Magsaysay plane crash commemorated in UST book launch

‘ONE Came Back: The Magsaysay Tragedy’ book. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF University of Santo Tomas

The UST Miguel de Benavides Library, in collaboration with the family of the late journalist Nestor Mata, will launch the new edition of the book One Came Back: The Magsaysay Tragedy co-authored with Vicente Villafranca.

The book commemorates the 67th anniversary of the historical plane crash that tragically claimed the life of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay.

The incident unfolded 67 years ago when the C-47 army plane named “Mt. Pinatubo,” personally christened by President Magsaysay as a tribute to an inactive volcano in his home province of Zambales, crashed into Mt. Manunggal in Barangay Sunog, Balamban town.

Designated as the official presidential plane, Mt. Pinatubo was a recently refurbished twin-engine C-47, under the command of Major Florencio Pobre, leading a crew of five officers from the Philippine Air Force. The plane, with less than 100 hours of flight logged, carried the weight of the nation’s leader and his entourage.

President Magsaysay’s visit to Cebu City on 16 March 1957 for various speaking engagements set the stage for the dreadful event. Despite late finishes, the President declined invitations to stay overnight in Cebu, citing an early meeting at Malacañang the next day. The airport check-in witnessed a moment of tension as the President, listed as number 13 on the manifest, refused an offer by Luis Esmero, a Malacañang technical assistant, to take his place.

Inside the aircraft, the absence of air conditioning, removed by the President to avoid criticism, was noticed by Nestor Mata, a Philippines Herald reporter and co-author of the upcoming book. The plane took off at 1:15 a.m. on 17 March and the initially smooth flight turned into a horrifying incident with a sudden, jolting fall described as “a thousand lights blinking out at the same time.”

Initially published in 1957, the book One Came Back provides a firsthand account of the final moments of President Magsaysay and Mata’s harrowing experiences as the sole survivor. As an esteemed alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas, Mata’s contributions as an educator in Political Science and Journalism at UST add another layer to the significance of this event.

The new edition is published by Art Angel Commercial Quests, Inc., owned and run by the family of the late Jose L. Pavia, a journalist who worked alongside Mata at the Philippines Daily Herald, where he served as the executive news editor until Martial Law led to the paper’s closure.

Copies can be pre-ordered through the link: