maybe all these "worst" tagging would motivate this government to do serious about it. It's irritating to hear my father complain about all these whenever he's here.

ZaiZai said...

condolence to jc..

I too explored t3 when I was there once, ang saya kasi! but indeed it lacked chairs, so people do have to settle for the cold marble floors.

daniel the jagged little egg said...

Condolence po kay ser Jc.

Ganda ng mga shots sis' : )

Godbless : )

c - e - i - b - o - h said...

condolence to JC..

nagbabalik ang mga alaala ng T3 na hindi ko ganun kagusto sapagkat napakahirap sumakay pauwi using jeep/bus from the arrival area, or should i say, hindi ko lang alam kung paano.. hihi

Leomer Apolonio said...

This is great review of the airport Mugen. :)

I got caught on DB's story about PIATCO and having NAIA as a GOCC. I lean towards privatizing our airports because manpower and corporate culture is better than the government. Government can prove me wrong by giving me results on their management, which can just be a ho-hum moment for me.

Terminal 3 has given me a lot of "firsts" in terms of travelling on air. Sad to say, I can not make any good comparison other than the Bacolod Domestic Airport. :)