EXPLAINER: Would you say 'Take me to Mactan Airport?' or '...Lapu-Lapu Terminal?' House okays bill keeping airport's name but naming terminals after island hero. More than Del Mar wanted, less than Radaza sought.

Pachico A. Seares
·5 min read

THE House of Representatives passed on third and final reading before the House went on recess last March 18 the substitute bill that (a) names after Lapulapu, the chieftain who led the battle of Mactan nearly 500 years ago, the two terminals at Mactan-Cebu International Airport but (b) keeps the name of the airport.

House Bill #8986 fused HB #18 filed by the late Cebu City north Representative Raul Del Mar; HB #2222, by Lapu-Lapu City Representative Paz Radaza; and HB #5275 by Paranaque Representative Eric Olivares. The bill seeks to amend Republic Act 6958 of 1990, Del Mar's bill that created the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority.

The Senate counterpart bill to HB #8986 is still not heard about but usually, the upper house respects the wish of the House legislators on a bill of local application. The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

When that happens, will that change travelers' habit of telling the driver to be taken to Mactan Airport, and will it be now "Take me to the Lapu-Lapu Terminal"?

THE NAMES IT WILL BEAR. If bill becomes law -- and most likely it will be -- what names will the airport and its facilities and agencies officially bear?

[] The airport: Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).

[] Terminal 1: Lapu-Lapu Domestic Terminal.

[] Terminal 2: Lapu-Lapu International Terminal.

[] The agency or authority overseeing the airport: Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA).

[] Private partner managing operations: GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC).

Just a few changes. Except for the two terminals, which will shed off its generic name, the existing proper names will stay. The private firm running the facilities has its own business name, which includes "Cebu airport" as reference to subject and location.

'AIRPORT' FROM 'TERMINAL.' The two terminals will be Lapu-Lapu domestic and international terminals but the airport itself will keep the name Mactan-Cebu.

Representative Pablo John Garcia of Cebu's third district in a press statement said the substitute bill approved by the House covers only the terminals and didn't include the airport.

Few travelers bother to distinguish airport from terminal, in Mactan or elsewhere, when they give their destination on the ground.

A sensible distinction is that an airport is the airfield, "the place where airplanes can take off and land, including one or more runways and one or more terminals," while terminal is the building in an airport where "passengers transfer from ground transportation to facilities that allow them to board airplanes." The terminal includes check-in desks, passport control, customs and arrival and departure areas.

An airport already includes the terminal but each is usually named separately: thus, in Mactan airport, the terminals are called Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, and in LAX or Los Angeles Airport, one terminal is called Bradley Terminal. The LAX naming one of its nine terminals after Bradley inspired the House compromise to assign the name Lapu-Lapu to the terminals instead of the airport itself.

MORE AND LESS THAN FIRST WANTED. Del Mar's bill aimed to keep the name "Cebu" amid increasing evidence at the time of the administration's wish to honor Lapu-Lapu in more ways than the Mactan chieftain was already celebrated.

President Duterte in 2018 signed into law (RA 11040) the bill declaring April 27, Adlaw ni Lapu-Lapu, a national holiday. After that, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, through its chairman Rene Escalante, publicly urged that the Mactan-Cebu airport be renamed Lapu-Lapu airport. Taking the cue, Radaza filed a three-paragraph bill for the country's "first resort airport" to bear Lapu-Lapu's name.

Del Mar acceded to the snowballing sentiment for Lapu-Lapu on condition that "Cebu" be retained. He cited "cultural, historical and economic reasons" for keeping the name "Cebu," which through the decades, he said, have already earned its place in all the three realms.

Congressman PJ Garcia spoke out for "Mactan." In his plea to the House Committee on Transportation last January 27, he opposed the change of name, arguing that 50 years of history would be erased by the renaming, saying that Mactan even predates Lapulapu. He also saw waste of the money and efforts to sell "Mactan," already a valuable brand throughout the world. Besides, he said, the matter of changing names does not just belong to Oponganons alone; it is also "co-owned" by the inhabitants of the province.

The latest House version would give more than what Del Mar wanted: the late congressman sought to keep only "Cebu" but both "Mactan" and Cebu are now being retained. But it would give less than what Radaza asked for: she wanted the entire airport with which to honor Lapu-Lapu; she got only the terminals.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTES. [1] HB #8986 does not honor Lapulapu as a hero but honors his "bravery and patriotism" in "leading Filipinos" against Magellan and his forces.

[2] The House much earlier, in June 2019, approved "on third and final reading" the Del Mar bill (HB #9198) renaming MCIA into Lapu-Lapu Cebu International Airport. Can the House withdraw its earlier approval? The principal author of the Del Mar version was already dead and represented by a caretaker, House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, who forged the compromise: that must be the reason for the turnaround.

WHAT TO TELL THE DRIVER on your way to the airport? And what will the plane captain or steward announce on landing or take-off? Most likely, you say to the cabbie, "Mactan airport, please," not "Lapu-Lapu terminal, bay." And, as PJ Garcia told SunStar Friday, April 2: "Pilots will still say welcome to Mactan-Cebu International Airport. People will still say we landed at LAX, not at Tom Bradley."