Saturday, December 03, 2011

FNF Freedom Run

I participated in the first "Freedom Run" organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF) last November 27 at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus. It was co-sponsored by UP and I think, the Quezon City government. There were also many corporate sponsors. One could run the 3k or 6k and the theme of the event was "I am Free". Free from corruption, and so on. Nice.

With only 5 hours sleep (had an early Christmas reunion with some friends the night before) and haven't run for the past 12 years or so, I ran the 6k, hahaha. I finished it in 43 minutes, awwww! At around 1.5 km. mark I think, I started walking already. But my goal in joining the run was clear: just finish the 6 kms route, in a brief period to shake and remove the rust in my legs.

What's special with this photo?... hmmm... :-) Ok, I'll tell you. I did not bring a camera but I needed a photo as it was my first run after 10 years or more. The one who took this photo was Jules Maaten, the country director of the FNF himself. Super thanks Jules!

There were probably close to 2,000 runners who participated in the 3k and 6k run. Knowing my physical limitations, I positioned myself in the front of the starting line, knowing that many guys will pass me anyway, so I gave myself a few meters of "lead" over the majority, hehe. And true enough, at the sound of the starting gun, dozens upon dozens of younger lungs and legs passed me.

Sometime in the mid to late 90s, I was running around 7 kms. a week, cycling around 100 kms. a week (I was using a road bike, not a mountain bike) and climbing a mountain once a month, on average. So inflicting limited pain on my body was no stranger to me then. That's why I dared running the 6k even with zero running preparation years before this event.

Here are some photos of the participants, taken from the FNF's facebook photos.

I think this is the first time that a political foundation like FNF has sponsored a running event. It's mostly corporations that sponsor the big events here. I think this is a good initiative to propagate a political foundation's advocacies. In the case of the FNF, it's propagating liberalism, a philosophy that I personally adhere to, especially classic liberalism, not just ordinary liberalism that is propagated by many current political parties around the world.

Back of the shirt says, "It's all about Freedom. ARE YOU FREE?"

Other participants included the Freedom of Information (FOI) group, here in white shirts, led by Nepo Malaluan. A guy called "Zorro" in UP also showed up. And a special participant, a dog riding his master's bicycle.

Freedom and liberty. Especially individual liberty, not national or collective liberty that tends to step on individual freedom "in the name of the nation, the commune, the collective." This goal, for me, sums up what liberalism is.

See the close up quote: individual responsibility, rule of law, human rights and tolerance. These are key words and philosophies that I personally advocate. "People who are afraid of responsibility are afraid of freedom itself." That's from Friedrich Hayek, and I totally agree with him on that.

My legs were hellish for 3 days (Nov. 27-29), it's like I underwent a brutal hazing and paddle hitting. Especially when I go up or down the stairs in our house. The next 2 days (Nov. 30-Dec. 1) the pain was still there but more manageable. Today, the pain is gone, or 6 days after that run.

I hope to be able to run again in other running events. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

World Airports 2: Most Hated, CNN list

CNN GO also released its

10 of the world's most hated airports

The smelliest toilets, the longest queues, the rudest staff ... sometimes air rage feels justified

I've seen only #s 5, 3 and 2.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has 3 terminals. Terminal 1 is for non-national airlines or for foreign airlines only, Terminal 2 is exclusively used by the Philippine Airlines (PAL) for its foreign and local flights, while Terminal 3 is mainly used by Cebu Pacific, both for its international and local flights. There are other foreign budget airlines and local budget airlines that are using T3.

I went to London Heathrow airport, my first and last visit, in June 2005, during the "Global Development Summit" organized by the International Policy Network, and I was one of the panel speakers. It sure is a big airport. I can't recall if our landing was delayed, but our departure was delayed by at least 1 hour. We boarded on time, but the plane left the passenger boarding area late, then we queued for a long time at the tarmac. My connecting flight (London-Amsterdam-Manila via KLM) at Amsterdam airport was already boarding the last few passengers when we arrived. A few of us who have that connecting flight were practically running at Amsterdam airport from our landing gate to the boarding gate, we arrived just on time, whew!

And I went to LA airport first time last April 2009, when I attended the Atlas Liberty Forum, organized by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. I took Korea Air. I landed at LA airport, and flew back at San Francisco airport, because I visited some friends in North California, I went there via Greyhound Bus. I thought that LA airport was rather small, at least compared to many Asian international airports that I've seen, and considering that LA is rather famous worldwide because of Hollywood, etc.

5. Ninoy Aquino International, Manila, Philippines

Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Wear a helmet -- the first collapsed ceiling in 2006 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Beleaguered by ground crew strikes, unkempt conditions, soup kitchen-style lines that feed into more lines and an overall sense of futility, NAIA brings the term “Stuck in the 1970s” to a new level.
At Terminal 1 all non-Philippine Airlines remain crammed despite serious overcapacity issues and a new and underused Terminal 3 is occupied by a few minor carriers. 
A rash of bad press this year (including a “Worst in the World” ribbon from Sleeping in Airports) was capped by a collapsed ceiling in T1, a paralyzing ground service strike at T2, and the usual charges of tampered luggage, filthy restrooms, seat shortages at gates, re-sealed water bottles sold in retail shops and an Amazing Race-style check-in routine spiked with bureaucracy, broken escalators, lengthy Dot Matrix passenger lists and creative airport departure fees. 

4. Toncontín International, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

worst airports
Over-priced corn chips will be the least of your worries.

When do the most common airport gripes about inefficiency, uncomfortable gate chairs, dirty floors and lousy dining options suddenly become irrelevant? When you’re preoccupied about whether your 757 will actually be able to stop before the runway does. 
Nestled in a bowl-shaped valley at 957 meters above sea level, Toncontín’s notoriously stubby, mountain-cloaked landing strip was recently lengthened another 300 meters following a fatal TACA aircraft overshoot in 2008.
Not enough though to avoid being named the “second most dangerous airport in the world” by the History Channel. 
Nepal’s hair-raising Tenzing-Hillary Airport in the Himalayas is the top seed, but receives fewer gripes from its thrill-seeking Everest-bound clientele.

3. London Heathrow, London, England

bad airports
"You'll fly through departures -- at the speed of a penguin."

Depending on which of Heathrow’s five terminals one is funneled through, the average experience at the world’s third-busiest airport ranges from mildly tedious to "Fawlty Towers" ridiculous. 
With its rash of -- as they were politely called -- “teething problems” in bright and airy T5 (remember that riotous grand opening with 34 canceled flights?) and nicely matured problems in Ts 1, 2 and 3, the issues passengers are beset with run the gamut.
Parking messes. Busted baggage carousels. Deadlocked security lines. Long walks (or, more commonly, runs) between gates to a frenzied soundtrack of “last call” announcements. Realizations that getting out of Heathrow took longer than actually flying here from Madrid. 
In the airport “where the world changes planes,” it all boils down to a chronic inability to cope with this many people. Plans for a sixth terminal should help sever even more nerves.

2. Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, United States

It's not even a good spot for celebrity sightings.

If the world’s seventh-busiest flight hub was an old ballpark resting on the stale reputation of its Dodger Dogs and that great 1959 series, LAX might have some endearment value. 
But it’s an airport -- a dramatically undersized and moribund one with the architectural élan of a 1960s correctional facility and several publicized concerns about how its 1,700 takeoffs and landings a day can be sustained in a facility a fifth the size of healthier cousins like Dallas/Fort Worth. 
The unsupportive donut-shaped design -- it’s been called “eight terminals connected by a traffic jam” -- makes dashing between airlines feel like a diesel-scented cardio test. 
Plunked in the middle is the airport’s landmark Jetsons-style restaurant and only mentionable amenity, Encounter, but how does one actually get inside this place -- at least before being nailed for a petty traffic violation by some of the most ticket-hungry airport cops west of the Mississippi?

1. Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris, France

Don't expect to make friends during a storm closure.

“A great country worthy of the name,” President Charles de Gaulle once opined, “does not have any friends.” 
True or not, it’s this sort of attitude that has helped CDG become the most maligned major airport on earth. What’s fueling it? 
Grimy washrooms with missing toilet seats don’t help. Nor do broken scanning machines and an overall lack of signage, gate information screens and Paris-worthy bars, restaurants or cafés.
The baffling circular layout is worsened by warrens of tunnel-like structures, dismissive staff and seething travelers waiting forever in the wrong queue. 
The worst part may be this airport’s aura of indifference to it all. “Waiting for a connection here,” notes one commuter, “is like being in custody.”  
If you’re actually staying in Paris, you may be okay. If you have the gall to just be passing through between Malaga and Montreal, you can cut the spite of this place with a cheese knife.  

CNN's 5 other hated airports are:


10. São Paulo-Guarulhos International, São Paulo, Brazil

Whether it's 9 a.m. or 9 p.m. this airport experiences round-the-clock rush hour.

9. Perth Airport, Perth, Australia

worst airports
Kick a dog while it's down: The Qantas strike didn't help PER's reputation.

8. Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu, Nepal

Don't look the officers -- or the dogs -- in the eye.

7. John F. Kennedy International, New York, United States

Fans flooded the airport to welcome the 1964 British Invasion, but it seems they never left.

6. Jomo Kenyatta International, Nairobi, Kenya

Can't be disappointed if you're not expecting much.

World Airports 1: Most Loved, CNN list

CNN GO released its

10 of the world's most loved airports

Not all airports are exasperating mood-foulers: These 10 make delays enjoyable

I'm lucky to have seen the top 4 airports in its list.

I first went to Munich Airport in October 2003 on my flight back to Manila. I went to Sweden for a 7-weeks training on "Sustainable Agriculture". After the course, I visited by bus Denmark, Netherlands (The Hague and Amsterdam) and Germany (Miesbach, about 50 kms. south of Munich, Bavaria). Then I went back to Munich airport in November 2008, after I attended a week-long seminar on "Local Governments and Civil Society" in Gummersbach, Germany (I landed at Cologne airport, then  car to Gummersbach), sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF).

I first went to Seoul in 1996 for a 2-weeks "Technology and Policy" seminar sponsored by KOICA. I was working at CPBO, House of Representatives then. Then I came back in 2002 when I joined the PDE-UPSE study tour in Seoul and a few cities, Incheon airport was only about 1 year old then. I came back again in 2006 to attend the Asia Pacific Taxpayers Union (APTU) meeting. In 2009, I went to Los Angeles, I took Korean Air, it naturally landed at Seoul-Incheon airport from Manila. But it was only a stop over, going to and back from the US.

Singapore, I've been there about 4x (2002, 2009 2x, and January 2011). Last year when I went to Jakarta (October 2010), I took Singapore Air so from Manila it landed first in Changi, then changed plane to Jakarta, same route coming back. Changi airport is really big and modern. The airport is itself a tourist attraction.

And Hong Kong, yes, among the busiest airports I've seen. I estimate there is one plane landing every 45 seconds I think, and another plane taking off every 45 seconds too. If you are seated window seat, try looking up after your plane has landed, you will most likely see 3 or 4 or 5 planes in the air on queue waiting to land.

4. Munich Airport, Munich, Germany

Munich airport
Last year passengers napped on camp beds while waiting for air traffic to resume after the volcanic ash shut down airspace.

... Munich’s 1990s-era Terminal 1 is younger, fresher-looking and better organized than most terminal 2s and 3s on the planet. Its second terminal, home to Lufthansa and Star Alliance members, is arranged around a bright, central plaza that makes LHR and CDG look purgatorial. 
Smack in the middle, the facility’s airy shopping and recreation area -- Munich Airport Centre -- is easily accessible to all passengers without feeling pushy.
A “Bavarian hospitality” ethos here means this is one of the few airports on either side of the Atlantic where a no-frills T2 passenger can enjoy free tea and coffee and a T1er can happily sit out a flight delay at Air Bräu, a micro-brew worthy of a college town. 

3. Seoul Incheon, Seoul, Korea

Seoul Incheon
"I don't even care if the flight leaves on time."

At 10 years young, South Korea’s pin-up airport continues to wow passengers with its bright and airy arrival halls, its futuristic connecting train terminal, its Pine Tree and Wildflower gardens and its boggling array of amenities that include private sleeping rooms, free showers, round-the-clock spa facilities, ubiquitous Internet lounges, a golf course and an ice skating rink. 
And all this without forgetting why most people actually come to airports: not so much to work on their double axels or putting, but to get somewhere else as quickly and painlessly as possible. 
Crowned as the world’s top airport in the annual, customer-survey-based Airport Service Quality Awards, ICN is one of only three in the world with a full five-star Skytrax rating -- along with the next two airports on this list.
Why is Seoul number three? Bring Cirque du Soleil here and we’ll see about next year. 
In the meantime, check out the traditional Korean music performances or acrobatic shows on the first floor open stage. And don’t forget to swing by the Korean Culture Museum. 
“It was nice to see several cultural experiences placed around the terminal,” writes one passenger. “How many of us go through an airport and learn nothing of the country we are in?”

2. Singapore Changi, Singapore

changi airport
If this isn't good enough, there's always the theater room.

Is there a bigger compliment to an airport than travelers routinely scheduling more time here just to have fun and relieve stress? 
Spotless, flawlessly organized and stocked with conveniences that continue to lock Singapore for the gold, silver or (in an off-year marred by constructing more improvements) bronze in every serious annual airport poll, here’s the place that re-invented what airports can be.
That is -- places with pools, whirlpool baths and massage tables, prayer rooms and rooftop bars, LAN gaming areas and free movie theaters, koi ponds and butterfly gardens.
Changi’s massive interiors may require some hiking -- on efficient travelators or shuttle trains -- to distant gates or between terminals. But as long as you’re not running to catch a flight, it’s no O’Hare or Heathrow-style headache. More like a tour of what an elite international airport can and should be. 
Above all, it’s the mandated comfort factor here that’s most appreciated by passengers gravitating to relaxation lounges or, in a pinch, reclining slumber chairs with flat-screen TVs spread throughout the terminal floors.
Based on its four C voting criteria -- Comfort, Convenience, Cleanliness and Customer service -- Sleeping in Airports has granted SIN its coveted Golden Pillow Award for 15 straight years. 

1. Hong Kong International, Hong Kong

Top dog? This airport's too busy to gloat.

Now that its place as one of the great land reclamation projects of the 20th century is, well, 20th-century, HKIA is onto newer benchmarks -- including entering the world’s 50 million annual passenger club (shared with only 10 other airports) and becoming the busiest freight airport on earth.
This kind of pressure might sink a less inspired or prepared facility (the airport currently has a multi-phase Master Plan 2030 in the works which will see it through the next couple decades), but Hong Kong keeps looking better and more five-star functional with everything thrown at it. 
And not just for cargo carriers, but for more than 900 daily flights’ worth of satisfied travelers whisking through this foolproof hub -- offering loads of opportunities for lounging, golfing, fine-dining, 4-D movie theater-ing, free Wi-Fi’ing and simply wishing that this year’s Skytrax World Airport of the Year could be replicated in London, Paris, New York, Juneau … anywhere outside of Asia. 
Considered one of the most accessible airports in operation today, Hong Kong’s swift and driverless Automated People Mover is both ultra-convenient and kind-of-forbidding.
Hong Kong’s express train service to/from downtown offers remote check-in and has reinvented just how simple it should be to reach or depart a remote-looking airport. That is, if you ever want to depart. 
The next 6 most loved airports -- I have not seen them yet -- are:

10. Auckland Airport, Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland airport
The Rugby World Cup was the perfect excuse for a face-lift.

9. Montevideo Carrasco, Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo Carrasco
An airport worthy of Ryan Bingham.

8. Victoria International, Victoria, Canada

victoria airport
Canada, we get it, you're good at nature.

7. Zurich Airport, Zurich, Switzerland

zurich airport
An airport so clean, you can eat your over-priced sandwich off the floor.

6. Tampa International, Tampa, United States

Tampa airport
When your state is like Las Vegas for the elderly, you'll need an efficient airport.

5. Ushuaia-Malvinas Argentinas International, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina 

Ski lodge or airport?