NAIA: The Most Emotional Airport in the World

Words by Angeline Gormley

At the surface, airports seem like a busy and stiff place. People come and go on a rush, towing their bags and walking briskly towards their assigned flight gates. A few years of quiet observation led me to believe that airports are a symbol of many unshared stories—and that the happiest and saddest ones belong to the airport of my home country, NAIA.

Even though it has unfortunately been hailed as one of the “worst” airports in the world, I believe that NAIA has many interesting stories to tell. My husband, a Filipino-American growing up in the States, has always wondered why arrivals in the Philippines were always filled with an ambience of excitement and a rush. He asked me, “How come when Filipinos come home walking towards the NAIA exit, I always see them smiling and rushing? I never see that in other airports.”

My husband’s question sent me in deep thought about the plight of the Filipino people. Everyday, the Philippines sends thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers of which NAIA is the gateway to the rest of the world. Somebody’s father, mother, son or daughter will take a shot in a foreign land to have a better chance in life. The lack of opportunity in their home country is what pushes them to seek elsewhere. Though the Philippines is a country rich with natural resources, I realized that the best riches it offers to the world are its people.

Somewhere in the world, there’s a humble Filipina domestic worker taking care of another person’s child instead of her own. Along the quiet halls of international hospitals, there’s a Filipino nurse ready to serve an aging soul. They have left their mark in every face of the world—as engineers, teachers, doctors, servers, and any job in shape or form—ready to work for their families back at home.

Will they have left their loved ones if they had a choice? I think this is why NAIA is the most emotional airport in the world. Its stories of “hellos” and “goodbyes” echo the pain and joy of separating and uniting once more.

As I hear another plane taking off and another one landing, I am reminded of these quiet realities of life. I am inspired by the sacrifices that Filipinos make just to make ends meet. I hope that I would still live to see a Philippines where its airports are filled with more tourists instead of Filipinos leaving to work abroad.

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