Our hero is coming home, 4-A A +A
By Ver Pacete
As I See It
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
ALL the passengers of PAL DC-3 who reached Quemoy Island were safe except for Capt. Pedro Perlas (co-pilot) and Eduardo Diago (flight attendant) who were killed by Ang Tiu Chok inside the plane. Gaston found out later that the distance between Amoy and Quemoy is the same as that of Sangley Point and Manila.
Ang thought, as he wandered about the Quemoy tarmac, that he was safe. He was under the illusion that he was inside the Communist territory. He really believed that they landed in Amoy. It was to his great shock when he found himself surrounded by Nationalist Chinese soldiers with their fixed bayonet.
It was late when he realized that he landed not on a communist airport. Gaston and Ang were questioned by the airport authorities. It was found out that Ang was a fugitive from justice, wanted for shooting a 16-year-old Chinese girl in Manila earlier that month. He was deported back to the Philippines in a matter of days. Gaston was congratulated for his presence of mind and for keeping his cool under fire. In the eyes of the passengers, he was an instant hero.
To make the long story short, Capt. Felix Gaston was able to go back to Manila just in time to be with his wife who gave birth to their first son, Felix Jr. He served Philippine Airlines for 23 years. He was promoted and was given the opportunity to fly bigger planes owned by PAL. When he spent a few-day vacation in Silay, he was given hero’s welcome by his friends. The Gaston clan in Negros was so proud of him. His adventure was a never-ending-topic for discussion in small and big gatherings.
In the 1970s, he made headlines again when he led airline pilots on a strike to protest unjust practices. The strike crippled the flights of the Philippine Airlines for close to three weeks. There was battle royal in court. Gaston became the icon for justice as far as PAL pilots are concerned. He stood for his belief and once again he risked his life as he risked his life also in 1952. He was out of job together with the pilots who believed his cause. Eventually, the courts ruled in their favor and he was reinstated as pilot in 1976.
Felix Gaston was just like that. Just like any Silaynon, he was unassuming sporting a boy-next-door image. After he retired, he had the image of a successful father later as grandfather). He had six children: Felix Jr. (a businessman based in Hong Kong), Yves (a businessman in Manila), Jean Marie Locsin (now in US), Peachy Gaston Young (with business in Manila), Stella Marie Gaston (with career of her own; I met her when she processed the papers of her father), and Josephine Gaston Rosales (with business in America).
Our Silaynon hero (that of Negros also) died on June 3, 2014. June 3 was also the date of his graduation from the Philippine Air force. He was 90 years old when he died. Our hero, Capt. Felix Corteza Gaston is coming home to Silay (his ash) on June 27. Mayor Jose Montelibano and the Silay City Government are extending possible assistance to the Gaston family so that this Silaynon hero who served his country well (and PAL) could be given proper recognition.
Stella Marie told me during my brief interview with her that her Papa will stay at San Diego Mortuary before the funeral rites on June 29. His ash will remain at the Gaston Mausoleum in the Roman Catholic Church Cemetery in Silay. Rest in peace our hero. We salute you!
In the story of Capt. Felix Gaston, we learn something very important: Only one thing a man can do, find something that is his . . . heroism in unexpected circumstance. His matter-of-fact portrayal is shown by his selfless bravery. His heroism offers renewal that will wipe away the scars left by grim reality.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 24, 2014.