Hustlers at the terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) must have made a killing during the five hours or so that traffic was moving at snail's pace on the afternoon of March 23, due to an accident on a road leading to the airports.
While passengers could not get to their departure flights on time, new arrivals could not leave the airports, as taxis and buses could not make the turnaround fast enough.
At Naia 3 where the plane I had taken from Tacloban City landed, lines for shuttle buses and metered and coupon taxis stretched almost from one end of the airport to the other. My plane landed at past 5 p.m. and I got a yellow metered taxi only after three-and-a-half hours.
Passengers squeezed into every little space on buses going to the Pasay Rotunda just to get out of the airport.
Some people tried going to the departure area hoping to get a taxi that dropped off a passenger. But the line was just as long, I heard.
Not surprisingly, many "helpful" individuals took advantage of the people's distress.
They offered fast "getaways" from the long queues- for an exorbitant fee. A man wanting to go to Resorts World Manila, which was just across Naia 3, was asked to pay P1,500 while a couple trying to get to Solaire Resort and Casino was offered a car for P2,950 (S$90).
When I finally got a taxi, I asked the driver why those scam artists were allowed to operate in airports. He said they were supposed to have been banned, but he alleged security people allowed them to operate in exchange for a commission.
In fact, the driver said, most of the money went to the airport employees and the drivers of the vehicles got very little.
Of the P1,500 being charged for the trip to Resorts World, he said the driver would probably get only P300 and the rest will go to the "booking agents" and security people who turned a blind eye to these shady deals.
It seems people coming and going through Naia do not just have to put up with discomfort, inconvenience and facilities that are falling apart, but also have to be wary of hustlers who are allowed to roam freely around the terminals.
As it is, pedestrians have already lost much of the sidewalks that they need to walk safely to, in favour of enterprising individuals-including those who operate carinderia that block sidewalks with tables and chairs; vulcanizing and car repair shops; and parked vehicles and property owners who have appropriated them as part of their property.
Those that have not been turned into "commercial establishments" or garages are poorly maintained with potholes, uneven paving and uncollected garbage.
But now the City of Manila has added more pedestrians' woes. It has set up new barangay halls on sidewalks. With the container-like structures occupying the whole width of sidewalks, pedestrians have no choice but to walk on the street and risk getting sideswiped by a speeding vehicle.
Incidentally, I have yet to see the effective regulation of tricycles and pedicabs in Manila, as announced by a city official on television.
In my part of the city, which is near De La Salle University, College of St. Benilde and St. Scholastica's College, these vehicles still brazenly go the wrong way and expect motorists to give way. They enter one-way streets and ignore other traffic signs and rules, and squeeze into tiny gaps between vehicles, showing no concern about causing damage.