‘MABUHAY, KABAYAN!’ | Airport personnel find ways to cheer on Olympic medalists as they fly home


EVEN as media teams were strictly prohibited from interviewing the triumphant Olympic medalists, airport personnel thronged the arrival area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 on Monday afternoon, to cheer on the athletes who gave the Philippines its best performance ever as they were whisked away after returning from Tokyo.

The airport employees tried their best to show appreciation despite the pandemic health protocols, shouting, “Mabuhay mga kabayan (long live compatriots!) as the group – led by silver medalists Nesthy Petecio and Carlo Paalam, and bronze medalist Eumir Marcial – were escorted to the Presidential Lounge for a zoom meeting with President Duterte. He was expected to announce cash and other rewards for them.

The athletes, wearing face masks, waved to the crowd in return.

Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who gave the Philippines its first gold in 97 years of participation in the Olympics, had flown home earlier last  week.

Earlier at the Tokyo airport, the three medalist boxers were escorted to the Business Class section by PAL Japan country manager Tomoyuki Nagao.

The Philippine Airlines A321 Neo hosted the athletes in Business Class, where they were offered champagne. They also gamely posed for photographs with the crew members.

Flight PR427 touched down at 4:27 p.m. Monday from Tokyo, Japan.

Paalam, Marcial and Petecio were given a warm welcome at the airport from airport personnel chanting, “good job guys.”

PAL Spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said that PAL management conveyed its greetings and salutations to the athletes. “We are happy and proud to carry all of you on board, it is an honor and privilege to bring home to Manila the  ‘country’s pride’ and the flag carrier’s latest Forever Flyers.”  The latter refers to the flight miles given by PAL to the medalists as part of their rewards. 

From NAIA, the athletes were to be brought to Tagaytay – home city of POC president Bambol Tolentino — for their quarantine.

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