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After 17 Christmases Apart, This PAL Pilot Flew His Parents Home

It's okay to cry because it's Christmas.
IMAGE Juan Paulo Fermin
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Last Monday, Philippine Airlines Second Officer Paulo Fermin posted a video of himself surprising his parents on a flight from Vancouver to Manila, after 17 years of spending Christmas apart.

His mother and stepfather did not know that he was part of the crew on their first Christmas flight home in 17 years. The video, taken by a cabin crew member,  shows Fermin carrying roses as he makes his way from the cockpit back to the cabin, where his astonished mother exclaims, “Hala, anak ko!” as he envelops her in a tight hug. Her delight radiates from the screen as she fights back tears (and as the rest of us do, too). The video quickly went viral and as of this writing, has gotten over 39,000 Likes and 7,973 Shares.

 

It has always been Fermin’s dream to fly his parents home for the holidays. For past 17 years, his mother has been managing a restaurant in Bermuda, and hasn’t been able to get away during Christmas, which is peak season on the island. When he was still studying, they would visit during his summer breaks. Fermin had dreamt of becoming a pilot since boyhood, and being separated from his parents strengthened his determination to make his ambitions into reality. 

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“Every time they come home to the Philippines, tapos aaalis na naman sila, na-experience ko yung parang andoon ka sa airport na nag-iiyakan sila. So naisip ko someday I can bring people back to their families—it’s one way of giving back to others,” he says. “I really did want to fly my parents home. Aside from that, the benefits I receive as a pilot will allow them to come home more frequently—it will be easier because it will become more practical.”

After graduating from college, he entered flying school in 2014, finished in 2016, and joined Philippine Airlines just last March. When he learned that his parents would finally be coming home for the holidays, he checked the flight schedules and found out that one of his friends was assigned to pilot his parents’ flight. He arranged to switch with his friend and got permission from the office.

Since his parents’ flight was from JFK to Manila via Vancouver, he boarded the plane on the Vancouver-Manila leg. He asked his fellow pilots for permission to greet his parents before takeoff, and thankfully they agreed.

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When asked how he feels after pulling the surprise off, he says, “It was very fulfilling. Kahit I grew up na never kami kasama, never ko na-feel na we were apart kasi andoon pa rin sila. That’s why naisipan ko na it’s one way of giving back to them, especially Pasko. Alam mo naman, wala sila sa Pasko so every Christmas, naisip ko na someday makakabawi kami. 'Tsaka, 'di ba ang Filipino, fan na fan ng Pasko? Iba talaga yung Pasko sa Pilipinas, kaya gusto ko rin nilang umuwi kasi yung Pasko doon di naman nila na-experience nang tulad sa Pilipinas. That’s why I really wanted to make this Christmas special not only for me, but for the rest of the family.”

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Angelica Gutierrez
Angelica is currently Editorial Assistant for Esquiremag.ph.
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