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Two PAL flights set to fly home 300 stranded passengers

25 May 2021

By Daisy C L Mandap 

An earlier flight booked by the Consulate for stranded passengers

About 300 Filipino migrant workers stranded in Hong Kong are set to be flown home on two separate Philippine Airlines flights tomorrow, May 26, and on June 1, ending months of uncertainty and despair for most of them.

This was revealed by the Consulate, which has asked the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force to allow PAL to fly in more passengers than what it is allowed under pandemic-related travel restrictions. 


“It’s a go for tomorrow’s repat (repatriation) flight, but the approval is for 150, not 200. The next one is scheduled for June 1,” said Consul Paulo Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section.

The IATF has set a daily cap of 1,500 arrivals in Manila each day starting in mid-March this year, ostensibly to decongest quarantine facilities. 

Pindutin para sa detalye

The Consulate has been requesting for 200 extra seats on each PAL flight that leaves Hong Kong so it could fly home its hundreds of passengers who have been stuck here for months because of repeated flight cancellations.

Among those set to fly home tomorrow is April Abella, who was earlier devastated by news that her mother had passed on, leaving her three young children without a caregiver.

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To compound the problem, her eldest child has been sick, forcing her husband to stop working so he could look after their children.

April knows that with the flight delays and the mandatory hotel quarantine in Manila she would have no time to say a final farewell to her mother.


But, she said: “OK lang po sa akin kahit madalaw ko na lang sa puntod niya ang mommy namin,” she said. “At maipagamot ko yung anak ko na maysakit.”

(It’s ok with me to just visit my mother’s grave, and visit my sick child)

April's PAL flight was cancelled twice in the past, leaving her at her wit’s end trying to find a way to go home.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

She was greatly relieved when told she would be put in the priority list for tomorrow’s flight by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Naiiyak po ako sa tuwa,” she said (I am so happy I could cry).

Another worker who is happy to be finally on the way home is Ginalyn V., who is three months’ pregnant and holder of a PAL ticket that has already been rebooked twice.

Ginalyn was starting to get desperate since she was terminated and she was running out of funds. Thus, she was overjoyed when OWWA called her Monday to say she was going to be included in the first flight out for the stranded passengers.

Only one problem remained, and that was a medical certificate that would assure the airline that she was fit to fly in her condition.

Luckily, soon after she got the call from OWWA, Ginalyn found help from PathFinders, a non-government organization that assists pregnant women migrants. When she went there for an appointment, a doctor was around, and she got the certificate that she wanted.

Jovelyn is happy to be home, and quarantine in one of the most luxurious hotels in town

Another pregnant worker should have been on the arranged flight, but after four flight cancellations, Jovelyn Racadio could no longer wait and decided to dump her PAL ticket and book with Cebu Pacific instead.

Worried that she would no longer be allowed to fly as she was already 30 weeks pregnant, Jovelyn decided to appeal to her former employer to just buy her a ticket with Cebu Pacific. She left for Manila early on Monday, just two days short of the arranged mass evacuation through PAL.

Jovelyn said she was disheartened when the promised slots on PAL’s flight on May 19 did not push through. She also felt humiliated when a Consulate officer allegedly told her to stop hoping for a “repatriation” with PAL and just buy a ticket from an airline that does not cancel flights on a regular basis.

Masakit, hindi ako maka move on kaya lumapit na lang ako sa amo ko, buti naawa naman,” she said in a message. (It was painful, I could not move on so I went back to my employer to ask for help. Luckily, he took pity on me).

Nagpa book na ako sa amo ko ng Cebu Pacific ma’am. May 24 po ang binook niya. Buti po pumayag siya at di na ako nakihati,” she said in a message.

(I asked my employer to book me with Cebu Pacific for its May 24 flight. Luckily my employer agreed and did not make me pay for half of the ticket cost).

Jovelyn is now happily ensconced in plush Sofitel hotel in Manila for her mandatory 10-day quarantine, her sad experience of being pregnant and without work, and waiting for a flight that never came, all behind her.

Many of those who dared not pin their hopes on a 'mercy flight' switched airlines

Another worker who decided to put an end to the waiting game is Maricel C., who had been jobless for nearly a month, and whose PAL flight was cancelled three times.

She had pinned her hopes on getting onto tomorrow’s flight, and when told that she was no 248 on the list and would likely be accommodated only on the June 1 flight, she went back to her employer to beg for help.

Naawa po amo ko, binilhan ako ng bagong ticket po kanina kaya flight ko bukas. Yung slot ko pwede nang ibigay sa iba,” she said Monday night. (My employer took pity on me and bought me a new ticket today, so I’ll be leaving tomorrow. They could just give my slot to someone else).

Earlier, Maricel pleaded to be allowed to board the earlier flight, saying she was “walang wala na” (totally broke).

In a message to the SUN, she said: “Uwing uwi na po ako talaga at walang wala na. Nagkasakit nga po ako kaya ako nagdesisyon na di na mag renew sa amo ko kasi dalawang beses ako nahimatay dati.” (I really want home and I am really broke. I got sick so I decided not to renew my contract with my employer. I fainted twice before).

Dito sa boarding house magkakasakit ang mga tao kasi hindi nakakakain ng tama dahil walang pambili ng pagkain. Tulungan po ninyo ako. May 1 pa ako nakababa sa amo ko.”

(Here in my boarding house, people would likely get sick because they are not eating properly, they don’t have money to buy food. Please help me. I have been out of my employer’s house since May 1).

Had she waited just a few minutes more, Maricel could have been on PAL’s flight. On being told about her plight, OWWA’s welfare officer Virsie Tamayao got someone to call Maricel but she could no longer be reached.

PAL blames arrival cap in Manila for repeated cancellations of its flights

Also in the motley group is a stroke patient currently at Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai whose PAL flight was also canceled earlier, and was rebooked to Jun 5.

Cynthia Tellez, general manager of Mission for Migrant Workers, asked OWWA to help get her on tomorrow’s flight so the patient could be with her family sooner.

Another happy passenger is longtime Filipino community leader Lelita Lastima who is busy packing her stuff as of this writing, anxious not to be left behind.

Jolas is one of the most-liked volunteers at the Consulate
Lelita, who is Jolas to many of her fellow Filipinos in Hong Kong, decided to leave the city where she has worked for an incredible 35 years, to be with her family.

Jolas has been saying that her lawyer-son had been asking her to go back home for good. However, she kept begging off, as she was still enjoying her life here, where she has been one of the longest serving volunteers at the Consulate.

The end of Jolas’ long sojourn in Hong Kong puts a positive spin to a trip that would have otherwise been full of many sad tales from hundreds of other Filipino workers who were left stranded and unattended for months.

The travails they encountered trying to get home beg the question of how this could have happened when as Filipino nationals, they should not have been barred from returning to the country.

Why were they reduced to begging for help and pleading to get on board a flight home when they were issued plane tickets they paid dearly for? Who should be responsible?

Their return home should not put an end to giving them answers, if not justice, to what they were made to go through amid one of the most distressing periods of our time.

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