Messages of condolences and grief flooded the Facebook wall of Ron Pabellon, a 22-year-old Dubai-based Filipino worker, whose aunt, uncle, and cousins were all claimed by the tragic shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Ukraine last Thursday.
Pabellon, in an interview with The National, said he felt a chill run through him when he saw news of the plane tragedy on Facebook early morning on Thursday.
Deep down, he was praying that his uncle, aunt and two cousins were not any of the 295 passengers aboard the MH17 flight.
Pabellon, who moved to Dubai last year, knew that the Gunawan family booked a flight on Malaysia Airlines, flying from Amsterdam to Manila, Philippines, with a stop-over in Kuala Lumpur for an annual family reunion.
“I [messaged] my relatives, ‘Derryl, Derryl are you there? Sherryl, where are you? Tita [aunt] where are you, I am worried. Tito [uncle] Budy, where are you now? Then no one will answer. And then my feeling is bad that day,” he said in the interview.
When no one replied, he messaged his cousin Derryl’s girlfriend whom he saw was online – only to find out the she too was waiting for a miracle and confirmed to him that the whole Gunawan family was on the same feared flight.
“I saw on Facebook she was online and then I [asked], ‘Hey, my name is Ron, Derryl’s cousin, do you know where is Derryl?’ And then she said that, ‘Yes, I’m just waiting for a miracle.’ Then I say, ‘’For what? Miracle for what?’ And then she said that Derryl was on the plane crash together with Irene, Budy and Sherryl,” he told to the daily.
Pabellon said that the Gunawan family was loved because of their selflessness and for always supporting their relatives who needed their help, recalling that his family was one of the lucky ones to have received the family’s support during the hardest of times.
Pabellon said that the family reunion would push through with prayers offered to the Gunawan family.
According to Pabellon, close relatives are planning to fly to Amsterdam along with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to repatriate the bodies.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday released a statement condemning the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine.
“We convey our profound condolences for all who perished in this tragedy. It is of utmost importance that the international community come together to help determine those who are responsible for this brutal act against a civilian airliner in civilian airspace. Those responsible should be made fully accountable for this unconscionable assault on a non-military aircraft that posed no threat whatsoever to any party,” it said.
It called out to the international community to “take concerted action to help reduce such tragedies all around the world.”