Ramon Magsaysay Jr. recalled yesterday in Manauag, Pangasinan,the Sunday his father and namesake, the well-loved President Ramon Magsaysay, failed to show up for their weekly family Mass and breakfast.
That was the day 56 years ago today that the President’s plane crashed on Mount Manunggal following a busy Saturday spent with officials and the people of Cebu.
“‘I have to go back to Manila, I always have breakfast with my family,’” Magsaysay quoted his father telling Sergio Osmeña Jr. after the latter had suggested that the President spend the night in Cebu.
It was around 1 a.m. on Sunday when the ill-fated presidential plane took off.
“That was our tradition,” Magsaysay told reporters in an interview as the administration Team PNoy coalition, under which he is running for senator, continued its campaign sorties in Pangasinan.
Magsaysay, who is now 74 years old and running for a third Senate term, was only 18 when his father died.
Magsaysay said that when his mother, Luz, learned on Sunday morning, March 17, 1957, that the President’s plane was missing, she tried to dismiss it by saying he could have had his flight diverted elsewhere to do surprise checks on government installations.
“That was how he was, he would do inspections,” said Magsaysay.
His mother nevertheless asked the family and friends to pray for the safety of the beloved chief executive.
Later in the day, they were told the President’s plane had crashed killing all on board except for then Malacañang reporter Nestor Mata.
“We were shocked. He was our only breadwinner,” said Magsaysay.
Magsaysay said the plane was carrying a full load of 27 passengers and five to seven bushels of Cebu mangoes.
“The plane’s propeller was made for speed, not for cargo,” said Magsaysay, dismissing decades worth of conspiracy theories regarding the plane crash.
He remembered his father as a disciplinarian who didn’t think twice about using a leather belt when his children needed some fatherly guidance.
He also remembered how his father nipped the Huk insurgency by addressing their concerns particularly with regard to social injustice and human rights abuses.
Magsaysay said he hoped that today’s young people who were not yet born when his father was president would be educated about the leaders that did the country good.
Magsaysay is skipping today’s Team PNoy rally in Baguio City to lead commemoration rites on the 56th death anniversary of his late father in Cebu.