WHAT TO DO DURING A FOUR HOUR DELAY AT CORON AIRPORT
Here are a few truths about the Philippines. There are close to 13 million people in Metropolitan Manila and over 100 million in the Philippines. Ninoy Aquino airport is the main gateway into the Philippines. There are over 30 airlines that land there. There are two runways, one for international and one for domestic. There’s a third one planned apparently, but planned runways are as useful as imagined lottery winnings. Combining these facts with a supremely relaxed attitude towards anything resembling punctuality and service, it is an almost profound achievement that any planes manage to land at all.
And thus, there we were. Sitting at Coron airport, trying to get to Manila, staring out the windows at an empty runway; the victim of what is obviously a frequently occurring set of circumstances. The stub of my boarding pass stated, in small finely-printed letters, a date and time some two hours in the past.
Coron airport is like a lot of regional airports. A small coffee shop selling inconsistent cups of either black tar or brownish water. A smaller snack bar, with hot dogs, fries and expensive souvenir fridge magnets stating ‘I Love Coron’ in cheap plastic. Rows of plastic seating forcing everyone to stare out the windows at the depressingly empty runway. It doesn’t take long to realise why. The empty, dusty runway is literally the most entertaining view in the entire airport.
Here is a useless list of things you can try if you ever suffer the same fate at Coron Airport
- Read a book. If you have one. If you don’t then ask to borrow someone elses.
- Check your phone, realise you have no cell signal. Check Wi-FI in the area. Connect to a free wifi hotspot. Spend 15 minutes trying to work out why you are connected, but there is no internet. Become panicked that you have been scammed and your phone now has a thousand viruses.
- Go back to reading your book.
- Stare out the window. At nothing. Accept the idea that planes just do not land there. Especially your plane. That particular plane is still being riveted together at the plane factory.
- Walk through the coffee shop. This should kill about four minutes and 38 seconds, assuming you stop to look at every single item they have, including each of the coffee mugs with words that ask, rather ironically “Why did I ever leave Coron?”
- Contemplate the food. Watch as other passengers give in and, one by one, purchase something to eat. Monitor their regret. Determine you definitely shouldn’t have any if it makes one look like that.
- Use the bathroom. It seems you will be in this airport for around two more years, so you may as well start at one end and try every urinal and stall. You also may as well become comfortable with the notable absence of a door.
- Listen to the announcements. Try to keep your face straight at the news of ongoing delays. Notice the announcements say nothing about an ETA because the only thing they are certain of is that the plane is definitely not sitting on the runway outside.
- Read more of your book.
- Check your phone. Remember about having no internet. Try to hack the stores WI-FI. Surely it can’t be anything more complicated than p@ssw0rd…
- Join the other passengers and wander around asking various security guards stupid questions such as “When will the plane arrive?” and “Isn’t there another plane we can use?”
- Memorise the informative video detailing all the things you could have done while you were here, but cannot as you’re in the departure lounge trying to leave. There’s a waterfall you could have seen, but didn’t know about. Until now. Cool.
- Look through your photos. Become morose at the fact that even though you’re stuck on the island paradise in your photos, there is nothing tropical about where you are except the humidity.
- Read more of your book.
- Try to hack the WI-FI again. Desperately try various passwords including your own name.
- Write a list of all the things you can do in Coron airport. Add in every single thing you can. Become depressed at the short list.
- Buy a hotdog. Eat it. Regret having ever stepped foot in Coron.
- Give in and accept you will never leave this island. Start imagining your new life as a tricycle driver or dive guide. Start practising your Tagalog.
Eventually the plane will arrive. People will disembark. You will board, only to sit there for another hour in the relative comfort of an air conditioned cabin, while the pilot explains that Manila isn’t quite ready you to be heading towards it just yet.
This is the way of Coron airport. As mundane as this day was, I would still recommend going to Coron. Just take more than just a book to the airport.