There’s no doubt that Christmas is one of the happiest holidays to celebrate in the world. Every person, young or old, is filled with child-like wonder at all the festivities and excitement that the celebrations bring. In the Philippines, this is a time for families to gather, bond with each other and revel in the Christmas spirit.
Christmas is also the time when many of our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) choose to use their vacation leaves and come back home. After years of being apart from their families, they want to end the year and welcome the New Year with the people that they love most.
Perhaps it's the reason why Juan Paulo Fermin wanted to be a pilot — he may have dreamt of flying his parents back home. And you know what? He just made it happen.
Just last night, Paulo, who is a Second Officer for Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) Boeing 777 planes, posted an emotional video reuniting him and his parents on a PAL flight back to Manila. Unbeknownst to his mom and dad, Paulo was part of the crew who was flying them home for Christmas yesterday, December 18.
“Originally, hindi ko flight ‘yun,” Paulo explains in a phone interview with SmartParenting.com.ph. “Flight siya ng isa kong kasama.” But since Paulo already knew that his parents were taking a PAL flight from New York to Manila, he asked his colleague if they could switch. “Fortunately, our chief pilot also gave us permission,” he says.
During the flight’s two-hour layover in Vancouver, Canada, Paulo boarded the plane along with other crew members who would take over the flight to Manila. “Before we got to Vancouver, I was already explaining my plan to the captain, first officer and my fellow second officer,” Paulo explains. “I asked permission if I could make an appearance in front of my parents. Fortunately, mabait naman si Captain.”
His parents had no idea that he would be boarding the plane, since he told them he already had a schedule for another flight bound for LA, today, December 19. “Kinakabahan nga ako kasi baka pagpasok ko ng eroplano, makita nila ako,” Paulo shares.
In the video he posted on Facebook, Paulo can be seen walking down the plane’s aisle with a bunch of red roses on his hand. One of the flight attendants, who also helped him take the video, instructs him to look at the seat numbers on his left and tells him the seats assigned to his mom and dad.
Paulo suddenly comes to a stop and the moment his mom sees him, she takes off her headphones in surprise. “Hala!” she exclaims in the video, seemingly unbelieving that her son was standing in front of her. Immediately, Paulo embraces his mom and she can’t help but tear up. “Oh my god, ang anak ko,” she says in the video.
Paulo's mom also points to her husband, who also wraps Paulo in a hug. The video ends with Paulo coming back to his mom who is still visibly shaken.
Are you crying yet? According to Paulo’s Facebook post, he and his parents have spent 17 Christmases apart, but this time, he was flying his parents home for Christmas.
Paulo, who hails from Cagayan de Oro, says that his mom left him in the care of his grandmother and aunt so she could find work in Bermuda, along with his stepfather, Gregory. He was 8 years old at the time.
While his parents wanted to take him to Bermuda, Paulo admits that both his parents eventually decided that it was better for him to be raised in the Philippines. “Looking on the bright side, siguro kung pumunta ako dun, hindi ako naging piloto,” he says. Paulo also shares that while he and his parents lived apart, the long distance and video calls were constant.
While the video has touched many, Paulo says he did it also because he’s still not 100% sure whether he can spend this Christmas with his mom and dad. That’s because he’s a reserve pilot for scheduled flights on December 24. In a way, that short visit on the plane (and the day they spent in Manila together, before his mom and dad boarded another flight to Cagayan de Oro) was both a Christmas present and a time for them to spend together.
“It’s been a wonderful year for me — a year of dreams turning into reality, and this is definitely the cherry on top,” he says in his post, before thanking Philippine Airlines for “this amazing opportunity.”
Watch the video below and ready your tissues — it's something every OFW parent will be able to relate to!
We’re crossing our fingers that Paulo gets to spend this special day with his family this time around! He definitely deserves a merry Christmas!
What's your favorite Christmas memory? Tell us in the comments or send us a message on our page!
This story was updated on December 19, 5:45 p.m. An earlier version of this story misstated that Paulo's parents were OFWs. They are permanent residents of Bermuda.