MGen Brawner recalls last moments with fellow passengers of ill-fated Air Force plane

Then Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. at Kampo Ranao in Marawi City. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 06 July) — “Tumayo ang balahibo ko (My hair stood on end),” Major General Romeo Brawner Jr., the new commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) said of his reaction after learning that the same Philippine Air Force (PAF) C-130 plane which took him, his entire family and staff from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City to this city had crashed in Patikul, Sulu last Sunday.

Brawner and his family went to Cagayan de Oro for the turnover ceremonies at the 4ID headquarters in Camp Evangelista on Monday.

“I saw the faces of the pilots. I saw the faces of the other passengers. I can still remember them,” he said during the press conference right after he assumed command.

The ill-fated aircraft made a stopover at Lumbia Airport here and flew to Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental before proceeding to Sulu with almost 100 passengers, including the three pilots and crewmembers. Most of the passengers were soldiers who were assigned to the 11th Infantry Division.

As customary practice of the PAF, Brawner said the plane’s senior pilot, Major Emmanuel Makalintal, gave him a briefing on the flight at Villamor Air Base.

“He (Makalintal) briefed me as the most senior officer of his passengers on what to expect of the flight and the weather,” he said.

He said he, his family, the pilots, the crew and his staff then gathered around and prayed for a safe flight ahead.

He added that two Air Force personnel boarded the plane on the last minute.

“It was an uneventful flight to Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro. The plane was relatively new and we were the only passengers aboard,” he recalled.

He said they disembarked at the military airport in Lumbia before the plane flew to nearby Laguindingan Airport to refuel and where the soldiers boarded.

Brawner said he received the news that the plane crashed more than an hour later last Sunday.

“Tumayo ang balahibo ko. Me and my family were given a second chance to live,” he said.

He said that elation was cut short, however, when he learned through news reports that the death toll had risen.

He said he and his family went to a nearby church to pray and light candles for the pilots, crew and passengers of the plane. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)