They are a batch of different blood brought up by different cultures, Filipinos, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. Though they are all Asian, they still speak different languages. For most of the non-Filipinos, they could have stayed at the comforts of their motherland flying for their very own national airline, yet, they chose to come to the Philippines. The only common thing they had with their Filipino counterparts was English, and yet, no language barrier was able to stop this batch from uniting to support each other to fulfill a dream, to be a cabin crew of Philippine Airlines. This is PAL batch ICCT1702, the latest cabin crew batch to date.
We were very happy to witness the graduation of this batch last July 12 at the PAL Learning Center. Though attending cabin crew graduations is nothing new to us, what excites us all the time about attending each and every cabin crew graduation that we are invited to is knowing their journey as a batch and as individuals.
The first time we met some of the trainees from ICCT1702 was during the graduation of 1701 as they (former) were ushers that time. Well, they all seemed very fluent in English and they were very friendly too, some were already engaging in conversations!
Fast forward a month later on, it was 1702's time to receive their wings.They were about 25 graduates. Out of the total number, 9 were Japanese, 4 were Koreans, and 2 were Chinese. It was a very momentous event for the whole batch after around 3 months of training that included gruelling exams, check rides, sleepless nights, and other physical activities.
You may now be wondering, how were their trainors able to handle this multilingual and multicultural batch? Well their trainor-in-charge Erik Jon Portus shared that very moment when he found out that he will be handling such batch.
"Early in May, I was told by my manager, Mr. Ferdinand Legaspi, that I will handle the second Initial Cabin Crew Training for this year. Although aware of the Herculean task at hand, I willingly and gladly accepted the responsibility. A week after, I was informed by Talent Acquisition Division that the training class would be composed Japanese, Chinese and Korean Interpreters. This changed the game into a whole new level. Excitement turned into anxiety. Primary reason for my apprehension is how I will be able to get through every single day speaking in straight English. How could I tell jokes in English? I thought to myself. I poured out my anxiety on binge-eating. For the next few days, I fed myself all the kimchi, sushi and siomai I could stuff my mouth with. I gained weight."
So when we arrived at the PAL Learning Center, we were greeted at the lobby by the batch, all smiles in their faces as though they won the lotto, yet, still busy finishing the last few touches of their graduation set-up. One approached me and even said "we are graduating" in a very excited tone! Yes we do feel their excitement and indeed, we know what they went through under the care of Erik and Jeng Reyes.
Training a multicultural and multilingual batch, was it hard? Here is what Erik Portus has to say: "Having Initial Cabin Crew Trainees under one’s care is not easy. It requires a lot of time, effort and yes, even patience. It means preparing for the next day’s lecture in exchange of quiet relaxing evenings. It means waking up at wee hours of the morning to reply to questions that range from grooming and make-up, to reporting time, to safety questions, and service standards. It means having to worry about whether these 28 young men and women were able to get home safe after dismissing them late from a training class. It means instantly having 28 children and caring for them as a father would. You know how I survived the past three months? You may have noticed that my skin was tan very Monday. I made sure that every weekend, I was either out of town camping in the woods, beside the lake or waterfalls, along the beach or on the mountains. I was literally out of town every single weekend for three months. That was how I coped. But know that among the many places I went to for the past three months, Room 214 of PAL Learning Center was my favorite destination."
After the whole batch was introduced on stage, they went back to their seats to listen to an inspirational talk from their speaker, and they had no other than PAL Senior Vice President for Legal Atty. Siegfred Mison. We will never forget the very three words he mentioned, Perspectives...Attitude...Love...words that make up the acronym for the nation's official flag carrier...PAL...bringing Buong Pusong Alaga the international flavor it rightfully deserves with a predominantly interpreters batch.
The highlight of every graduation is the pinning of the wings. No not Flyhigh Manila's WINGS privilege card which is exclusive also for cabin crew members, but the wings nameplate every flight attendant wears. It is a symbol that they are official cabin crew members, just like the metal badge every policeman is proud of. It is a symbol of their hardwork as they made it through sleepless nights, emotional breakdowns, and many more. Yes we tell you, the journey to be a cabin crew is not easy.
Despite being a multicultural and multilingual one, they were able to break all borders and boundaries for one common goal, for them to be able to fulfill their dream together. They understood each other, they listened, they had the heart to help each other up in times of challenges, they made sure each of them are understood despite the language barrier. Some were even proud to share their culture to their Filipino batchmates by bringing food and treats from Japan and Korea. United in wings and in heart indeed.
The Filipinos on the other hand were very eager to teach their Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese counterparts how to be a "Filipino", and that is to offer a hospitable character uniquely Filipino that comes straight from the heart. A few number of the Japanese and Koreans have stayed in the Philippines for quite some time and the Chinese are originally from here.
Now you may be wondering why PAL also gets in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cabin crew. Well they are interpreters especially that Philippine Airlines have lots of flights to China, Japan, and Korea. The Japanese Interpreters are based in Tokyo and the Koreans in Incheon.
Cabin crew graduations are not the end of things, but they are actually the start of a new journey. As Erik says, "ICCT 17-02, tomorrow will be the start of the realization of your dreams. Yes, tomorrow, no day off. Tomorrow, you will bid shopping at Divisoria goodbye, for you will shop at outlet stores in California and Canada. Tomorrow, instead of watching movies at the many malls here in Manila, you will watch Musicals at the West End in London and Broadway in New York. Tomorrow, instead of getting a tan from the beaches of Manila Bay, you will bask under the golden Hawaiian sun. Tomorrow, instead of eating banana cue, kwek-kwek and tokneneng along the streets of Padre Faura, you will make tusok-tusok street food in Bangkok, Singapore, Hongkong and Taiwan. All these are bound to happen whether it be travel for work or personal travels as you enjoy the many travel perks of a cabin crew."
Emotions poured in at the end of the ceremonies as some of their batchmates will fly back to their motherlands. Yes after three months of training, going through sh*t together, pulling each other, sharing stories, crying, and laughing, goodbyes are really hard. Strong friendships built, relationships forged (yes, there is a cabin crew couple in this batch and mind you, only one is Filipino), but most importantly, cultural and lingual borders broken down to be united in wings and in heart. Don't worry, you will always see each other! And oh, please do not forget, October 30 is the night! Let that be your "post graduation" party!
To end this all, allow us to quote Erik Portus once again during his speech:
"And to the entire multi-lingual, multi-cultural class of ICCT 17-02, we never ever felt that you came from different upbringing. Thank you for teaching me that friendship goes beyond culture, ethnicity and background. Thank you for teaching me that friendship knows no language for the language of friendship is friendship itself."
Congratulations once again ICCT1702! Rest assured that Flyhigh Manila will always be here for you to reward and pamper you for your exemplary dedication as cabin crew members of Philippine Airlines!