Aviatour pilots, flight school students mourn death of BahintingBy Cris Evert Lato
CEBU CITY, Philippines—The room was filled with uniformed pilots and flight school students that one would think it was another graduation ceremony for the Aviatour Air flight school here.
But there was no diploma to be given, no medals to be awarded and, certainly, no Captain Jessup Bahinting to deliver inspirational words.
Instead, they were bidding goodbye to their mentor who, over the weekend, left on a flight that turned out to be his last.
Bahinting, co-pilot Kshitiz Chand and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo were killed when the Piper Seneca plane bound for Naga City, Camarines Sur crashed into the sea off Masbate City last Saturday afternoon.
Three days later, a team of divers retrieved Robredo’s body from the sunken fuselage, located at a depth of 55 meters and 800 meters from the shoreline.
The bodies of Bahinting, 61, and Chand, 21 were recovered on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Inside St. Peter Memorial Chapel in Cebu City, stories were exchanged on how Bahinting, Aviatour’s chairman and chief executive officer, selflessly shared his time and resources to budding pilots.
“He was more like a father figure to me than a mentor. I could come to him whenever I need someone to talk to and pretty much talk with him the way I would talk to my father,” said David Yakubu, a Nigerian flight instructor for five years.
Yakubu said he first became a student of Bahinting in 2007.
“I was his first foreign student and he welcomed me with open arms,” said Yakubu, who learned about Aviatour from his brother, a friend of one of the company”s officials.
Yakubu said Bahinting was a big loss and surviving the next months following his death would be like “a dog limping on one leg.”
He said that until now, they were still in shock. “The shock factor is at the level where we do not know if this is reality or we are in the virtual realm.”
“Definitely, it will be hard for us. There is no replacement for the post he left because nobody came close to the leadership he showed us. I don’t see anybody saying it will be easy but we will survive this and will come out stronger,” he said.
Sarah, Bahinting’s youngest daughter, said she has accepted what happened to her father.
“It was already in the back of our minds that something like this will happen because of the risky nature of his profession. Dad is resting now. That comforts me,” she said.
Sarah said they would hold the wake in St. Peter Memorial Chapel until Saturday. On Sunday, Bahinting’s remains will be brought to Ginatilan town, the hometown of his wife, Margie, located about 135 kilometers southwest of Cebu City, and will be buried on Monday.