What’s wrong with changing names?

Several lawmakers have taken the trouble to file a bill to rename Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas.

Presidential son and Davao Rep. Paulo Duterte, along with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco and party list Rep. Eric Go Yap are convinced we need “more representative branding for the international gateway of our country.”

The new name, the proponents say, bears our country’s name and is in the national language.

The initiative gave rise to a range of criticism—from hilarious memes on the new acronym, PAPAPI, to biting commentary on misplaced priorities, especially now that we are still seeing surges in fresh cases of COVID-19 even after more than 100 days of lockdown.

Aside from the number of infections, also raging are still-unanswered questions on the capability of the government to gather data for an accurate picture of the situation, make science-based decisions, and balance the need to protect the health of the public and the health of the economy.

That we have become used to the emergency situation does not diminish the urgency of the need of frontliners, of the poor and the jobless, of overseas Filipino workers. We also ponder a post-COVID world­—how do we begin anew when it appears most people working in most industries have been affected by the crisis?

With all these weighing down on us, it becomes clear that the proposal to change the airport’s name at this time is arbitrary and frivolous. It serves no other function than comic relief at best, and a revelation of lawmakers’ lack of anything better to do—a tragedy during ordinary times, doubly so during a pandemic.

It is not just the timing, that is objectionable, either. To be clear, changing names per se is not bad. In fact, it is good to evaluate, every so often, how things are called and what message these names send out into the world.

Names are more than what we call people, places or things. A change in name is best accompanied by a corresponding change in the essence of the thing that is being named.

If we can associate our current premier airport with efficiency and convenience, and if we can reform it in such a way that there are no more corrupt personnel who escort favored foreigners and regale them with privileges, there are no flight delays and apparent indifference to passengers’ plight, there are no frustrating homecomings for much-distressed OFWs who have no idea how they can make it home and find a new source of income after their displacement—then, perhaps, we can begin to think about a name change for our gateway to the rest of the world.

Topics: Ninoy Aquino International Airport , Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas , rename , Paolo Duterte , Lord Allan Velasco
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