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PAL’s 75th anniversary bash in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, California — Last Friday evening, we joined the international presscon to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of Philippine Airlines (PAL) in Los Angeles. PAL officials went out of their way to bring Cebu and Manila media to the SLS Boutique Hotel in La Cienega Blvd in Beverly Grove. At the same time, media people from Los Angeles were doing the same thing in Cebu as PAL’s 75th year started with a bang with the first ever direct flight from Cebu to Los Angeles and back.

It was great to meet up with our fellow Philippine STAR writers Joanne Rae Ramirez (also of PeopleAsia magazine) and Millet Mananquil. Emcee for the presscon was PAL’s Cielo Villaluna and on the panel were Ismael Gozon, SVP airline operations, David Lim, SVP commercial group, Ms. Ria Domingo VP marketing, Asst. Sec. Rolando Canizal, tourism development planning for the Department of Tourism and PAL president and CEO Jaime Bautista.

We learned from PAL president Bautista that PAL did its development study and found out that there are nearly half-a-million Filipinos living in the greater Los Angeles area, including San Diego. That in itself is a market. PAL now covers a total of 43 international flights and 30 domestic destinations. PAL also unveiled its new advertisements with Lea Salonga and Sarah Geronimo singing the “Heart of the Filipino.” This is PAL’s new brand philosophy and it is quite a catchy phrase!

PAL president Jimmy Bautista pointed out, “The nation’s flag carrier aims to continue its legacy of service to the nation and the rest of the world leveraging on the strengths of the brand. We take pride in the fact that PAL is the only Filipino legacy carrier offering the distinct brand of service marked by heartfelt warmth and hospitality. We take pride in the over-all safety and service competence of the team. Our goal is to make PAL the airline of choice in all the markets we serve, one that exceeds passenger expectations. We want PAL to be a source of pride for Filipinos.” Indeed the flag on the tail is our pride.

We learned from Mr. Bautista that PAL is getting the new long-range Airbus A-350-900 and that the Cebu to LAX flight boosts the presence of PAL in mainland USA. Indeed, PAL without any doubt can claim that it is the oldest airline in Asia… but by the year 2020, it will boast the youngest fleet amongst many Asian airlines.

We took the first ever Cebu direct to Los Angeles International (LAX) PR-122 and during the presscon  Mr. Bautista told the press that he remembered being interviewed by me on my TV talk show where I asked him about my dream of a Cebu direct to the US flight. Jimmy then told us, “Today, PAL is here to deliver on my dream.” With my dream becoming a reality, I asked the PAL president that my dreams won’t stop here… and told him that I also dream of a Cebu to New York flight and Mr. Bautista said… it is a matter of time and even told us that a Cebu direct to San Francisco might happen sooner than we think.

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During the Q&A portion, Los Angeles Filipino media asked if PAL would be competitive in their rates as compared to other foreign airlines. But Mr. Bautista pointed out that those other airlines make stopovers in their respective countries… sometimes a five-hour layover, while the LA to Cebu flies direct without any hassle. Of course, Filipinos always find ways to get cheaper flights if they can… after all we are a frugal people.

But Mr. Andrew Harrison, general manager of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MICA) for the GMR/Megawide consortium who flew with us to Los Angeles stood up and told the audience that since he started living in Cebu and running the Mactan International Airport, he appreciated very much taking PAL on his foreign trips because he feels at home with the PAL cabin crew who go out of their way to make things comfortable. Here is a foreigner who truly understands the heart of the Filipino… and exhorted Filipinos to support its national airline because it is our national carrier.

After the presscon was over PAL served cocktails with lechon, truly a Cebuano dish. Then after the speeches of the important dignitaries and the toast led by Mr. Bautista, a surprise number came on stage with Zsa Zsa Padilla belting out favorite songs of the 70s. She wowed the crowd singing from table to table and getting selfies from the audience.

With the anniversary bash all but over, Mr. Harry Inoferio and Chris Lebumfacil who escorted the Cebu media on this trip asked us to stay for a while because Mr. Bautista wanted to talk to us. We sat on a huge round table and had a chat with the PAL president who thanked us for supporting PAL and we asked him for his memorable stories about the Pope’s visit, which he obliged,… that awed everyone with the Pope’s humility.

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E-mail: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com.

 

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