Forced to return to Manila and going nowhere

When the captain of flight 5J639 bound for Puerto Princesa in Palawan announced that the plane had to do a “missed approach,” a term in the aviation parlance for “go-around” to avoid a weather disturbance, I clasped my hands in a prayer. When he said it was returning to Manila, I could already taste fear in my mouth. Whaaaat did I just hear? I began to imagine so many scenarios. In 2012, a Piper Seneca plane carrying then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo en route to Naga tried to go back to Cebu City, its point of origin, before it crashed into the sea, killing the good secretary and two others on board. What can happen from there up to the time we reach Manila, my panicky self thought. To calm myself down, I called a flight attendant to order a sandwich. He gave me the one with ham and cheese. “Oh and water please,” I asked. “Do you want it with ice?” I said, Yes, without thinking. If I was going to die there, I wouldn’t want to be starving and I want my water served cold.

The disappointed passengers bound for Puerto Princesa. I was more than grateful we were all safe, however.

Prior to the flight, I was actually having second thoughts whether to cancel my El Nido trip or not. It was planned late November last year after I chanced upon a running seat sale of Cebu Pacific. I planned to have it a week after the Pope’s visit and my birthday. It was a birthday treat to myself after giving-my-all kind of hard work during the papal visit. But a few hours after Pope Francis left the country, I felt the virus creeping up on me– the stuffy head, the sore throat, the feeling of wanting to be in bed all day. Until Saturday morning before my flight, I was sick. My mother in the other end of a phone call could sense it. But I wanted to go. Cebu Pacific would not refund nor rebook my flights at no cost because it was, as I said, a promo ticket. So I decided to go. A friend on Facebook admonished me to go: “Go even if you are dying!”

My reaction to the captain’s announcement was exaggerated, of course, but I kept my fear to myself during that quite bumpy ride. The plane was in good condition, I assured myself, and it was able to refuel before leaving Manila. But note that this was the first time it happened to me even if I often report about planes returning to NAIA for various reasons.

So I thanked the heavens when the plane landed safely at the NAIA a bit past 7 p.m. It was a two-hour joyride in the air. Before the deplaning, a female from the cabin said the standard spiel, “Welcome to Manila,” eliciting laughter and applause from the passengers. We were still happy even if we have gone nowhere. Instead of taking the next flight, I decided to move my trip to Puerto Princesa on a later date. After I finalized my schedule and filed a short breaking news, I left the airport and took a bus to my parents’ home in Liliw, Laguna, a three-hour bus ride from Manila. It was an unexpected trip home.

A co-passenger waiting for the plane to arrive at NAIA 3

The good news from all these is I got myself booked a new flight schedule for free. Fine, the universe would not allow me to go to El Nido on those days. But I wish I will have my luck two weeks from now.


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