Recently, the nation and the Boy Scouts not only in the Philippines but also elsewhere around the world commemorated perhaps one of the most tragic stories in the annals of Boy Scout history. It was to commemorate that fateful day on July 28, 1963 when Flight 869 of United Arab Airlines, (the precursor of today’s EgyptAir) en route to Greece for the 11th World Jamboree of the international Boy Scouts, crashed into the sea off the coast of a village called Madh, near Mumbai (Bombay as it was known before) in India.
The flight killed all 63 people on the plane, including the captain, crew, and the 24-member Philippine contingent that were to attend the 11th World Jamboree. It was believed that the plane crashed due to the loss of control during the turbulence it experienced in mid-air. But as no wreckage was salvaged, the report remained ain inconclusive one.
The Philippine delegation that was lost in the flight consisted of 21 Boy Scouts from various councils of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines: Ramon V. Albano, Henry Chuatoco, Jose Antonio Delgado, Pedro Gandia, Wilfredo Santiago, and Ascario Tuason, Jr. of Manila; Roberto Castor, Romeo R. Rallos, and Rogelio Ybardolaza of Quezon City; Felix Fuentebella, Jr. of Camarines Sur, (as well as representing Manila) Victor de Guia, Jr. from Baguio, Antonio Limbaga of Zamboanga City, Roberto Lozano of Dagupan, Paulo Madriñan of Pasay City, Jose Fermin Magbanua of Negros Oriental, Filamor Reyes and Antonio Torillo of Cavite) and Benecio Tobias of Tarlac. Also part of the contingent are 3 Scouters: Dr. Florante L. Ojeda of Agusan who was the Delegation head, Fr. Jose Ma. Martinez, SJ who was delegate chaplain and faculty member of Ateneo de Naga, and Dr. Bonifacio V. Lazcano who was the delegate physician.
It was a tragic loss such that many of these youth were on their way to fulfill a rare opportunity to represent the country, a great honor that they couldn’t miss. Despite the financial difficulty of some of their families, they were able to make to the flight thanks in part to those who gladly provided them assistance. For the loved ones they left behind, the loss was painful to bear that it lingered even after all these years.
The tragedy brought the country and the global scouting community into a deep mourning as tributes poured in for the fallen Filipino Boy Scout contingent. In the wake of the tragedy, the Quezon City government decreed that 24 streets in the city located between the old National Capitol complex and Diliman creek would be named/renamed after the fallen 24. Thus, the origin of the “scout” names in the area we have today.
The naming also influenced the naming of one of the barangays that were eventually established in the area, named after the motto of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines: “Laging Handa” or be prepared.
In the 1990s, a monument was built on the rotunda which is located in the intersection of Tomas Morato and Timog Avenues, an obelisk whose base is engraved with 24 figures representing those who perished in the ill-fated flight.
It was tragic to see many young lives extinguished by the tragedy. Nevertheless, the fact that they lived and died with the principles and ideals of the Boy Scout may perhaps serve as an inspiration for the rest of us to live by these principles and ideals as work on making our world better.
Acknowledgements as well to Video 48