Monday, March 30, 2009

New Nagoya Int'l Airport, Japan

(picture from

March 13, 2009

In April 2004, on my Manila-Nagoya-US trip, the plane landed at the old Nagoya airport. That airport is now called Nagoya Airfield.

The New Nagoya or Chobu Centrair Intl. Airport, is new, opened for business only in February 2005. It's built from reclaimed land, it is surrounded by the sea. It is one of those typical Japanese architectures – huge, modern, very clean, high-tech, glass-and-steel structure. The escalators and walkalators for instance are very quiet and have sensors, meaning no persons riding on them, they won’t run, which saves electricity, wear and tear and maintenance cost.

From Detroit to Manila (and vice-versa) via NorthWest, now New Delta airlines, the plane stops here to do many things: unload Japan-bound passengers, get new Manila-bound passengers, refuel, unload the garbage from Detroit to Nagoya, get new set of meals and drinks for the passengers to Manila, and the Detroit-Nagoya plane crew and pilots of American-Japanese crew (ooppss, there was one Filipino crew in our flight) will be replaced by mostly, if not entirely Filipino crew.

So all passengers, including Manila-bound passengers, have to get off the plane. And go through another airport security checks – laptops out, hand-carried bags to X-ray machines, remove all coins, keys, belts, pens. At least they don’t ask passengers to remove their shoes. This process, queuing from the plane and get out of the security checks takes about 25 minutes, shorter if you get out of the plane first, longer if you get out last due to the long lines.

The Japanese airport administrators don’t believe that American and Filipino airport security officers (for planes coming from the US and the Philippines, respectively) have checked the passengers 100.0 percent. Maybe they’ve done their job only 99.99 percent, so there is still a 0.01 percent possibility that some “terrorists” might have slipped in? I think it’s weird. But then again, this is their land and their airport, they can set their own policies.

There seem to be not too many foreign passengers in this airport. The duty free shops have few people, sometimes empty. Japan is not that visitors-friendly, not only because of the language problem, but also because everything is expensive.

This is one of those few international airports that provide free internet connection, though the place is on the far side of the departure area. International departure lounges seem to have spacious tables and comfortable chairs with electric outlets, so people can put their bags and/or laptops to read or write something. There are also wifi access in all of them, but one has to buy an internet card to get internet access. If one wants free internet, he/she has to go to the lone designated area which I mentioned earlier, is on the far side of the departure area.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vince and Jojo, NY

March 11, 2009

After I checked out of my hotel that day, I went to City College of NY (CCNY). From my hotel, I walked 3 or 4 blocks to 50th street, took the Metro train 1, got off at 181st street, the "city college stop". I will meet my host for the day who was also my host for 2 days on my first visit to NY in 2004, Dr. Vince Boudreau. Vince teaches at the Political Science Department of CCNY, he speaks fluent Filipino, been to the Philippines countless times, married a Filipina, Tonette, and would give occassional lectures at the University of the Philippines (UP) from time to time.

CCNY has a big and sprawling campus in uptown NY. I noticed that most of their students are Latinos and blacks, a few Asians, then white people. My picture here shows 3 of the academic buildings of the college.

Vince is also the Director of the Colin Powel Center for Public Policy Study. The office is in honor of the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Armed Forces. Gen. Powell was the first Afro-American to hold such position. The Center is on the 5th floor of the white-grey building, it has a good view of the surrounding areas of uptown NY.

I was looking for a place where I could connect to the internet for free with my laptop, so Vince offered me his wide cubicle in his office. He also introduced me to his staff in the Center, they are nice and friendly people. They asked me what would I need that they can help provide, I said "nothing, just internet connection" :-)

Vince left for a meeting, came back by 6pm, and he pulled me to a nice bar in downtown NY where we had several glasses of various beer classes/tastes. His wife Tonette later followed us in the evening for a dinner at a Venezuelan restaurant, another yummy-yummy dinner.

I stayed at Vince's place for the night, then headed to LaGuardia airport the following morning for my flight back to Manila.

I did not take my picture with Vince while I was there, but my Filipina friend Lalaine Sadiwa-Stormoken, has a picture of him.

Visiting old friends in their places, a good chat over beer and nice dinner, are among the most fantastic and memorable activities one can do when travelling abroad.

I am very lucky to have good friends Vince, and Jojo Chan who hosted me for 2 nights in his place in NJ.

Marriott NY Marquis Hotel

This is my hotel during the 2nd International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC) sponsored by the Heartland Institute last March 8-10 this year. It's right in front of Times Square.

The ground floor is just the entrance to the hotel, 4 revolving doors (2 each in the front and the back) and a long table for the building security officers. The hotel reception is on the 8th floor, the 2nd to 4th floors are for shops. The 5th floor is for various meeting and function rooms, the 6th floor is the grand ballroom. I dont know what's on the 7th floor, I did not bother to visit.

The hotel is a huge building, about 45 storeys high, my room was on the 34th floor. From the ground to the 45th floor, there is an open space in the middle of the building, the "hollow" is much wider from the 9th to the 45th floors.

Elevators. In many hotels, guests have vin cards for their rooms, and the cards have to be swiped in the elevators. People who have no cards mean they are not guests of the hotel and the elevators will not move. At Marriott NY Marquis, there are about 14 high speed elevators, about 8 are made of glass so that guests can view the entire building from within, from the ground to the top floor. The other 4 or 6 elevators are made of steel, no view of the building from within.

Guests push the floor where they wish to go in a number keypad on a wall, and the number keypads will direct the guests or visitors which of the 14 elevators (labeled elevators A to N, I think) they can take. Once inside the elevator, there are only 2 prominent buttons to push: door close or door open, although the doors open or close automatically. All elevatos have monitor screens, about 2/3 are for some news updates, the other 1/3 of the screen are for ads. So guests will have little "idle" time as there are information to chew or entertain ads to view even inside the elevators!

The rooms are nice (mine has 2 beds), the tv is wide (Korean LG). There are no mini-bars (maybe in other rooms), only bottled water are available in the room ($5 and $10 for the small and big bottles).

High speed internet connection for 24 hours, noon to noon, plus unlimited calls (I think) for any of the 50 states in the US, are available for $17++. For me it's expensive, so I did not use the service.

This is my 2nd visit to NYC (the first was in 2004) but it's my first time to stay in a hotel there. I stayed with my American friend, Vince Boudreau's house, in uptown NY in my first visit. And I was very glad to stay in a big hotel right in front of Times Square!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Times Square, NY

Times Square in the center of NY City is a famous place: bright, animated lights and ads that run 24 hours day, 7 days a week; the scene of New Year festivities in NY every year; the home of broadway musical, etc. It is the junction of Broadway and 7th Avenues.

My hotel was right in front of Times Square. So upon going out of the hotel, the first thing that greets the guest is the Times Square!

I am amazed by those huge, animated lights and video walls on buildings fronting the Square. Well, the place does not look like a "square", more of a rectangle. But those 2 buildings facing each other on the left and right sides of the rectangle, that's where those huge video walls are posted.

 The Square attracts thousands of people every days -- tourists, employees of offices and shops near and around the place, both morning and evening. It also attracts some street performers, who further attract more visitors.

After I checked in at my hotel, I immediately went out and there was one performer on the Square, the "Naked Cowboy". The man is a hunk -- tall, muscular, good looking, and funny. He was only wearing a brief and a tall white boots, and a guitar. His guitar, brief and boots are painted with "Naked Cowboy".

 Many women, mostly teenagers or in their 20s, have their pictures taken with him, and he would make seductive poses with them on a first shot, the second shot he would put the ladies' hands on his butt, and he would either put his hands on their butt too, or simply hold their hips. These poses were attracting and amusing many passersby, including me, hehehe.

I don't know who are the other regular street performers or entertainers on the Square, but it's a very entertaining place to visit.

Shovelling snow

Although I have seen piles of snow in the past (in my trips to Europe, especially), I have not seen (or don't remember seeing) snow actually falling from the sky.

About 5 days before I arrived in NJ, a heavy snow storm hit NY, NJ, surrounding states and cities. Although most snow have already melted after 5 days, there are still some remaining small piles of snow.

I took that opportunity to "shovel" snow :-)
This is in front of Jojo Chan's house.

Statue of Liberty, NY

March 7, 2009

After the tour at Ellis island, we boarded another boat to take us to the more famous landmark of New York -- the Statue of Liberty. I was kidding Jojo and Lalaine that I have seen that statue being bombed, demolished, blasted into pieces, toppled by giant waves and snow storms, etc. -- in movies! :-)

The structure looks very imposing as one approaches it. NY and neighboring states just recovered from a bad snow storm a few days ago. On the day we visited the place, it was sunny, the weather was good, and it was a Saturday, so the place attracted thousands of visitors on that day alone.

A picture at this great landmark is surely one memorable event to bring home. My endless thanks to our host, Jojo Chan, for bringing us to this place. It was never in my agenda or imagination that I will step into these 2 places (Ellis island and the Statue). I only wanted to attend the conference in NY, my main purpose in coming here, plus a visit of some local places in NJ and NY.

Ellis island, NY

March 7, 2009

Our first stop (me, Jojo Chan and Lalaine Stormorken) was Ellis island. This place is very famous because it used to be the office of the US immigration several centuries ago, for migrants coming from Europe and other continents travelling by boat.

The pictures and display of various luggages, shoes, clothing, other personal belongings of the migrants then are properly chronicled. There are also enlarged photos of letters written in German, Polish, Swedish, Italian, French, etc. where migrants who have settled in America were writing to their folks back home.

In other rooms, there were pictures and replica of the boats and later steamships, that transported the hundreds of thousands of migrants. Or a dormitory for newly-arriving migrants (a 3-level hanging beds per column, generally congested.

One will realize that America really owe its economic development and cultural evolution from those numerous and anonymous migrants who travelled for many days and weeks, just to reach a "dream land".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Manhattan, from a boat

Manhattan, the famous commercial and financial center of New York City, really looks amazing from a distance: huge skyscrapers very close to each other over a wide area.

These views (pictures) are from a boat when my Filipino friend, Jojo Chan, who has been living in New Jersey and working in NYC for a long time now, toured me and another Filipina friend, Lalaine Stormorken, last March 7, 2009. We went to Ellis Island then the Statue of Liberty. These 2 places are very famous for both tourists and locals. Everyday, these places attract thousands of visitors.

The view from a boat is spectacular because it allows one to have a wide view of Manhattan and its skyscrapers.

I really enjoyed this trip.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Newark and LaGuardia Airports

(Pictures taken from

These are two of the 3 airports serving New York City and its surrounding cities and states. The third airport is JFK airport and it’s far from NY City proper. Newark Liberty is in New Jersey, just across the Hudson (?) river fronting NY City, while LaGuardia is the nearest to Manhattan. LaGuardia is the smallest of the 3, serving mainly (if not entirely) domestic flights, and it’s very busy, maybe because of its smaller facilities.

On my recent trip to NY early this month, I arrived at Newark Liberty airport (Manila-Nagoya-Detroit-Newark), and departed at LaGuardia (LaGuardia-Detroit-Nagoya-Manila). On my return flight, our plane left LaGuardia gate on time, but it took us about 35 minutes to finally take off. Not because of bad weather or other factors, but because of the long queu of planes landing and taking off. I heard our plane pilot announcing something like we’re number 14 of the planes landing and taking off. I saw something like 5 consecutive landings, then consecutive take offs, the space between planes taking off is about 2:10 minutes. When our plane was about to take off, I saw 10 planes queuing behind us! 9 on the right side, 1 on the left.

A Filipino friend whose hobbies included flying small airplanes, Sam Aherrera, made this short observation:

“All major airports -- detroit, chicago, reagan in dc, lax, boston, dulles in Virginia -- have multiple landing and take-off. NY and NJ airports are more critical, not so much because of so many planes, but because they’re very close to each other with multiple landing and taking off. That air corridor could be one of the most dangerous (in the world). The air traffic controllers there could have hypertension because they’re always on the edge in air traffic. Whenever I go to Boston from Virginia, I pass jersey and new york along I-95 North and am always amazed at the abilities of the traffic controllers and the pilots who must coordinate very well in this very tight airspace. And imagine this air traffic when flying in bad weather!”

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Northwest Airlines

I have been to the US mainland thrice in my life. The first in 2004 (Michigan, Chicago, Virginia, Washington DC), the second in 2008 (Atlanta, San Francisco), and the third this month (New Jersey and New York). In all those 3 trips, I took Northwest Airlines only. Two years ago, I also went to Honolulu, Hawaii, but I took Philippine Airlines, the only airline that has direct monopoly route between Manila and Honolulu (being a monopoly, the fare is about similar to Manila-LA or SFO despite shorter distance for Honolulu).

Northwest is a big airline, and it has grown bigger with its merger with Delta Air only recently. The travel time to US east coast area though, is long because from Manila, it stops first at either Narita-Tokyo or Nagoya in Japan. Then stop at Detroit airport, one of its main hubs in the US. Passengers from Manila and Japan go through immigration and customs procedures, then take a domestic flight to anywhere in the eastern side of the US. I remember my trip last year, from the time I checked-in at NAIA-Manila airport, to the time I got out of Atlanta airport, was 25 hours! On this trip, from the time I checked-in at NAIA-Manila airport till I got out of Newark, NJ airport, was 26 hours because of more than an hour flight delay from Detroit..

A Northwest flight from Manila to either Narita or Nagoya (and vice-versa) has an all-Filipino stewards and stewardesses. From Japan to Detroit, it’s an American and some Japanese crew.

Most NWest planes that fly from Manila to Detroit don’t have individualized screens for passengers. Only wide screens in the middle and small monitors on both left and right alleys of the plane. Thus, passengers cannot choose a movie or documentary to watch, only those short films or programs shown by the plane’s crew, or the plane’s tracking system (location, speed, altitude, temperature outside, distance traveled, remaining travel time, etc.).

Passengers can choose some audio programs (music and an audio documentary program) through with their headphones, but there are only 8 or 9 audio programs to choose. I was searching for a rock n roll audio channel, there was none or their rock music collection was not my type. In instances like this, the best thing to do is to remove the headphones and either sleep or read something.

I remember my flight last year from San Francisco to Manila, the NWest plane has individualized screens. I wasn’t able to rest well because there were many movies or programs to watch (from comedy to sports to travel and documentaries), or many music programs to listen to (from rock to classical to jazz). So I arrived home groggy and sleepy 

Food at NW was just fine. For instance, from Nagoya to Detroit in this trip, choice for dinner was (a) Korean style chicken with mixed veggies and steamed rice, or (b) beef BBQ sauce with mashed potatoes.

A number of Filipinos I know who live in the US East coast fly via Asian airlines – China airlines and Eva Air (via Taipei), Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, etc. I hope to fly with one of these Asian airlines someday to the US.

Philippine International Airports

(Note: pictures here are from

The country has several international airports scattered around the archipelago’s major islands. These are:

1. Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.
2. Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in Mactan island, Cebu province.
3. Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga.
4. Davao International Airport in Davao City, Mindanao
5. Laoag International Airport in Laoag, Ilocos Norte

The Kalibo Airport in Kalibo, Aklan, I’m not sure if it’s also an international airport because Kalibo is the nearest big airport to Boracay, a globally-famous white sand beach resort. Also the airport in Subic and La Union, I’m not sure if they are international airports too.

NAIA is the biggest of all international airports. It has 3 terminals. Terminal 1 is the oldest and is used by all foreign airlines. Terminal 2 is used exclusively by the oldest local airline, Philippine Airlines (PAL) for its international and domestic flights. Terminal 3 is the newest and biggest, it has been finished about 6 or 7 years ago but never opened immediately due to politics and heavy corruption scandals. It was finally opened only in August 2008, and is currently used mainly by the new but biggest local airline, Cebu Pacific, for its international and domestic flights.

NAIA 1 is a very small international airport by world standards. It’s small and old, yet collected several millions of $ from passengers’ “terminal fee” alone, currently at PhP750 (around US$15.5). The smallness, oldness and lack of modernity of NAIA 1 being the premier terminal of the country for the big airlines in the world, should have contributed to the small volume of foreign visitors coming into the country. There are many factors being considered by foreign visitors, of course, it’s just that an international airport is the first structure that a first time foreign visitor will set foot and see in any country. Terminal 3 that was supposed to accommodate all foreign airlines currently using Terminal 1, took many years to be opened, and still not being used by those foreign airlines.

It is good therefore, that other foreign visitors can land in other international airports like those in Clark, Cebu and Davao. They can go nearer to their final destinations somewhere outside Metro Manila.

Given the country’s archipelagic nature (7,100+ islands), the high population (90 million, the 12th largest population in the world), the high mobility of Filipinos abroad, and the plentiful beautiful resorts in many islands, there should be more international airports in the country. More international airports means more choices for foreign visitors and returning Filipinos from abroad to see their provincial and city destinations more directly, and to fly out.

Airport Security Checks

After 911 attacks in the US in 2001, airport security checks almost everywhere have become more strict. But in some countries and airports, the security checks are overly strict and redundant, perhaps OA. Like the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Manila.

At NAIA 1, an international passenger goes through 2 security checks: first upon entry at the airport terminal building (person, hand carried and check-in luggages), and second after check-in and passing the airport immigration. Here, passengers have to remove their shoes, belts, coins, keys, hand-carried luggage go through x-ray tube.

If passengers are going to the US and fly an American airline NorthWest, they will have to go through a 3rd security check and repeat the 2nd procedures. Total time spent from entry at terminal building to the departure lounge for a US flight would be about 45 minutes on average.

Aside from those security checks, there are also plenty of private security guards at the airport. The first group are outside the terminal building, checking passengers’ plane tickets and passports. After passing through the 2nd security checks, there are again security guards checking passengers’ boarding passes on the way to their departure gates.

In many international airports in the world, like those in Asia and Europe, passengers check-in first, and they go through only one security check, them and their hand-carried bags only, before proceeding to the departure lounge.

The big difference between them and NAIA 1: the former have big and wide terminals and few airport personnel, the latter has a small terminal and plenty of airport officials and personnel per square meter of terminal area.