Have the victims finally rested in peace? Flight 541 eleven years after

BABAK, Samal Island (MindaNews/19 April) — A cluster of mature mahogany trees representing the 131 crash victims of Air Philippines flight 541 that smashed into Sitio Bungtod, Barangay San Isidro here on April 19, 2000 is the only reminder of that ill-fated journey.

In the middle of the trees lay a basket of flowers and a lighted candle, at around 12 noon Tuesday.

About 150 meters away is a cluster of houses belonging to the Tudlasan family.

Pablo Tudlasan said that now and in the past few years the anniversary of the crash has passed in silence. “But the relatives can visit the crash site anytime,” said the patriarch of the Tudlasan family who owns the land where the ill-fated plane plummeted.

“It was around seven in the morning when we heard loud rumbling sound in the sky and in no time we saw the airplane plummet from the sky and burst into flames,” recalled Pablo’s wife, Merlinda.

“Murag daghan kaayo nga barel nagligid ligid unya daku dayon kaayo nga boto among nadunggan (It seemed like many barrels were rolling and then we heard a big explosion),” Merlinda recalled.

Air Philippines flight 541, a Boeing 737-2H4, was about to land at the Davao International Airport from Manila early morning of April 19, 2000. Flight controllers in the airport put the plane on hold as it was about to land because another aircraft was using the runway. It slammed however into the mountain about 500 feet above sea level and became the deadliest air disaster in Philippine history. On board the plane were 124 passengers and seven crewmembers.

Merlinda recalled that for a few months after the crash, children told of stories of seeing people in white clothes converge in the crash site and then disappear. One incident she vividly recalled was in October 2000 when a little boy in checkered shirt was seen playing with children near their house around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. When she tried to get closer to the playing children the boy in checkered shirt disappeared.

But after a few years, they have stopped seeing what appeared to be paranormal events in the crash site. “Nahaluna na gyud siguro ang mga kalag sa mipanaw atong crash (The souls of those who perished in the crash may have finally found peace), Merlinda told MindaNews.

“Sa una ga misa man dire basta anniversary, pero karun, sa kapilya man daw sa Penaplata ang misa,”  (Before, they would hold mass at the crash site every anniversary, but now, we were told the mass will be held in the chapel),” she said. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)