Hundreds of Boholanos rushed to the dancefloor at the opening strains of “Manila”… and there was no let-up from that point on.
The audience was happy. The producers were happy (Romy & Belle Sales). The Governor and the many mayors present were happy.
Hotdog was happy.
However, the high spirit was dramatically dampened when we got to the Tagbilaran airport for the trip back to Manila the next day.
The terminal was crowded like crazy. Over five hundred people, squeezed like sardines in a room the size of a small Jollibee outlet, impatiently waiting for three flights (Zest AIr, Philippine Airlines, Airphil).
The aircon was no longer functioning properly. There were no seats. People had no choice but to just remain standing – with virtually no room to move their arms and legs.
Maso, our female singer, felt much discomfort in this situation because 1) her bones were aching from the hectic performance of the previous night, 2) she just got her “period” and its accompanying migraine.
I espied an empty wheelchair outside the terminal… and told my assistant to ask the ground staff if we can borrow it to wheel Maso to the plane later .
The wheelchair was brought in and Maso reluctantly hopped into it.
And this was when our nightmare started.
A ground employee of AirPhilippines (Roshannie M. Dashiell) who must have wanted some drama in her life that day… approached us and said that she needed to take Maso’s blood pressure.
We said no problem.
After taking it, she declared it was elevated. And I reasoned out that anyone inside a sardine tin – which was how the boarding area felt like – is bound to have a less-than-normal blood pressure.
Obviously, she didn’t understand nor appreciated my logic. And decided to call her superiors in Manila.
And so it was time to board.
We all happily walked to the plane. With Maso getting into the cabin ahead of everyone else.
While we were waiting for the plane to take off, the overzealous ground Gestapo officer went up the plane and said that her boss from Manila has deemed that Maso cannot fly.
In my frustration, I said that if Maso cannot fly, the whole band will just have to go down and not fly too. A dozen people. With bags and equipment that have to be offloaded.
She panicked and went down the plane again.
She came back with the DOTC-designated doctor of the airport.
The DOTC-assigned medic (Jefry Apalisuk) took Maso’s blood pressure and told me all was fine.
This good news was shortlived though.
Ms. Gestapo officer called her boss in Manila. Again.
And guess what.
The DOTC doctor who was inches away from Maso and who examined her condition was OVERRULED by a doctor or nurse hundreds of miles away in Manila.
I protested the stupidity of the situation.
Mr. DOTC doctor came up again and said that I just needed to sign a waiver and to come down with him to the office.
I went down the plane… waited a bit but no waiver came. And never saw Dr. Apalisuk again. (I don’t think Secretary Mar Roxas should let this slide.)
I decided to go back to the plane.
While seated, I heard the plane’s pilot unleash several loud “P*tang In*s”. The dwarfish, balding mestizo pilot came out and I asked him why there was a need to hurl such invectives. He said it wasn’t directed at us.
I am sure.
Ms. Gestapo officer came around again and reminded me that Maso has to leave the plane.
Concerned about the welfare of the other passengers (who also needed to go home), I decided to go down the plane with Maso, my wife and my assistant.
We booked ourselves into a hotel. And called a doctor who took Maso’s blood pressure that evening – for a reading of 110/90.
I also asked for a medical certificate to be issued in the morning.
The core problem with AirPhil: no one was in charge.
Since no instructions were given to us on how we can fly the next day, I had my relatives book us four seats on the first flight back to Manila in the morning at a cost of nearly P10,000.
When we came to check in, Ms. Gestapo was by the counter so I immediately handed the medical certificate to end all disagreements (and conversations) with her.
While waiting for our flight, Ms. Gestapo approached Maso again and insisted on taking her blood pressure. Apparently, Ms. Gestapo felt that a doctor’s certificate is no match to her self-perceived medical prowess.
She started begging and asked Maso to talk – on her mobile – with her bosses in Manila.
Maso refused to be harassed any further.
Me… I refused to talk to Ms. Gestapo also because I was pre-occupied with an art exhibit (my first) that was opening in less than five hours.
We boarded the plane with Ms. Gestapo still threatening that Maso cannot fly.
Maso stood her ground.
And it was a sad day for Ms. Gestapo and her brainless bosses in Manila.
Lesson learned: never, never, never request for a wheelchair from Air Philippines. It might excite a few of their slightly twisted, power-tripping staff — who get a kick from bullying and pushing passengers around. An opportunity to see passengers’ blood pressure spike.
Me? WIll I let Air Philippines take me anywhere again?
Over my dead and decaying body.