Friends, classmates remember C-130 pilot who die in Sulu crash
ILIGAN CITY — The graduates of Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology’s Integrated Development School (IDS) in 2000 are in mourning as one of their classmates, Air Force Major Michael Vincent Benolerao, perished in Sunday’s C-130 aircraft crash in Patikul, Sulu.
The 38-year-old Benolerao, who hails from Iligan, piloted the ill-fated cargo plane that ferried three platoons of soldiers deployed to fight terrorists in Sulu.
“Mike was a great leader and an inspiration to everyone. We will celebrate his legacy every day,” said an art card posted on social media by Beatriz Arcinas Caṅedo, Benolerao’s former classmate.
Benolerao’s friends and classmates describe him as patriotic and thoughtful who always found time to meet them during his day off.
Gemma Banaynal, a classmate at St. Michael’s College grade school, said she last saw him in September 2016, helping her arrange her things as she transferred to a new house. Their regular communication has since shifted to social media.
Banaynal, a flight attendant of the Philippine Airlines, remembers asking Benolerao if he is keen on leaving the Air Force for commercial airliners.
“He would consistently answer ‘I love serving my country and I’m enjoying what I do’. When we were in elementary school, he always wanted to be an Air Force pilot and he did become one and remained one until the end,” Banaynal said in a phone interview.
Banaynal added that Benolerao has planned to retire in 2022, his 20th year in military service, to marry his fiancée who is in Canada, and join his entire family who has long been there.
Retired Brigadier General Graciano Mijares, former Bangsamoro police director, whose wife is Benolerao’s classmate from elementary to high school, said the Air Force pilot told him last January that he was marrying “very soon.”
Karen Veloso, a high school classmate, said Benolerao was fond of gathering his friends and former classmates during his day off.
“I understand now why you always wanted to see us, your batchmates, wherever you happened to be. As much as we hate it, you were on borrowed time,” Veloso wrote on social media in a tribute to Benolerao.
Iligan City Rep. Frederick Siao revealed that Benolerao was instrumental in bringing supplies of personal protective equipment and other health care-related items to the city during last year’s lockdowns.
Ysma Mangorsi, another friend, recalled requesting Benolerao to pick up a box of vitamins in Manila which were donated by a friend from Harvard University in the United States for internally displaced children in the Lanao areas.
Benolerao, without hesitation, was able to send it to Laguindingan airport, Mangorsi said.
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