Don Vicente Rama and his Plane Jitters

Reading “The Vicente Rama Reader” this weekend gave me an idea what Cebu was like during the war years. Aside from being a collection of his written works, it provided important personal accounts in Cebu;s most challenging days. He’s a gifted storyteller who wrote in his beloved Bisayan, Spanish and English. I wonder why they excluded some of his Spanish essays. He is said to possesses a fine literary style in Spanish. My favorite essay in the book was “First Time on an Airplane”, written in English and Bisaya (“Unang Pagsakay sa Ayroplano”).

For those not familiar with this great Cebuano, Rama, like all the other Cebuano geniuses of his time was accomplishing a lot of things in so little time. He excelled in “literature, publishing, journalism and politics”. His literary genius is obscured by his giant achievements in politics, “elected representative from the third district of Cebu to the Philippine Legislature for three consecutive terms from 1922 to 1925, 1925 to 1928 and from 1934 to 1935. He ran and won as a coalitionist for assemblyman in the fourth district of Cebu”. And  on November 26, 1938 he took his oath of office as Mayor of Cebu before President Manuel L. Quezon at Malacanang Palace”. Known as the “Father of Cebu City Charter” his periodicals were written in Cebuano (Bag-ong Kusog), Spanish (Nueva Fuerza) and English (Progress).

If his last name reminds you of Ruffa Guittierez’s always angry mom, Anabelle, that’s because she’s one of the many “apo”. Don Vicente’s family today are still very much involved in Cebuano politics.

Don Vincente was required to attend the “First Session of the Philippine Congress” by no less than President Osmena and Gen. Macarthur who gave direct orders to the eithteth army based in Cebu to “give every assistance and oppurtunity” to the good senator. Because it was “nearly dark” and afraid that Japanese planes could appear anytime,  the distinguished gentleman from Basak Cebu was not really looking forward to fly. He had good reasons for being afraid – the Japs was still a fighting force the Allied forces has yet to put down. Don Vicente wanted not to go but was commanded by an American army captain, “no but’s honored today, I’m going to put you on a plane, orders by the general”. Feeling helpless he wrote, “I nurse the resentment of a lowly servant when unceremoniously rushed, I thought of refusing to board”. But his patriotism and respect towards President Osmena made him go. “I remembered how Osmena gave orders to transport me and pushed for my attendance when our country’s senate would convene for the first time”.

It was his first time to fly and airplanes for him were “reliable source of terrifying moments in life”. He’s used to seeing planes bomb their neighborhoods. The war was not yet over. He admired the two young pilots who maneuvered the planes like it was “just practice”. A pilot friend of mine said he prefers flying smaller planes becauseyou can feel the wind and hear the sounds. You’re flying the plane”. I guess the pleasure of flying is knowing that you’re in control and not asking what the plane is doing. Imagine how flying was back in the days when it was not as smooth and advance as it is today.

The senator amusingly recalls his pilots as “two young American’s…doing acrobatics feats with the aid of a steel bar attached to the ceiling of the aircraft… truly impressed by the young men’s ability to do their balancing routine, not at all affected by the way the aircraft was tossing about, having run into some bad weather. They were merely engage in indoor sports”. I wonder if Don Vicente was taken to Manila by a C-47 or a DC-3. Being an aviation fan I try imagine how it felt flying these beautiful aircrafts. There are still some DC-3’s that takes to the skies these days – that’s how durable these planes are.

His lunch on board the three hour flight was standard ration:  “putos, didtoy biskwit, sikwating matam-is, sabawang pinulpog, kiso”. The flight that started in Lahug [now a business and residential area] reached Manila [Nichols, now Villamor air base] safe. The captain of the army plane told the good senator that they will go around for him to see Manila by night. “Dili pa motugpa dayon kun dili molibot una sa tibuok sa siyudad aron makita nako ang dagway sa Manila kun magabii”, the first time flyer said. What a sight would that have been. If only he had a digicam with him.


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