Thursday, December 14, 2006


An article in the Philippine Star about a new columnist reminded of the first time I reacted to a newspaper article, one in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. This was the first and so far the only time I sent a letter to an editor. This was a year and a half ago and I still feel as strongly about the issue then as I do now.

The memory put even more of a spotlight on something I’ve always felt strongly for, writing. Writing was always something I could escape into. To do it the way I wanted took so much of me, took all of my focus, that I had no time or feeling to spare for anything but the act itself. And it was something I once could do well and easily.

One of my friends mentioned once that the act of creation is the only sure way to see one’s self. While that can be interpreted in so many different ways, I do take it to mean that what I choose to write, that which I put myself into, will turn out to be an image of the person that I am.

That thought makes it so tempting to only write of things that are inspirational and true, where there is nothing unresolved. It seems so much nobler to describe the human as to what it could be, to always seek our better angels. It’s far less attractive to write of ignorance and confusion, anger and prejudice, indecision and regret. The result can be fearsome to behold, because that would be myself at my worst, and with no idea how to move beyond that.

But then I’d be a writer, and honest with myself. And that’s a good a start as any.

Monday, December 04, 2006


This was the first and only newspaper article I thought enough to react to. I was working out of the country at the time and I was a fairly frequent Philippine Airlines customer. Reading it the first time it was published wasn't something I relished, but seeing it featured on the main page of the newspaper's website for weeks irritated me enough that I sent this letter to the editor.
This is regarding your article on why you'll never fly with PAL again.

I very much agree with you that there is simply no excuse for shabby and impolite treatment accorded to you by the customer service representative. You gave instructions that were executed on your departing flight and simply botched on your return. You have every right to expect that this error would be rectified. That this error was not rectified does deserve your anger.

But I disagree that the airline and all the people behind it deserve the words you have written in your article.

Over the last nine months I've taken five round trips with Philippine Airlines, two domestic and three international. Out of the ten flights, I've had two delays, one for forty five minutes, and another for three hours. Not a good record at first glance.

But in the same time period, I've also taken three round trips with Singapore Airlines. I had one flight delay for forty five minutes also.

Two out of ten and one out of six aren't too far part, I believe.

I also believe that to relating the customer service representative who did not extend any service to the diligence of the aircraft maintenance technicians is a bit of a stretch. If we ignore the guidelines imposed by international regulators and insurers, there still is PAL's current safety record.

And I've never had a problem with the PAL flight attendants or even ticket office personnel. If there is indeed a culture of rudeness and uncaring pervading the entire organization, I haven't seen it.

That Lucio Tan is a controversial figure doesn't need any elaboration here. But it is also true that in the mid-nineties, he alone was the one who took up the gauntlet of turning PAL from a government corporation to a profitable private enterprise. He did that with no previous experience in the airline industry. The airline just managed to achieve profitability in an environment that includes everything from the 1997 Asian crisis, the 2001 September 11 attack, and the current oil price crunch. That management feat deserves a bit of praise.

PAL is not the cheapest airline. Nor can it claim to have the best service. The airline does have its third world inconveniences, as you put it. And you certainly don't have to live with it.

But I choose to live with PAL. I see it as another image of our third world country. And I think that PAL is better than it once was. I hope to see our country reflect the same improvement.
My opinion hasn't changed with a year and a half gone. This is the first time I've read of PAL's own reaction to Mr. Esposo's article, and his further writings on the subject. I have heard the same stories of PAL flight attendants giving substandard service to passengers seen as overseas domestic workers. Such behavior is inexcuseable.

But I've never seen that happen on the flights I have taken. And since I've never seen it, I feel that I can conclude that to generalize the entire organization is also wrong. And even if such ill manners from flight attendants towards maids are commonplace, then I see the cause less from the company and more from the kind of people that we are. How many well-educated overseas professionals disdain the thought of a Sunday in Singapore's Lucky Plaza mall or Hong Kong's Central district?

We all have been slighted or wronged one way or another. One valid option is to look somewhere else for the right that we want. Equally valid to to see what we have and work it out from there.