It started with me sympathizing with the irate woman, whom I later came to know as actress Claudine Barretto, after I got down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 on Sunday from a Cebu Pacific Airplane from Davao City.
Asking around, I learned that the woman, who was shouting at the top of her voice at the airline complaint counter, was complaining that her luggage was off-loaded from her Cebu Pacific plane that came from Boracay.
I said to myself, “It’s a good thing a passenger is complaining strongly about the inefficiency of this airline. She has every reason to complain.”
A few minutes earlier, I had taken still photos of fellow passengers coming down from the plane. One of them was a very old woman walking with a cane. She managed to come down on the plane stairs with extreme difficulty, but I wasn’t able to take shots of her as I was several seats behind her.
I have been featuring the supposed inefficiency of the budget airline in handling passengers and their baggage, especially on arrival at NAIA 3. There have been reports of baggage being lost in transit, especially when they reach NAIA 3, which is Cebu Pacific’s berthing place.
The airline is also not friendly to its handicapped passengers as they are made to go down a flight of stairs from the plane, walk a distance from the ramp to the terminal building, climb up to the second floor, then climb down to the cargo carousel.
I learned the airline does not use the airbridge or tube to save on expenses; the fee for using the tube at NAIA 3 is about P7,000, so I heard.
Using the tube in getting into or out of the plane is much more convenient for a passenger as he or she doesn’t have to go down several flights of stairs.
Asserting their rights
I featured Cebu Pacific’s handling of passengers and baggage on March 22 in this column several days after I arrived at the NAIA 3 from Davao City on the airline’s early morning flight.
I said in that column the reason the airline kept on giving its passengers inefficient service was that nobody seemed to complain.
The title of that column was “Filipinos don’t assert their rights,” in reference to passengers not complaining over the airline’s service.
That’s why I silently cheered on the irate woman at the complaints counter.
But I lost sympathy for the actress when she started becoming personal with the ground stewardess.
She called her names at the top of her voice and this was attracting many passengers who had just retrieved their luggage at the carousel and were on their way out.
Having a journalist’s instinct for recording significant events, I took out my cellular phone, which has a camera in it, and took still photos of Claudine berating the ground stewardess.
A man, whom I came to know later as actor Raymart Santiago, accosted me and demanded to know why I was taking shots of the incident.
I placed my cell phone inside the left hip pocket of my paparazzi vest and tried to leave. I was hungry and my car was waiting for me outside the terminal building.
But Raymart stopped me and told me to hand over the cell phone to him.
As he reached for my left hip pocket, I pushed him and turned my back on him to leave.
That was when he and his companions ganged up on me.
Letting guard down
I wouldn’t have been hurt badly if I hadn’t let my guard down.
As I was parrying punches from all sides, I saw several uniformed men coming—airport policemen and “blue” guards—and I tried to submit myself to them.
I thought I would be safe with the arrival of the cops and the security guards.
I was wrong.