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3 Filipino senior citizens on their way home from US now ‘missing’ in China

/ 01:51 PM August 18, 2019
From left to right: Erlinda Varela Guce, Pacita Varela De Guzman, and Josefina Varela Baysic had been missing for a week after their flight from the United States landed in China for their connecting flight to Manila last August 10. Their families still have no information on their whereabouts. Photo from: John Florencio Gace.

From left to right: Erlinda Varela Guce, Pacita Varela De Guzman, and Josefina Varela Baysic have been missing for a week after their flight from the United States landed in China for their connecting flight to Manila last August 10. Their families still have no information on their whereabouts. Photo from: John Florencio Gace.

MANILA, Philippines — Three senior citizens who were on their way home to the Philippines from the United States are reportedly missing after making a stopover in China. 

John Florencio Guce, son of one of the missing senior citizens, said that 77-year old Pacita Varela De Guzman, 72-year old Erlinda Varela Guce, and 71-year old Josefina Varela Baysic were scheduled to arrive at the Pudong International Airport in China from the John F. Kennedy International Airport in the United States last August 10. 

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Their connecting flight from China to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was scheduled to depart on the same day and arrive in Manila at 11:10 p.m.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, John Florencio said that his cousin, Marlon David, received a call from an unknown number who introduced herself as Erlinda and informed him that their flight was cancelled and that they were stranded in China due to a typhoon. 

During the call, Erlinda said that their connecting flight was rescheduled and that the airline company would shoulder their meal and accommodation expenses while waiting for their rescheduled flight. 

“Nakitawag si Linda, yung nanay ko, sa isa sa mga katabi nilang pasahero na Pinoy dun, sinabi na delayed yung flight nila kasi masama raw ang panahon at iche-check-in sila sa hotel bali madaling araw yun ng Sunday, August 11,” John Florencio said in a phone interview. 

“Tapos sinabi lang samin na umuwi na kayo, wag nyo na kami hintayin [diyan sa Naia]. Yun na ang una at huling contact namin sa kanila,” he added. 

John Florencio then said that Marlon tried to call the number Erlinda used to contact them on the morning of August 11, but the owner of the number said that he no longer knows the whereabouts of their relatives. 

“[The owner of the number] said that they are not in the same hotel with verbatim quote, ‘nauna kasi akong umalis para ihatid sa hotel at naiwan pa sila kaya hindi ko alam kung saang hotel sila’,” John Florencio narrated.

Further, the owner of the number said that he is already scheduled to fly back to the Philippines on August 12 under the same flight number. 

Search for the relatives

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In an effort to locate their missing relatives, the family contacted the airline company’s local office in Makati.

John Florencio said the airline company’s local office explained that they do not have visibility of rebooked flights and details of the passengers for the rebooked flight and advised them to contact the airline company’s office in Shanghai and the US. 

Another relative also sought the help of the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai which assured them that the Immigration is already looking for the three senior citizens and that they will be advised once they have information on their relatives’ whereabouts. 

No records of the passengers?

On August 17, Michael Anthony David, brother of Marlon, received a message from another friend who resides in China that the flight did not land in Pudong International Airport in Shanghai but rather in Wuhan Tianhe International Airport in Hubei province due to bad weather. 

The said friend in China also called the airline company’s Eastern Shanghai office to seek information where he was informed that there were no records of the three senior citizens checking into a hotel.

Further, the airline company’s eastern Shanghai office said that the three were scheduled to board a plane from Wuhan to Pudong, but there were no records that the three senior citizens boarded the said flight. 

This information further worried the senior citizens’ family. 

“Doon kami natakot, nasaan na sila? Bakit hindi sila kumo-contact? These are retired teachers so hinda naman sila yung tipong walang alam. These are retired teachers, kung hindi naman restricted makakatawag sila, may ways, makakatawag sila dahil may baon din naman silang perang pantawag,” Marlon said in a separate phone interview with INQUIRER.net

“Yun ang ipinagtataka namin. Bakit hindi sila makatawag? Yun yung concern namin ngayon,” Marlon added. 

Marlon said the family is set to visit the airline company’s local office on Monday before they lodge a formal concern before the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). 

“One week na silang nawawala, walang contact. Ang first [priority] ay sana ma-locate sila, mahanap sila, malaman namin na safe sila at paano sila makakauwi. Humihingi kami ng tulong sa government dahil baka government to government na dapat ang umaaksyon,” Marlon said. 

For John Florencio, the process of locating his mother has been a hard journey. 

“Sana mahanap na sila at ma-contact namin sila. Sana makauwi sila ng safe dito sa Pilipinas. Mahirap kasi seven days na kaming blocked yung communication sa kanila kaya lahat na ng way talaga ginagawa na namin,” John Florencio pleaded. 

INQUIRER.net has reached out to the airline company’s local office as well as the Philippine Consulate in Beijing for updates on the case.

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