During the late Pope John Paul II's 1995 second visits in the Philippines I was preparing to leave my home town Mlang in Cotabato Province. Inside the Weena Bus bound for Cotabato City I saw the late Bernie Tayong, a policeman assigned in Pangasinan, and my two high school batch mates at Notre Dame of M’lang Anna Donie Mendaros and Lourdes Andres.
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“So you’re bound to Manila, why not join me for a free C-130 (military cargo plane) ride. I’m with my father (retired Air Force man) papasakayin niya kayo ng libre,” I boasted in a typical Ilonggo manner.
Bernie, whom in college had a common interest with me reading the Book Section Edition of the Reader’s Digest, said he got already a ticket with Philippine Airline (the only airline during that time).
“I’m in a hurry I have a medicine to deliver,” he begged.
The two beautiful lasses told me they too secure already a seat at PAL as they are bound abroad (either in the U.S or Great Britain, my memory escaped me already) to work as nurses there.
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“Loaded na po, the itinerary of that plane is Zamboanga, Cotabato City, and Mactan, Cebu and then Villamor (Pasay City)”.
Upon hearing that I could not avail the cargo plane, that sometimes carry caskets and a tank, I frantically jumped and ran to PAL’s ticketing office to buy one for myself so I could be at home in Dagupan City to see, smooch, and play with my second baby the months old Niko (he is 19 years now, how times fly) but was told that the plane was already booked already because of the Pope’s visit.
“Mabuti na lang hindi ko niyaya na mag C-130 iyong tatlo, nakakahiya,” I told my father who was anxious how he could get rid of me ( He and my mom had been pissed off every time I had my vacation in our rustic town because they were roused from sleep in the wee hours almost every night every time I knocked at the door drunk from swigging liquor with my gangs).
“Saan papunta iyang Nomad (a fatigue painted air force’s Australian made twin-engine turboprop, short take off and landing aircraftt parked near the PAL’s jet),” my father barked at an M-16 wielding sergeant, a Muslim rebel returnee, who was guarding the perimeter fence of Awang Airport.
He was told in Cagayan de Oro.
My father said to me that he already talked with the two young pilots that I be included on the passengers’ list.
The two fatigue jumpsuit clad pilots, who seem to nurse a hangover by contenting themselves in smoking Marlboro Red ciggies, called four of us male passengers (I was the only civilian there) to follow them near the Manila bound PAL and help push the 17 passengers capable 1970s made Nomad away from the pathway of the huge Boeing jet before they (sleepy air force pilots) start, taxi, and fly the plane.
If I was thankful earlier to escape the embarrassment had my three town mates acquiesce to join me in my aborted free C-130 ride, I felt humiliated as I puff and huff pushing the rickety Nomad to its taxi pad.
Son of a gun, passengers of PAL in the windows watched us with amusement as we sweat out under the blistering sun pushing the Australian made decrepit (the Aussies even condemned it as the worst plane they ever invented) to start and rev its engine.
One of the pilots shouted to us to push vigorously the plane as it would not start.
“Nasira tuloy ang plansa ng polo ko na gawang Divisoria. Parang namang jeep Quiapo na sira ang karburador netong eroplano.” I told a furious Army colonel, a PMAyer, who could only shake his head in embarrassment, too as he watched his medallions and combat titles hanging and sewed on his Blue Dress fall.
“Nag barko na ako sana,” he told me.
“Huwag sir, mas mabigat at delikadong itulak iyon, baka malunod po kayo,” I jested.
'Nough said, he he.
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