Of safe skies and secret Santas

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Sunday, December 21, 2014


THE holiday season is upon us, and it’s a time of year well-known for the family reunions and gift-giving. While most people are taking their time off work to spend time with their family and relatives who have flown in from overseas or patiently waiting for packages sent by their loved ones abroad, there are some people who’re working around the clock to ensure that others’ Christmas days are complete.

Helping you find your way home

As the rest of the world sleeps soundly and takes a rest from work for the holidays, airports are still running at full speed, and arguably busier than ever due to the large influx of people coming home for the holidays. And while the planes are pouring in and out of the airports on a daily basis, credit is due not only for the pilots who carry the passengers around the world, but also to the Air Traffic Service (ATS) under the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, who work around the clock to ensure the smooth flow of airplanes coming in to land and airplanes heading for takeoff.

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Jane Villegas, who recently graduated from the Comprehensive Air Traffic Service training course, is currently on rotation for skills training and was most recently at the Manila Aerodrome Control Tower.

Jane says that in Manila, at maximum, there are 20 arrivals and 20 departures per hour, with each flight carrying around 150 passengers, bringing a rough estimate of 144,000 people coming in and out each day, and the ATS works 24 hours a day to ensure the safety of those people by guiding aircraft.

“Basically, we guide aircraft para safe sila makaabot sa destination. And by guiding I mean giving instructions or clearances sa mga aircraft. Guiding them sa airway or route of flight. Mga climb or descent clearances. And siyempre to avoid collision between aircraft,” Jane explained.

Due to the demanding schedule of their work, the ATS personnel will be working on Christmas Day, taking away some precious time they could be spending with their loved ones.

Despite this, Jane said she feels happy being able to help reunite families, saying, “Amazing kay daghan tao na nagatabang sa pag-uli sa mga tao sa ilang mga pamilya. And maka-happy sya knowing na isa ka didto sa mga tao na nagtabang or nag-guide para safe, orderly and expeditious ang flight. (It’s amazing because a lot of people are working to help people go home to their families, and it makes me happy knowing that I’m one of the people who helped guide the flight to be safe, orderly and expeditious.)”

Jane is also originally from Davao. Even though she has to stay in Manila for work, she also feels fulfilled.

“At least masking ako ang dili kauli, which is first time ever na di nako kauban akong family sa Christmas, mas daghan kug napalipay in a way. (Even if I can’t go home, which will be my first ever Christmas without my family, I’m glad that in a way, I can make others happy.)”

And although Jane hard at work and away from her family for this Christmas, she wishes them to be happy and hopes for the same for others working on Christmas.

“Unta maski layo ko sa akong family karon, merry gihapon ang pag-celeb nila sa Pasko. Tapos unta mapasa na namo tanan test/exam sa licensing. And unta tanan naay duty sa pasko kay maka-ingon gihapon na merry ang christmas kay daghan sila natabangan and napalipay. (I hope that even though I’m far away from my family, they’d still feel merry when they celebrate Christmas. I also hope that my batchmates and I can pass our exams for licensing. I also hope that everyone else who is working on Christmas can still say it was merry as they spend their time helping others and making them happy),” she added.

Santa’s elves across the sea

While others come home for Christmas, others opt to send their loved ones gifts instead. And while the number of packages being shipped continues to rise as Christmas day approaches, people working at shipping companies are now working double time to make sure that the packages reach their intended destinations in time.

Francis Kenneth Barrina, a Filipino who is currently working for DHL’s distribution center in Union City, California, USA, is handling all sorts of packages heading to various places in the world.

“Nagstart ang busy season dito tung Thanksgiving since daghan nagsale, expected mag balik ang normal flow sa packages by February pa. So far pirmi overtime Friday and Sunday. (The busy season here started since Thanksgiving because of the sales, and we expect normal flow of packages to be back in February. So far we’re working overtime every Friday and Sunday.)”

While they usually work for six hours in a day, Francis says they are now working for eight hours on the regular. And while there are extra hours, Francis says he doesn’t mind that much as he knows that the gifts he ships out while make someone’s Christmas complete. “Malipay ko kay naay mga bata na malipay sa christmas kay tungod ni abot ang ilang gifts on time and safe. Dili lang man pud bata ang mga lipay kay daghan man pud mga gift for adults among gina process. (I’m happy because I know that a lot of children will be glad that their gifts came safe and on time for Christmas. It’s also not only children who will be receiving gifts since we are also processing some gifts for adults,)” he said.

And while he is somehow fulfilling everyone else’s wishes by helping them get their gifts, Francis has a wish of his own. “Simple lang akong Christmas wish, unta makauli ko para kumpleto mi sa Christmas, (My Christmas wish is simple, I just hope I can go home so we can be complete for Christmas,)” the man from General Santos City said.

Francis also commented that he’s happy as he feels like one of Santa’s elves at this time of the year, working double time to make sure gifts reach their recipients.

While everyone thanks their lucky stars and gods for blessing them this Christmas, don’t forget to thank the people on the ground who work hard to ensure that your Christmas is indeed a merry one.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 22, 2014.

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