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There’s the Rub

Couple of things too

One was everyone complaining about the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which compelled President Aquino himself to issue an apology on TV. What everyone—locals and foreigners alike—was complaining about in particular was the air-conditioning conking out in the place. The airport being deluged by a horde bound for the provinces during the Lenten break, it was a veritable hell.

I can imagine the ordeal. Coming off from the blissful cool of the first few months of the year, the capital has turned into a furnace over the last few weeks. I’ve had the electric fans blowing overtime in my place, which heats up fast being small and low-ceilinged, just making sure I do not cause a fire in the combustible dryness. I wondered how it must feel being cooped up in the airless penitentiary of Naia.

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There’s no lack of explanation for why the air-conditioning in Naia has virtually disappeared, none of them satisfactory. But the bigger question is why close to four years after the P-Noy administration took over, Naia remains this way. Or specifically why close to four years after Mar Roxas and Jun Abaya, the two Department of Transportation and Communications chiefs, took over, Naia remains the

hellhole that it is.

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That’s no exaggeration. For the last two years, Naia has been named the worst airport in the world by the travel website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.” This year can’t

possibly make it better, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to sleep in an airport bereft of air-conditioning.

You wonder why the rehabilitation of Naia hasn’t been a national priority. Indeed, you wonder why Roxas, who was the DOTC head when Naia first became known as the worst airport in the world, didn’t do everything in his power to resurrect Naia even before he decided to vow to do everything in his power to

resurrect Leyte. Never mind that it is named

after his boss’ father who was martyred at its tarmac. Mind only that it is the face the Philippines presents before the world.

It is the first glimpse of the country visitors catch when they come here. To say that it is an embarrassment is to say that the Black Hole of Calcutta was an embarrassment to India at one point. If the locals themselves can complain of an airport in an utter state of dilapidation, home to hustlers and extortionists in the guise of officials and taxi drivers, not necessarily  respectively, foreign visitors most certainly can, and will.

Recently, I just saw an article about Americans looking to thaw out their frozen asses for the summer, after the wintry cold that swept through their states these past months. The Philippines is not one of their preferred destinations, nor has it merited a whisper of it. Doubtless that owes to a myriad of reasons, but I imagine Naia is one of them. The horror stories told about it by departing guests can’t possibly win friends and influence tourists.

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Government says it will go on an infrastructure spending binge the next couple of years to modernize the country. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what one of its top priorities should be.

Two was the staff of Wack Wack complaining about Mar Roxas. The story appeared last Thursday before the newspapers took a break. What can I say? Why am I not surprised?

The story, whose original source apparently was Arnold Clavio, is that Roxas went to the golf club in the company of golf pro Rey Pagunsan. He refused to pay Pagunsan’s fee. When the staff insisted, he blew up, uttering the usual curse that has to do with one’s mother and saying things like “Walang presi-presidente sa ’kin!” and “Walang batas-batas sa ’kin!” When another staff followed him down the green to ask for his receipt, he blew up again, saying didn’t he tell them he would pay later?

Roxas’ explanation for this is that, one, he wasn’t cursing at anyone, he was cursing at the world. Two, he was taken aback by the new rule that said even guests who were not there to play but only to give a few tips had to pay the fee as well. Three, he was a member of good standing, he had never been delinquent, so why should they harass him over payment?

Well, one, the rule is clear: A curse is a curse, and only louts curse in havens of gentility associated with a gentleman’s game. Two, as acquaintances who’ve played there tell me, the rule is even clearer and has been there for as long as the club has stood there: Any guest who essays into the green pays the fee of P5,000, however long or short he stays there, whatever the reason he gives for stepping out there.

Roxas says Wack Wack is his second home, having been a member there for as long as he can remember. And he finds that rule new?

Three, as the same acquaintances tell me, the rule is clearest on it: It is not, first play, then pay. It is, first pay, then play. Why Roxas should feel himself exempt from all this, enough to do what he did, only he can say.

Roxas can always try to explain away his boorishness by saying his tone and manner weren’t as bad as his complainers made them out to be. But unfortunately for him, how insufferable he can be, which used to be known only to people who had actually met him, ceased to be so when that video of him browbeating Alfred Romualdez in the aftermath of “Yolanda” came out. Now the world knows how he is, and it is not, well, endearing.

Why does he piss off people every time? Why does he antagonize people unnecessarily, self-destructively, suicidally?

He can’t help it. It’s imprinted in his DNA, it’s hotwired in his brain. Take it from the story of the scorpion that bit the carabao as it was ferrying him on its back to the other side of the river. “Why did you do a stupid thing like that?” the carabao groaned. “Now I’ll fall into the water and we’ll both die.”

“Alas,” said the scorpion, “but it’s in my nature to bite.”

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