Young Pinoy swimmers left up in the air for a while over flight confusion

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2019 06:49 AM | Updated as of Jul 20 2019 10:22 AM

MANILA—A group of Filipino high-school swimmers scheduled to compete in Indonesia did not get confirmation of their flight until hours before their departure Thursday night, some of their parents said.

The flight out capped a week of confusion and a series of travel arrangements constantly in flux, which left 6 boys and their families in limbo and wondering at one point whether the young swimmers would reach the competition.

The swimmers and their coach, Virgilio de Luna, were to travel to Semarang city for the ASEAN Schools Games, where they were to participate from Friday to Monday, July 19 to 22.

Rose Marie Paloma, one of the mothers, told ABS-CBN News that her son Raymund Vero Paloma and his teammates arrived in Jakarta 1 a.m., Friday.

The team then boarded a domestic plane to Semarang, where they were scheduled to land at about 7 a.m. The competition was set to begin in the same morning.

"What got to us was, bakit di sinigurado iyong ticket? Bakit last minute na sila binilhan ng ticket?" Rose Marie said.

Besides Rose Marie's son, Raymund Vero Paloma, the other swimmers on this trip were Miguel Barreto, Jordan Ken Lobos, Mervien Jules Mirandilla, John Neil Paredes and Eirron Seth Vibar.

There were about 12 other swimmers on the squad who took an earlier flight.

But before reaching the Games, the boys left behind went through days of uncertainty, as their parents stressed over whether or not they would actually make it to the tournament.

Laura Barreto, Miguel’s mother, said the initial advice the boys received was that they would fly out on Wednesday, July 17.

Between Sunday, July 14, during the predeparture orientation and pep rally for the team, and Thursday night, July 18, when the team finally flew out, travel arrangements were changed thrice — from Wednesday to Tuesday, then Tuesday to Thursday, then Thursday morning to Thursday night — because tickets purportedly were not available.

On Wednesday morning, Barreto received a message that the boys would be on a plane Thursday, 9 a.m., even though no airline was mentioned.

Thinking it was pushing through, some of the boys and their families were at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 early Thursday morning, as it is common practice for passengers to be at the airport 3 or 4 hours prior to their international flights.

As their supposed departure time neared and no one knew which plane they should be taking, the families wondered whether the boys were going to leave at all.

Rose Marie Paloma tried to keep a positive attitude through the episode, but she said she couldn't stop being frustrated when her husband and her son were told no tickets were available for the day's morning flight.

"Wala daw silang makuhang ticket," she said. "Basta 'yon ang sagot that shocked us. What are you saying, wala silang makuhang ticket? So, ano hindi na aalis ang mga bata? Bakit ganu'n?"

Barreto said that at about past 10 a.m. they were advised that a flight was confirmed for the boys at 9 p.m. instead that same day via Philippine Airlines.

Barreto, who wrote about her frustration in a Facebook post, said she felt it was not fair that his son and the other swimmers were made to go through the ordeal.

"Prepared sila (the boys), pinaghirapan nila ang training nila only to realize na pagdating ko doon (Indonesia) pagod ako sa biyahe," she said. "Paano ako magpe-perform ng maganda?"

According to Barreto, she was receiving updates only through the coach, De Luna, throughout the week and did not hear directly from the Department of Education, which was in charge of forming the team and sending the swimmers to the Games.

Barreto said she believes De Luna was also in the dark over travel arrangements and was just relaying messages from administrators.

ABS-CBN News contacted the DepEd office on Friday seeking comment, but those who answered the calls said they were awaiting an official statement on the issue.

Rose Marie Paloma, whose family is from Iloilo, said her husband Vero needed to rebook his flight going back to their province because of the wonky schedule.

Vero had accompanied their son on a flight to Manila on Tuesday, hoping his son’s team would head out on the same day.

But with the uncertainty, Vero stayed one more day in Manila and left for Iloilo on Thursday when his son’s departure was confirmed.

Barreto said she and Miguel took a ride-hailing service to the airport Thursday morning, assuming that the 9 a.m. booking was a go. When it was rescheduled, they returned home to Quezon City, then went back to the airport in the afternoon to catch the confirmed flight.

All in all, Barreto said she had to book a ride-hailing service to go back and forth to the airport twice that day.

"These kids are not after the allowance na ibibigay, 'yung incentive na ibibigay. They want to swim, they want to do their best because it gives them pride na 'yung hard work ko paid off," she said.

"Obviously hindi sila (officials) prepared. Ang tanong is bakit?" — With a report from Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

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