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Miracle on PR659

By Seven Bueno 

Images courtesy of Cielo Villaluna and Dino Karganilla 

It started as just another one of the “new normal” flights of Philippine Airlines (PAL) from Dubai to Manila on June 6. Little did the crew and passengers know that it would be a flight they would remember for the rest of their lives. 

PAL’s Airbus A330-343 (registered RP-C8766) departed Dubai International Airport at 7:40 p.m. (UTC+4). It was cruising at an altitude of 37,000 feet above sea level, somewhere above the Bay of Bengal, when one of the passengers on board unexpectedly had to deliver a baby. 

Quickly, it caused commotion among the other passengers of the flight. They knew they were already risking their lives by traveling in this time of pandemic, and then came another cause of concern, this time for someone who was about to give birth to a child. It was, so to speak, a matter of life and life.

But these did not bother the crew of PAL Flight PR659. They were there, it was happening, and they knew they had to see it through—a miracle of life in the skies above a world slowed by a pandemic and muddled by uncertainty. Up there, however, everything seemed to have been clearer.

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It was a kind of clarity that flight purser Daisy Castellano had. She was on her crew rest shift when another flight attendant alerted her to the situation. Despite her years of working in the industry, it was her first time to experience having to assist a mother in giving birth on a flight. 

But she mentally reviewed the proper procedures she learned from her training with PAL precisely for this particular situation and “for other unusual inflight occurrences,” she tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “I was silently praying the whole time, and asking guidance in handling the situation.” 

After some words of encouragement here and there, some panicked hushing from one passenger or another, heard in between reminders of “push, push,” it was all over. 

It was a boy.

Asked about what she felt when she held the newborn in her hands, Daisy says, “I was relieved when the baby looked well and healthy, despite the fact that he was crying in my arms.”  

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BUONG PUSONG ALAGA Daisy Castellano holding the newborn baby

The bubbly flight purser, a mother of two boys and one girl, adds that it was such a humbling experience. “Everything about motherhood came back when I held the baby,” Daisy says, adding that she is grateful that she was able to lead a very capable team.  

Alongside her during that miracle in the skies were flight attendants Joan RiveraJoy Reyes-LoboKelly Cordis LomuntadMarie Rose Villaroman CoronelNancy Sarmento Montinola, and flight stewards Dino Antigua KarganillaRonnie Mendoza, and Jose Madarang

While the situation in the cabin was being handled by the crew, the flight deck, headed by pilot-in-command Capt. Mark Palomares, was very quick in executing a diversion into the nearest and safest airport. 

Second officer Fidel Guzman Ala calls it a “stressful yet fulfilling experience,” having to call a doctor through a satellite phone and relaying important and crucial information with the flight attendants. 

“Who would’ve thought that, in my lifetime, I would have to relay step-by-step instructions on cutting the umbilical cord of a newborn?” the pilot tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. With still more than an hour’s worth of flight time left before reaching Manila, the crew opted to land at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand so that the mother and son would be provided with their immediate needs. 

As surreal as that moment was for all of them, every member of PALs cabin crew was trained for it, according to Daisy, who has this to say for those who want to be part of the airline industry as a flight attendant.

“Know that the job carries many responsibilities. While working at high altitude, you can be called to take the role of a nurse, a teacher, a firefighter, and many more,” she says. “But most of all, your major responsibility is ensuring the safety of the passengers. PAL will equip you with the skills you need but you must take the training seriously. With all this said, the adventures and rewarding experiences all around the globe are all worth it.” 

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BORN IN THE SKY Heading the flight deck on Flight PR659 where baby Ali was born 30,000 feet above ground were, from left, Capt. Mark Palomares, second officer Fidel Guznan Ala, and first officer Herky Vitug

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna says that it was their #BuongPusongAlaga, focus, and teamwork that played out to be the winning formula that enabled their crew to safely and successfully bring the baby boy, who has been named Ali—meaning elevated or most high in Arabic—into this world. 

It was truly, Cielo says, “a celebration of a brand new life welcomed into this world above 30,000 feet.” With reporting from Dom Galeon

 


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/06/08/miracle-on-pr659/)

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