THREE retired teachers reportedly have been missing since last week after their connecting flight to China from the United States was affected by Typhoon Hanna, prompting their relatives to appeal to President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte and media to help them find their loved ones.
Djoanna Varela said her aunts Linda Varela Guce, Josefina Varela Baysic, and Pacita Varela de Guzman, all senior citizens, left John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Friday of August 9 aboard China Eastern Airlines flight number MU 298 with arrival time of 4:40 a.m., Saturday of August 10, at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, China.
Varela said her three relatives had a connecting flight on China Eastern flight number MU 211 from Pudong International Airport with departure time of 7:05 p.m., Saturday of August 10, and arrival time of 11:10 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on the same day.
“Until now, we are in quandary what happened to them. They should have arrived in the Philippines last August 10 or during the early hours of August 12. My aunts visited our relatives in New Jersey and they were there for six months. We appeal to the good heart of our President and to the media to please help us find our missing loved ones,” said Varela.
At around 4 pm of August 17, Varela said her cousin Michael Anthony David, who works in Singapore, sent a WhatsApp message to his brother Marlon David about the details he got from a friend in Shanghai about the airplane.
Michael Anthony, according to her, relayed to Marlon that the August 10 China Eastern flight number MU 211 did not land in Pudong International Airport in Shanghai but in Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Hubei, China instead.
To their surprise, Varela said Michael Anthony’s friend was informed by the China Eastern Shanghai office that there was no alleged hotel booking record for the concerned three passengers.
In recalling the events, she said Marlon David who was at the NAIA Terminal 1 with two other relatives to fetch the three retired teachers, received a viber call around 2:12 a.m. of Sunday, August 11, from Linda Varela Guce using mobile number +639158458774 under the name of “Alzor” informing him that their flight was canceled and they were stranded due to typhoon Hanna.
“Auntie Linda told Marlon to go home and will make updates about their rescheduled flight. She said that the airline is going to shoulder their hotel accommodation and meals. But no specific details were given as to their whereabouts and the name of the hotel they are going to stay,” Varela narrated.
“My Tita Linda also informed Marlon that she just used the phone of one of the stranded Filipino passengers whose name was not mentioned,” said Varela.
In a phone interview, Alzor Tapia, the owner of the phone, said he saw the three senior citizens at the Wuhan Tianhe International Airport and also at the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai.
“Same airline kami pero magkaibang eroplano. My plane came from Los Angeles. Huli ko silang nakita sa Shanghai Airport, ibig sabihin nakalipad sila from Huwan to Shanghai. I hope makabalik na sila, ang problema talaga doon language barrier, hindi magkaintindihan dahil hindi sila (Chinese) nagsasalita ng English,” Tapia recalled.
“In fairness sa China Eastern Airlines, inasikaso at inilagay kami sa magandang hotel at buffet ang food. Talagang masama lamang ang panahon at nagkagulo sa dami ng stranded,” Tapia added.
At 8:42 a.m. of August 12, Varela said Marlon David called Tapia’s phone and the latter responded that they were not in the same hotel, saying “nauna kasi akong umalis para ihatid sa hotel at naiwan pa sila kaya hindi ko alam kung saang hotel sila.”
He further mentioned that he was scheduled to fly back to the Philippines on August 12, under the same flight number MU 211, said Varela.
Varela said her Auntie Linda’s son John Florencio Guce contacted China Eastern Airlines office in Makati City, but was reportedly told that they had no access to the details of rebooked flights of the passengers and was advised to contact China Eastern Airlines Shanghai.
She said Marlon David called up the China Eastern Airlines Shanghai customer care contact numbers +862195530 and +862162686268, but both numbers cannot be reached.
Violeta Varela Dungo, the host relative of the missing retired teachers in New Jersey, on August 13 called up the China Eastern Airlines office in New York but was told to just leave her message, according to Varela.
On August 15, Varela said Alta Dee David, the wife of Michael Anthony, informed the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai, China about the missing people.
“Until this day we have not made any form of communication to the relatives in the Philippines and Alta Dee David was advised to send an email with the complete details of the passengers which she did the following day (August 16),” said Varela.
“She (Alta Dee David) was advised that the Immigration is looking for them already and they will advise her once they have information. She was also advised that the missing people are already tagged in the immigration and the police are helping to locate them,” she said.
On August 17, Valera said her cousins John Paul Guce, John Florencio Guce, Jose Bayvarson Baysic and Jason Baysic went to the China Eastern Airlines office in Enterprise Building in Makati City to inquire, but the office was closed during weekends.