So much anticipation, so much disappointment and abated breadths but finally after years of laying in slumber, this white elephant has been awakened and put into good use.

And of course, like the many travelers out there, I too awaited the day when the NAIA 3 opened her doors and Manila can rightfully have a gateway worthy for our 7,100 islands.

Well, it happened last June when the NAIA- 3 swung its doors open to the flying public.  So  like a kid in a newly-opened toy store, I was only too giddy check out and immediately grabbed first chance to fly out to Bacolod who just happened to also have the new Bacolod-Silay airport.

Two new facilities, two different impressions, read on.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3(NAIA 3)

Location: Parañaque, Metro Manila

the Bacolod-Silay Airport

Location: Silay, Negros Occidental

One of the halls of the NAIA Terminal 3.  High high ceilings, there must have 5 of these but only 1 (or 2?) were operational. It’s easy to find your way through as currently there are only 3 airlines operating within: Cebu Pacific, PAL express and Asian Spirit.

The NAIA 3 is big (by Philippine standards), from the outside it does’nt give this impression with its low facade. Not quite as jaw-dropping as Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi or Shanghai’s Pudong. How I wish that given the money spent and the long time it was built, it could have at least been an architectural statement.

Guess not.

Anyway, the building design is pretty straight forward, immediately after the check-in counters at the main hall, the immigration booths follow.  Currently, these  only serve as the terminal fee ticket booths (P200.00/person).

Behind these booths is the final security check- body, bags, shoes and the like.

The second floor which will house shops and dinning places still awaits to be opened.

By the number of boarding gates it has,  the NAIA 3 is so much, much larger (and longer) than terminal 1 or 2.  I wasn’t able to navigate from end to end since my gate almost boarding.  If it’s really that long, I do hope management provides for trolley services for the elderly.

There were a few concession stands which have started to operate but it was this stall which my eye. It feels like a glorified sari-sari. Cute. With glorified prices to boot (P50.00 for a can of soft drink).

And should you need to have a stick to take out the jitters for (first-time?) flying, there is a smoking lounge where you can puff away!

There are also lots of payphones along way, prepare change (P1.00 per minute for local calls)

One of the boarding gate rooms.  The chairs have a very cinematic qualities to it. Maybe the management can enhance this by providing for televisions around. Please do not show Wowowee!

Oh, kudos too for  baggage carousels which were spread out and huge. I think I must have counted 10. Good.  You know our penchant for big bulky balikbayan boxes.

All in all, the NAIA 3 was a  fresh experience, surely so much better compared the cramped terminal- 1.

There are still obvious signs of birth pains like unpainted walls,flight screens which were not working but I’m optimistic that this will be dealt with in due time.

My one big rant about the NAIA-3 is that it is seriously devoid of any  ‘sense-of-place’. Except for the local faces and the perhaps, Jollibee, there is nothing that speaks of it being in Manila.  Yes, the interiors are modern but a design like that could be in any Asian or North American city. The signs are only in English when in fact most airports have bilingual signage, where’s Filipino?

In Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi,  the first thing which visitor is a huge Thai statue (the type that you’d see in the Grand Palace) and a host of Thai painting in the wall. In this new terminal,NADA.

Here’s what I propose, NAIA-3 management, I hope one of you is reading this.

1. Have a Department of Tourism concession with brochure stands upon arrival. Tourists need information you know.

2. Bilingual Filipino-English signs please.

3. Feed the stomach, yes, but also feed the mind.  Have a quality bookstore which sells Filipiniana books, not just dried mangoes.

4.  Patch up those unsightly brick walls,

5. Put some local touches like artworks, paintings and the like.  Oh, and perhaps you can entice the ‘blind-men band’ at the old terminal (or Kamayan restaurant) to play for the arriving guests.

Off to Bacolod Airport.

In contrast, the new Bacolod-Silay (BS) Airport is just as new but perhaps just 1/20th of the size of the NAIA-3.  What you’re seeing here is the pretty much the whole inside of it. It’s also smack right in the middle of sugar plantation somewhere in the outskirts of Silay (45 mins from Bacolod).  Service from the airport to Bacolod city center is by the chartered vans immediately at the main entrance. At P150.00/head, it’s not too bad as the vans were all new, clean the drivers, quite helpful.  Not much ‘flage-your-own’ taxis so you dont have much of a choice.

I love the wall’s accent which showcases Negros’ local weave.  Compare with this with the NAIA-3 who’s interiors were to sterile and generic.

The facility is really very utilitarian but what it lacks in size, it makes up for substance.  It’s chock-full of details which hint of Negros’ local culture.  Here’s the boarding area a view of the mountains (Mount Kanlaon?)

Painting showing Silay scenes.

And even a mini-photo exhibit showcasing the Negros!  Reminds me of the Rijksmuseum inside Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. A little art appreciation never hurt anyone and besides, its nice way to pass time.

A tip though, there are two concession stands inside the airport, the one picture above is at the ground floor.  The selection was not much,  I got a small  bottled water (P30.00) and a 1 pack 12-piece Bakiron (barkilyos with pulburon inside)  for about P35.00.  I thought it was the typical airport price….

then I went up and saw this cheery-looking one.  More merchandise, better selection and bigger bottle of water for only P20.00! Then I thought I would use the bakiron index as comparison…well, they had a 1 pack (19 piece) for P38.00!

Lesson learned: Next time, go up the escalator first.