Flight, a Eulogy for Anton Miguel Mapua Osmeña

By Lisa Mapua

Good afternoon. I am Anton’s Tita Lisa Mapua. For the past few days, I have been debating with myself on whether I should speak, and as I got to the church today, I realized I could not let Anton go without saying something.

I have been lucky to have shared some of the best times of his life. When he and his brother Ramon were about 3 and 4 years old, they lived with us in Hawaii. They were always bickering with each other, and yet they were inseparable. They were just so adorable and filled our apartment with joy and laughter.

Much later, when he went to flight school in Omni Aviation, of course, he went to live with me and my daughter Monica in Angeles. We were lucky to have him with us for 3 years. Anton was so easy to have around. Having him there made the three of us a family and we did family things like going to the beach, where he would sleep the whole time we were there. We would go out to movies, have dinner together, or go out to eat and discover new restaurants. We liked trying new places, particularly cheap little hole in the wall places, and if he liked the food, he would say he would come back and take his friends.

I felt honored when he would invite me to join his friends, treating me like the cool tita. His friends would drive up for the Balloon Fiesta, and we tried to hike to Pinatubo. Since he was 27 or 28, of course, I could not give him a curfew. So I gave him a key to the house, but he would never bring it with him. So he would come home at 2 or 3 in the morning after going out with his friends, and go to the window of my room and say, “Tita Lisa, Tita Lisa,” and I would get so startled. Then I would get up to let him in. Anton, please ha, don’t do that to me anymore!

But then again, while I was at work and he was home, he would pile all of Monica’s friends into his little car, and take them out for frozen yogurt, and he would treat all of them! He broke so many of their little hearts. I would see their faces light up when he walked into the house. They were these 12 year old girls who looked at him as this dashing pilot with the rock star hair, who could play the guitar and sing, and “he treated us to yoguuuuuuuuuurrrrrtttttttt!!!!!!!” Anton made friends with everyone.

One of the things that Anton would do with me was watch football, not American football, but soccer. I am a big football fan. I would wake him up at 2am and say, “C’mon, the match is on live.” And we would watch together, shout and cheer, and scream things like, “Look what a stupid thing that guy did!” We watched many World Cup matches together, sometimes at the homes of my friends, or at a bar. When he came to live with me, I think he was for Barcelona, but I am a big fan of Real Madrid (which is like La Salle versus Ateneo), and I think that by the time he left, I had converted him over to Real Madrid.

For the most part, Anton was a calming presence in the house. I knew he was studying hard, and he would walk around the house memorizing stuff, or be poring over his maps and charts. And most nights, we would each head off to our rooms. He would keep his door open and I would walk by and see him sitting on his bed, strumming his guitar and singing.

I hope I have given him a home where he could just be, and an atmosphere that would help him thrive and excel at his aviation studies. And that I am told he did. He was one of only 3 flight instructors at the school, and when the school needed to get its certification, he was one of 3 who re-wrote and edited the flight manuals for the school. Over the course of this wake, many of his students told me that he was their best teacher. It comforts me to know that he left a legacy. These new pilots are his legacy.

I was so lucky that he shared a very special experience with me, his passion for flight. He took me on a flight in his little plane. One day, he asked me, “Tita Lisa, do you want to fly with me to La Union?” I side-eyed him, “Are you sure? Are you safe?” So we took off before lunch, just me and him in this little 2-seater Cessna. I had to wear this heavy headset. He checked and fiddled with his instruments, checking and double-checking stuff. The plane started rolling down the runway, and it lifted up and we were off on a new adventure together. To ease my nerves, I looked out the window to the ground below and took pictures with my camera. Oh, look! There’s Luisita! And we even flew by the mall that I manage in Dagupan, and I finally got to take some aerial shots of the mall.

He landed the plane so smoothly in La Union, parked it, and we went to the control tower for him to check in. That done, I said, “We have to go eat Papaitan.” “What’s that?” he asked. “I dunno,” I answered, “but I heard that’s what you’re supposed to eat when you’re in La Union.” So we hopped into a tricycle and told the driver to take us to where we could eat Papaitan. We ended up at this roadside carinderia with a line of huge pots of different dishes. We selected our food, including the required Papaitan, and sat with the other tricycle drivers for our meal. Then back onto the tricycle, to the airport and we took off again to head home to Clark. As we were in the air, this song about the joy of flying kept playing in my head.

It’s a song called “Flight” by John Denver, with lyrics from a poem written in 1941 by a pilot from the Royal Canadian Air Force. I first heard the song, coincidentally enough, when we were living in Hawaii, and Anton was just a little boy. It was dedicated to the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, who perished in a mid-air explosion.

High Flight
By RCAF Spitfire Pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
(1922-1941)

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds… and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of… wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

You did it, Ton! You lived your dream! And you did it so well! You are my Godson because only God could have given me a son as wonderful as you. And I thank him for these special days we spent with you. I love you, Anton. But it’s time for you to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God. Godspeed, my son.

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