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Frontliners fly the skies, too
Frontliners on the ground and in the skies.

Frontliners fly the skies, too

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2021 - 12:00am

At hindi namin itinigil ang pagwagayway.

Bumagal man ang ikot ng mundo,

Kumulimlim man ng bahagya ang langit,

Mahahawi pa rin ang ulap at sisikat pa rin ang araw.

Ganiyan ang Pilipinas at ganiyan ang Pilipino.

Gaya ng bandila, patuloy na lilipad. — from the Philippine Airlines holiday video

The longest holiday season in the world, a distinction arguably owned by the Philippines, has drawn to a close. And yet the holiday past remains a wellspring from which to draw inspiration and fortitude in a year still beset by daunting challenges.

A truce has not yet been called between COVID-19 and the weary inhabitants of planet Earth. The virus continues to attack, as we continue to fight it back with every weapon in our arsenal.

One weapon, according to flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) in its holiday video, is “inspiration” — an armament without sharp edges that heals rather than kills.

“Sa digmaan, ang taga hawak ng watawat ang nasa unang hanay.

May bitbit na inspirasyon.

At para sa kalabang walang anyo, hugis o mukha, ang inspirasyon ay mabisang sandata.”

(In war, the flag bearer is always on the frontlines. He bears inspiration in his hands. And in fighting the unseen enemy that has neither form nor face, inspiration is a potent weapon.)

According to PAL, “The video concept uses the metaphor of the standard bearer in ancient war. The standard bearer is the bravest soldier, as he uses both hands to carry the flag and carries it on in fulfilling his mission.”

In the video, the flag bearer is a woman.

***

Capt. Rona C. Guevarra, Philippine Airlines’ Airbus (narrow body) fleet safety pilot, and a former Air Force pilot.

She is Capt. Rona C. Guevarra, a former Philippine Air Force (PAF) senior flight instructor who was among the first military women pilots to join PAL.

After graduating with a degree in Nursing, Rona saw a poster in campus recruiting pilots for the Air Force.

“Saturated by our fast-paced and exhaustive review sessions, I decided to join my friends and we left for Fernando Air Base, Lipa City for the screening. I was the only one who made it,” she recalled in an interview during the filming of the video, which was produced by Ubuntu Premium Studios.

In a class of 43 PAF aviation cadets, mostly men, Rona graduated at the top 10 of her class and received a flying excellence medal in specialization training.

For Rona, serving in the Air Force deepened her love for country. But she was also in a male-dominated world.

“As one of the pioneer female aviators in the PAF, there were indeed great challenges. Mentally and intellectually we are at par and can compete with our male counterparts. But for obvious reasons, we do have physical limitations. Overcoming challenges and limitations in a man’s world gave me a lot self-confidence and inner strength. I was able to prove that for a goal-oriented individual, nothing is impossible.”

After serving the PAF for 13 years, Capt. Rona joined PAL in 2006.  As a PAL pilot, the stripes on her shoulder carry a long range of experience — she is fleet safety pilot, captain of Airbus 320/321 and flight instructor of the Airbus 320/321.

She feels she broadened her skies by joining PAL. “This is for professional growth opportunities and for the fulfilment in being able, in this age where air travel is the preferred mode of transportation, to bring the traveling public safely to their destination,” she points out.

“Still serving the flag, but in a different platform, so to speak,” she believes.

“Capt. Rona is a good choice for the video. She not only represents the roster PAL pilots who have offered to serve the flag carrier amidst this pandemic, but her track record also includes serving the Philippine Air Force prior to joining PAL. She has thus served the nation in both capacities, then and now,” says PAL spokesman Cielo Villaluna.

Married to a fellow PAL pilot and the mother of two, Rona, 47, is proud to be a frontliner as the world tries to survive the pandemic.

“The huge task of bringing people to their destinations or home to their families and transporting goods for their primary necessities…makes me feel that I’m a part of a united world trying to cope and survive amidst one of humankind’s greatest challenges,” she says.

***

The PAL video, annotated by Capt. Rona, showcases the daily flights to PAL’s destinations across the globe and within the archipelago as well as the frontliners on the ground and inflight.

I myself felt national pride surge as I watched Capt. Rona waving the flag, not unlike other women heroes during their time.

“Amid these trying times, Philippine Airlines keeps the flag in the air,” says Cielo.

PAL president and COO Gilbert Santa Maria.

PAL president and COO Gilbert Santa Maria, for his part, believes, “In a year with so many challenges, PAL decided to focus first on what it can do to help address the needs of the flying public under the most extraordinary circumstances. Despite the existing difficulties, the entire PAL team joined the front lines to carry our countrymen home safely and to carry the stranded back to their home-countries.”

Vice president for marketing Ria C. Domingo says, “We wanted to deliver a message, not so much to advertise PAL, but to honor the women and men of PAL who stood bravely in the face of the pandemic.”

Indeed, air travel cannot ground to a complete halt during a pandemic. Men and medicines have to fly to where they are needed. It takes brave people to fly them across the skies.

 

 

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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