At the check-in counter queue alone, I’d never felt so humiliated for my being Filipino (or Asian, if that’s the case). Seeing that the Business Class counter had been idle for a while, this check-in usher eagerly asked a Caucasian couple before me if they were Business/First Class passengers. “No, we’re flying Economy…” Despite that, the usher very warmly, with a wide smile, led them to the Business Class counter and said it’s open anyway. The couple responded positively and thanked him.
When the couple finished—which would have been my turn already—I asked the same usher if I could claim my boarding pass from that Business Class counter as all the economy counters were so busy dealing with passengers hauling a handful of bags.
He did not even look me in the eye. He simply reached his palm out to me with a cold, “Show me your passport and itinerary.” Both of which I handed to him. After flipping through the identity page, he coldly broke the bad news to me, “That counter is only for Business Class passengers” in Filipino. I dared not argue as I thought this Caucasian-sucking ignoramus was not worth any trouble.
Fast-forward to the boarding gate. The “world’s worst airport” personnel (or management?) has this inefficient, time-consuming and ineffective policy of scouring through all forms of packages/baggage—despite THREE security gates having screened all bags prior to even entering the boarding gate.
What is there to do? This is a by-product of George Bush’s war on terror obsession.
This unfriendly lady was picking out my toiletries one by one, out of my bag, all of them particularly small. She did not bother checking or poking that stupid drumstick on any other parts of my bag. (I’ve always been mindful of the 100-ml limit of liquids to be taken in hand-carried bags, so I made sure they were all small enough to be contained.)
One by one, she judged my mouthwash, sunscreen lotion, facial moisturiser, toothpaste, hair gel—all within the 100-ml limit container—as deemed “unacceptable to board the flight.”
I calmly argued that I know the policies of the 100-ml limit and if she insisted, I’d be fine if she put them all in ziplocked bag; even if that would mean collecting it at my destination already. No, she was adamant and still cold: “Get your own ziplock bag, buy from the Duty Free upstairs or at the bookstore outside the airport.”
“Outside the airport?” I thought to myself. Does this little witch want me to miss my flight? After that entire queue outside and the hours-long maze through immigration gates (which, by the way, is serviced only by five officers amid an unending deluge of outgoing passengers)?
She was so unfriendly that it was pretty easy to take her as someone who either has been unable to get sex for 10 years now or that she was simply too unhappy about her job: rummaging through people’s clothes and underwear, more often than not used/unwashed.
It didn’t stop there. When I tried to negotiate with her to let me keep at least just the moisturiser and the sunscreen, she simply, again very coldly and not even looking me in the eye, shot back in Filipino: “You decide: check the bag in [despite the glaring opened laptop that she pulled out from the same bag] or throw all these away.”
I managed to let her keep my bag for a second while I went back to the duty-free shops one floor up to ask for—pay for it even!—a ziplock bag for my toiletries and, here ensued another scene:
While waiting for this blonde Canadian girl (she was toting her passport) to finish paying for her items, I made small-talk with the cashier about how I’m “glad to see they have more choices for Marlboros in their shops, as against the new airport terminal.” She didn’t seem too fond of me and simply shrugged away.
The blonde girl then proceeded to ask for two extra ziplock bags, apparently also for her toiletries, and the cashier, in her friendliest smile, quickly handed her THREE!
When it was my turn, I asked her if I could buy—PAY FOR—one small plastic ziplock bag for my toiletries. “No, it’s all accounted for. We do daily inventory so we can’t give them away.” Another cold, unfriendly Filipino that only behaves as such to a Filipino, apparently.
I offered to buy a small item only for me to be given a ziplock bag and so I could put my stuff in it but the guy next to her snarled back, in Filipino: “Sir, only your purchased item form the duty-free is allowed to be in our ziplock bags. We lock them in, including your receipt, as soon as you have paid for your item.”
Wow, I thought. Whatever exception to that policy was for Caucasians, I simply don’t get it.
Back at the departure gate, I resigned to the fact that I would throw my toiletries away. I had a little argument with their equally unapologetic and rather condescending shift manager (at least that’s how she behaved toward them), and simply left my inadmissible stuff to them.
But the biggest surprise for the night? A Russian-sounding group of four all had little bottles of liquid (perfume, mouthwash, sunscreen, etc.)—that the same unfriendly, sex-deprived lady simply put back into their bags. No fuss, no argument, no nothing except for a very wide-smiled “Thank you Ser!”
What I learned that night? Ninoy Aquino was being rhetorical when he professed “The Filipino is worth dying for.” To me, after having been treated second-class citizen in my own country, Ninoy was simply being poetic; in need of some emotional release in his then-incarcerated state. It could have been another of those articulations he was overly fond of that we so dearly, stupidly took to heart as a virtue he supposedly fought and died for.
No, I will not die for a country nor for a people that treats me just like I don’t belong to it. That wasn’t even an isolated case. Not for me, not for some of my Filipino friends, not even for my [non-Filipino] Asian friends who have once lived in the Philippines.
Or probably the Aquinos had/have it good because they are glorified to be saints and spotless beings by their oligarchs in the media; who probably would not even shed a single drop of blood for them, if push comes to shove?
Ninoy’s dying for this country and this people is just not worth all the double-standards that one endures now.
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