Amid the growing problems brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and tension from the controversial Anti-Terror bill, a curious bill caught the ire of Filipino netizens last week: House Bill No. 7031, authored by presidential son, Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, proposes to give the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) a new name.
“NAIA is the international gateway of the Philippines, being the biggest and largest international airport in the country,” the bill reads. “As such, there is a need to identify the same as belonging to the Philippines. Hence, the proposed renaming to “Pambansang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.” Or as netizens now call it, PAPAPI—which sounds like everyone’s term of endearment for Piolo Pascual.
The bill further explains that with the new name, “the airport will be easily identified as the international doorway of the country, in view of it being in Filipino language and branding it as the international airport of the Philippines.” The solons sought the “immediate passage of this landmark legislation.”
Last weekend, a statement by the sister of Ninoy Aquino, Lupita Kashiwahara, went around Viber groups, and was published today, June 29, by the Inquirer. In the statement, Kashiwahara declared, “The revisionist congressmen are playing politics while attempting to deny their country’s history.”
The director of the iconic anti-US bases movie Minsan May Isang Gamu-Gamo (1976) noted that “the Manila International Airport (MIA) was renamed in recognition of the historical impact that Ninoy Aquino’s assassination had not only on our country the Philippines, but around the world.”
She added that “the blood [Ninoy] shed on the airport’s tarmac (he was shot in the head), symbolized the ultimate sacrifice he made (as he fought) for a return to democracy in the Philippines.”
Justifying the bill, Paolo Duterte said, “We want it (national airport) to reflect the legacy of the Filipino people, our everyday heroes. The name bears no color, no political agenda. It only signifies our warmth as Filipinos in welcoming our own kababayans and foreign visitors.”
Velasco, on the other hand, said the proposal aims to reposition the Philippines as a choice tourist destination as the country prepares to reopen to travelers once the pandemic is over.
“Renaming it to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas will not only benefit and bolster our brand as a destination hub but will also strengthen the country’s identity,” Velasco said.
“Changing the name of NAIA to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas gives every Filipino a great sense of pride and ownership of the country’s biggest and largest international airport,” Velasco added.
Yap, meanwhile, said while national roads and institutions have been named after notable personalities, the country’s main international gateway should reflect the Philippines and the Filipino nation.
“Gusto natin na paglapag pa lang ng eroplano dito, pangalan na agad ng bansa natin ang bubungad sa ating mga balik-bayan pati sa mga turista mula sa ibang bansa. Ating iparamdam sa kanila na sila ay nakauwi na sa kanilang tahanan," Yap said.
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Kashiwahara pointed out that many countries have used airports to honor their own historical figures, including Indonesia, India, Thailand, and the United States. “In doing so, they have not lost their national identities.”
She then slammed the legislators by questioning their motives for such a bill: “If the congressmen proposing change intend to rebrand the Philippines as a tourist destination, the question is, for whom? Most foreign tourists will have no idea what the Tagalog name means, and Filipinos already know the airport is in the Philippines.”
It was in 1987 that the original name of the biggest airport in the country, Manila International Airport (MIA), was renamed to Ninoy Aquino International Airport through Republic Act No. 6639.