The pilots and crew of the Philippine Airline (PAL) flight that flew Pope Francis back to Rome were tearful when they recounted their rare and life-changing encounter with the pontiff.
Leading the airline representatives who faced media on Thursday was Captain Manuel Antonio Tamayo, the pilot in command of the flight that took the Pope to Tacloban and to Rome.
“It was a very memorable experience to all of us, something that we will cherish the rest of our lives. I’ve been flying for the past 40 years. I’ve flown with at least three presidents, but he is the first Pope and the head of the Church. So [I am] truly blessed to have served him in my capacity,” Tamayo, who is also PAL’s vice president for flight operations, said.
The flight to Rome, which lasted for almost 14 hours, gave Tamayo, co-pilot Ruel Isaac, two flight officers and 11-cabin crew the chance to greet Pope Francis and in turn be blessed by him.
Flight Purser Jeaneatte Perez said her encounter was “an answered prayer.”
Assistant cabin crew (ACC) Lorenza Sarza said she was amused by the pontiff when he he randomly chose a drink—“eeny, meeny, miny, moe style”—among the many choices she offered.
Another flight attendant, Ruby Carol Manzano, recalled how peaceful she felt when the Pope looked straight into her eyes. “It was like just you and him,” she noted.
ACC Jacquilline Burgos said she felt the mercy and compassion of Pope Francis.
Inflight service training specialist Aris Obeso said his meeting with the Francis prompted him to reflect on his life.
“Inisip ko rin na [I also thought that] this will be my opportunity, and my one chance to actually start thinking about how I live my life,” he said.
The pilots and crew who were with the Pope when he went to Tacloban also shared their memorable encounters.
ACC Elsa Yuson said that for the first time in her career, she felt no fear despite the turbulent weather.
Flight Purser Carol Uy reminded everyone of the significance of the chance to be touched by the Pope. “People asked for rosaries and sacramentals to be blessed, but what do we do with them? Do we make them souvenirs? [The enconter] should be something that will touch our lives. This should be something that will inspire our spiritual lives,” she concluded