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Who’s afraid of being stranded in an airport?
STARBYTES By Butch Francisco
The Philippine Star 09/16/2004
I have so many fears in the life, but flying on an airplane is not one of them. In fact, every time the plane goes through an air pocket, I am strangely lulled to sleep.

What scares me more is staying in an airport. My panic begins as soon as I leave the house to catch my flight. Will there be traffic? Am I going to make it? So many questions run in my mind along the road on my way to NAIA 2 (I usually take Philippine Airlines where the beautiful ground stewardess Lyn Tanael and her companions always take good care of me).

Here in my home ground in Manila, my fear of the airport is less because the people are very friendly. (In return, I also try to be very cooperative. When they ask me to remove my shoes, I do it without complaint.) My trip outbound is also less stressful since I don’t carry much luggage with me.

However, it’s a different story when I fly back to Manila usually from Los Angeles. For one, the traffic in the freeway is unpredictable and that sometimes scares me. (But it is never as bad as EDSA).

Another source of my fear is checking in at the airline counter my balikbayan boxes. On several instances, I would exceed the weight limit by a pound or two and plead to the ground stewardess to just please, please look the other way and — surprisingly — she should. (But there was one Korean women who let me go but only after a good scolding.)

To my consternation, even the hand-carried bags are now being weighed and that is my bigger problem because the stuff I lug around with me to the plane are even heavier than my balikbayan boxes. (During a trip in 2000, I put in my hand-carried bag 30 large bottles of body lotion as pasalubong for the female staff members of Startalk.)

But my biggest airport fear will always be at the immigration counter in my US port of entry. In the beginning, I would always get reprimanded for staying longer in the Philippines than on US soil given my immigrant status. But even now that my stay here in the Philippines is with their permission, I still get fidgety having to face immigration officials who can really make a living hell out of your life.

I could therefore feel the edginess of the character played by Tom Hanks in the film The Terminal because the scenarios depicted there are as close to reality as possible — except, of course, for the plot of the story.

In the movie, Tom Hanks is Victor, a native of Krakozhia, supposedly a state in Eastern Europe. While on board the plane, a revolt takes place in his country and his government is toppled. This leaves him stateless and could not be allowed into the US but could not be sent back either. He therefore spends weeks on end at the JFK airport in New York where he eats, sleeps, bathes (at least the part of his body that could be washed in the airport lavatory) and eventually earns a living.

The Terminal
is the type of film that plays with the viewers’ emotions. You feel for Tom Hanks’ character because he is left helpless due to circumstances not of his doing and so you cheer for him. You also feel good when kind airport employees make friends with him and make life a lot easier for him given all his problems.

At the same time, you want to bop airport officials on the head for doing a botched-up job handling the case of lead character Victor. (US immigration officials surely would have done something other than let him stay indefinitely at the terminal).

There are actually a lot of loopholes in the story of The Terminal, but as a viewer you just try to swallow everything the movie tells you because there are a lot of other engaging scenes in the film. You feel good, for instance, when Victor finally gets his first good meal at the airport.

And you root for him even when he falls in love with an airline attendant — played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. It’s really a token part — especially for somebody of Catherine’s stature — and the film could have gone on without the love story, but it’s a cinematic device to get the viewers glued to the story and forget the lapses.

Of course, the one who carries the film is Tom Hanks, whose very presence makes the movie interesting (and then you also throw in Catherine Zeta-Jones — so what more can you ask?).

The Terminal
as a film is surely far from perfect and may never be considered as one of the best — no, not even this quarter. But it is an entertaining enough film and in spite of its setting, it surely made me temporarily forget about my airport fears.

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