Social media “memes” on the proposed renaming of NAIA to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas or PAPAPI for short. (Photo courtesy by Philstar)

MANILA – A bill pinning to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas has been filed at the House of Representatives that instantaneously drew mixed reaction among Filipinos and netizens after it came out on mainstream media.

House Bill No. 7031 was filed on Thursday by Presidential son and Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte along with two other co-authors.

In filing the bill, Duterte explained that there is a need to identify the country’s largest international airport as belonging to the Philippines by using the Filipino language, Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas or PAPAPI for short.

“We need a more representative branding for the international gateway of our country, thus our proposal renaming NAIA to the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas. Aside from it bearing our country’s name, it is in our national language,” Duterte said.

“We want it to reflect the legacy of the Filipino people, our everyday heroes. The name bears no color, no political agenda. It only signifies our warmth as Filipinos in welcoming our own kababayans and foreign visitors,” he added.

But unknown to Duterte and co-authors of the bill in Marinduque Rep. and House energy committee chair Lord Allan Jay Velasco and ACT-CIS Rep. and House appropriations committee chair Eric Go Yap, the acronym or shortened term of the Tagalog version of NAIA now becomes PAPAPI.

And if one is not looking or reading it, the sound that “PAPAPI” gives off is a short endearing term for actor Piolo Pascual who is popularly known as “Papa Piolo” or “Papa P” while on set, among movie scribes, and originally by son Iñigo Pascual.

That is where the controversy and social media frenzy came in over the proposed bill renaming NAIA.

For his part, Velasco said the proposal aims to reposition the Philippines as a choice tourist destination as the country prepares to reopen to travelers once the pandemic is over.

“Renaming it to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas will not only benefit and bolster our brand as a destination hub but will also strengthen the country’s identity,” Velasco said.

“Changing the name of NAIA to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas gives every Filipino a great sense of pride and ownership of the country’s biggest and largest international airport,” Velasco added.

Yap, meanwhile, said while national roads and institutions have been named after notable personalities, the country’s main international gateway should reflect the Philippines and the Filipino nation.

“Gusto natin na paglapag pa lang ng eroplano dito, pangalan na agad ng bansa natin ang bubungad sa ating mga balik-bayan pati sa mga turista mula sa ibang bansa. Ating iparamdam sa kanila na sila ay nakauwi na sa kanilang tahanan (Once the airplane lands here, we want the name of our country to be the first thing to welcome returning Filipinos and foreign tourists. Let us make them feel that they have finally come home),” Yap said.

It was in 1987 that the original name of the biggest airport in the country, Manila International Airport (MIA), was renamed to Ninoy Aquino International Airport through Republic Act No. 6639. (IA/With reports from PNA)