I went through a harrowing experience on the way back from Manila. But before I begin, let me tell you something about the Filipinos.

I have been away from my country of birth for so long that dealing with the Filipino character is a culture shock. For example, corruption is second nature to Filipinos, and this I would blame Ferdinand Marcos for because he made corruption an art form. The Philippines was a prosperous Asian nation before Marcos came to power. The country is now one of the poorest, sustained only by remittances from the thousands of Filipino domestics abroad, the nation’s biggest export.

Let me say one good thing about the Filipinos. In the face of adversity, they always seem to have a positive outlook. When they have been wronged, they leave vengeance to God. Although that might not be a good thing because none of Marcos’s cronies who participated in the plunder of the Philippines have ever been prosecuted. The Filipinos are a happy-go-lucky lot, living life without a thought for the morrow. But come to think of it, I don’t think that’s a good thing either.

So I learnt another Filipino trait at the dingy and greasy Manila International Airport. The security measures there are so tight that at 6am in the morning, it can be quite annoying. After the travel-tax fee booths, there was another security check where hand-carried luggage goes through a machine. An airport personnel in a white-shirt uniform told me to take off my sandals. I looked at the disgustingly dirty floor on which I had to walk barefoot. Dreading to tread on the floor in my bare-feet and sufficiently annoyed by the long formalities, I lifted a foot and said to him in tagalog, “Look at what I’m wearing. You will not find a bomb in these.”

After my hand-carried trolley was loaded into the machine and after passing through the metal detector door-frame with my sandals on, the same man in the white-shirt uniform confronted me on the other side and accused me of having a bomb in my shoes! Airport security were summoned. From there, I was taken downstairs to the airport security office. I waited there after being informed by a member of security staff in grey uniform that the security investigator hadn’t arrived yet.

While waiting, I told the man in grey uniform who escorted me, that I was innocent and showed him my sandals. I related to him what had transpired. Judging I was innocent, he telephoned the security investigator and related what had happened. He informed him that I was innocent and recommended that I be released. After he put the phone down, he said that he had to have the version of the story from my accuser. He was summoned and related the incident as my having said that I had a bomb in my shoes! Now why would I say that? I was so dumbfounded by his accusation, I was speechless.

My security escort then conferred with him in private. He returned saying that the man “amended” his story. He had said that I was visibly annoyed and that had put him off. “Put him off?” I thought in surprise. So I had been falsely accused because the man was vexed. My security escort then informed me that they would not record this incident in their books. It was a false accusation.

Meanwhile, the American pilot of the plane I was supposed to take, refused to take me on board — perhaps in spite of the report of innocence from airport security. Yes, I know that the Americans are paranoid with fear after the events of September 11, but that is no excuse for foregoing reason and the minimum of common sense intelligence.

Be forewarned: Beware of power-tripping Filipinos. That’s what I was told the attendant was doing, and that it is a common Filipino behaviour. Now I only wish that there be some way of punishing someone who falsely accuses you.

Power Tripping: Is This a Filipino Thing?: My friend from the Philippines told me that is a common Filipino trait, where even the smallest person, if given some little form of authority, enjoys being in command. They like to make other people feel like they are in control. Sort of like showing off. Over a group of people, they wield whatever power they have, no matter how small their position is.