These Boys Used Their Big Toys to Help in Odette Disaster Relief Efforts


Typhoon Odette has left a trail of destruction in many areas in the country, including Siargao, Cebu, and various other provinces like Bohol and Iloilo. Many of our countrymen need help. 

But these calamities also bring out the best in many people who are only too eager to share their blessings and offer assistance to those in need. Heroes emerge in times like these. No, they don’t wear costumes and masks, (well, maybe medical masks, yes) and instead of partying and having fun with their big toys like planes, helicopters and yachts this season, they focused on helping out in the relief efforts.

File photo of Ronquillo's R44 Robinson Raven 2 chopper which he used to fly to Siargao

Photo by Raymond Ronquillo.

Raymond Ronquillo is one of them. The businessman who’s also a certified pilot, racecar driver and adventure-seeker grabbed his gear and used his personal Robinson R44 Raven 2 helicopter to ferry stranded people from Siargao to nearby Butuan Airport so they can be flown back to their own hometowns. 


Ronquillo risked his own personal safety and covered all expenses (including fuel) to fly to the disaster areas. He owns a secondhand luxury car dealership that is a purveyor of luxury cars, boats and aircrafts named R33, which gives him access to own and maintain leisure crafts that can also be used in emergencies like these.

Ronquillo's R44 Robinson Raven 2 chopper flies over Siargao

Photo by Raymond Ronquillo.

“A lot of people were stranded in Siargao and have families are requesting for help,” he told Esquire Philippines. “They couldn’t contact them for more than two days. Most of the people were stranded in General Luna, where all roads are blocked with trees and fallen electrical posts. The only way to go to the nearest airport is to walk, which takes five to six hours.

"So my girlfriend Tin and I decided to pack our bags, prepare gasoline, coordinate with the fuel stations en route since we will be needing lots of gasoline to travel from Luzon to Mindanao. We expected the flight from Manila to Siargao to be about six hours, but it took us over eight hours because of headwind and time for refueling.”

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Raymond Ronquillo piloting the chopper

Photo by Raymond Ronquillo.

The couple only had less than an hour to rescue people due to limitations in flying hours that day. But they were able to continue the rescue the following day. Ronquillo said he and his friends, including entrepreneur/radio talk show host and pilot Capt. Lester Codog will continue their efforts as long as they are needed. 

Another person who helped was Capt. Jacques Christophe Branellec of Jewelmer and companies like Sunlight Air, Universal Aviation, Lion Air’s Capt. Mark Aquino, who took care of flying relief goods from Manila to Siargao and ferrying stranded victims.

Capt. Lester Codog also helped in the relief efforts in Siargao


“It was a very unforgettable experience,” Ronquillo said. “On December 19, we tried going to Siargao early in the morning, but weather didn’t cooperate with us. We decided to go back to the hangar and wait for good weather. The following day, we flew early morning. I saw videos from friends and other people who were stranded there and who we were supposed to rescue but made it walking and they just rode our plane going back from Siargao airport to Manila. We also used their videos to update people on social media on what’s happening at Siargao. 

“Hopefully, the government can send their C-130 planes with 6x6 trucks, cranes and manpower so they can distribute goods at different remote areas we could not reach anymore,” he added.

Another group of businessmen with “big toys” who also pitched in the relief efforts was led by Apa Ongpin and his partners in Filipinas Yacht Inc.: Owen Stull, Greg Bloom and Windi Tapawan. The group partnered with an NGO, the Mead Foundation, which is headed by Ben Mead, and ABS-CBN Foundation, which supplied the bulk of the much-needed relief goods to Bohol with over seven tons of goods.

The Motoryacht Isla owned by Ongpin's group that delievered much-needed relief good to disaster-stricken individuals

Photo by Apa Ongpin.

“The goods include rice, canned food, tools, solar lamps, small generators (to power water purifiers), and a bunch of tarpaulins. The trip will take around 55 hours one way at eight knots, as the distance is roughly 440 nautical miles. May the voyage be blessed with fair winds and flat seas, and may the supplies do some good. Please thank ABS-CBN Foundation, and all the anonymous donors, not me or Filipinas Yacht Inc. We’re just the delivery service,” Ongpin said in his Facebook post. 

The group’s classic yacht named Motoryacht Isla was built in Hong Kong in 1961, and was originally named Motor Launch Thistle, of Jardine and Co. It has an overall length of 58.65 feet and according to Ongpin, is still powered by her original Gardner 8L3 8-cylinder engine with a cruising speed of eight knots. It left the morning of December 21st. We wish them well.



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