CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/2 February)—Twenty-three year old Nena Agbayani clicked her Canon camera before joining the other families who came to the Oro Garden Memorial Park in Barangay Lumbia here Saturday for the 15th anniversary of the Cebu Pacific Flight 387 that crashed in Mt. Sumagaya, Misamis Oriental.
To many, she was the eight-year old girl who came with her aunt, writer Claire Agbayani, to Cagayan de Oro 15 years ago to look for his father Rene, who was among the 109 people on board the ill-fated flight.
On this particular Saturday, Nena was merrily mingling with the other families of the Cebu Pacific crash victims, embracing some of them and visibly having a good time.
She was no longer sad about his father’s untimely death.
After 15 years, Nena, like the other families, has overcome the traumatic incident described by airline industry analysts as the “Philippines’ worst air crash.”
“I felt I did not lose my father. I am into everything he did—in theater and anthropology,” said Nena, a student at the University of the Philippines in Manila.
She said that many things about her father, she learned from the stories told her by her Aunt Claire and her family.
Nena could still vividly remember the day when Cebu Pacific Flight 387 slammed into the side of Mt. Sumagaya in Misamis Oriental on Feb. 2, 1998.
“I found it weird when I came home from school that the house was very quiet. Usually, my father brings home a pasalubong for me,” Nena narrated.
Earl Anthony Oca was 12 years old then and was also going home from school when he found his mother and their neighbors listening to the radio.
“The radio was blaring about a plane that was missing. I realized that my father was on board that plane when I saw my mother weeping,” Oca said.
Like most of the other children of the victims, Oca comes to Oro Garden every year to pray and be with those who also lost their loved ones in the plane crash.
“It went on every year until I forgot what my father looks like. I can still see him when I forced myself to think of him, but that is not frequent anymore,” Oca said.
Fr. Leonil Sumpaico, former parish priest of the Miraculous Medals parish in Barangay Lumbia here, said that 15 years is long enough for the emotional wounds of the families to heal.
“For 15 years, these families pray. For 15 years, they hold on to each other. Fifteen years have gone by and friendships have been cemented. They have moved already,” said the retired priest who now lives in Manila.
Back then, Sumpaico said the families were angry and blamed Cebu Pacific and the pilots of the ill-fated plane for the tragic loss of their loved ones.
At this morning’s memorial mass at the Oro Garden, Sumpaico said the families even welcomed the father of Cebu Pacific Flight 387 pilot Capt. Paulo Justo, who came and pray with them.
“This was a thing he cannot do before. The families have blamed the pilots for the crash. No relative of the pilots came here when the families were present,” Sumpaico recalled.
He said one thing that helped the families moved on was when the rescuers, who always come to the annual mass, stopped showing pictures of the crash, upon his request.
Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and distribution, said the airline company will always support the families of the crash victims who want to visit the memorial in Oro Garden every year. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)