MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Loren Legarda, who exudes a tough persona, has one weakness—a fear of flying.
The reelectionist senator, who has consistently topped the preference surveys, said this has resulted in her covering less ground than her rivals since she has to make long land trips between campaign stops.
“I am slower than the other candidates not because of inaction but because (I would rather not use) private planes and helicopters. I can only take commercial flights but even so the turbulence nearly kills me,” she said in Filipino in a news conference at the Liberal Party headquarters on Tuesday.
Legarda’s last flight was in 2010 for a campaign sortie to Sariaya, Quezon. She was then running for vice president under the Nacionalista Party.
She remembered leaving a sunny Manila and approaching Quezon province that was enjoying similar weather.
Suddenly, she recalled, she became bewildered when dark clouds quickly engulfed her helicopter as it neared Mt. Banahaw.
Scary chopper ride
“At first it was like something was sucking the chopper (parang hinihigop), then it was like the chopper was being pushed away (parang hinahampas). We had nowhere to land when suddenly a small pink chapel appeared in the middle of a rice field. I will never forget that the barangay’s name was Sto. Cristo,” she said.
A former journalist, Legarda, who is running this time with the administration Team PNoy coalition, said it took great effort to scare her or dissuade her from doing something.
But in the case of aircraft, she said that being in two near-crashes involving helicopters when she was running for vice president in 2004 could not easily be forgotten.
So what about her fear of private planes?
Legarda sheepishly mouthed “Jesse Robredo” in a later interview, referring to the late interior secretary who died in the crash of a small plane off Masbate on Aug. 18, 2012.
“So now I travel only by land,” she said.
Last week, Legarda endured a bumpy four-hour land trip from Buluan, Maguindanao, to Davao City.
Weeks before, fellow administration candidates hopped on helicopters for a ten-minute flight from Catanauan to Gumaca in Quezon province.
Legarda made the same trip by land in two hours.
“I was the first to speak in Catanauan and rode to Gumaca to catch the rally there. I was the final speaker at the second sortie,” she said.
Land travel may be a drag to some but Legarda noted that it has advantages.
“I see the countryside from a closer perspective and the travel brings me closer to the people. People are startled when I knock on their door asking to use their bathroom. Some even chastise me for not giving prior notice but the call of nature is something I cannot predict,” she said.