IndiGo Flight 6E8539 took off from New Delhi, India, on August 26, 2020 to fly back to the Philippines Indians and distressed Filipinos, mostly India-based Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
Dubbed as “Special Flight Helpline,” the Delhi-Manila-Delhi round trip flight was organized by the Filipino Indian Commerce and Welfare Society, Inc. (FICWSI) in collaboration with the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), through the respective organizations’ Presidents Manjinder “James” Kumar and Arsenio “Boy” Evangelista, as a response to desperate calls for help by stranded and distressed Filipinos and Indians in India and in the Philippines.
The Embassy of India Manila, led by Ambassador, H.E. Shambhu S. Kumaran, alongside Santosh Kumar Mishra, Second Secretary (Consular), extended full support to the humanitarian intent of Kumar and Evangelista.
The OWFs flown back home, free of charge, felt much relief and were grateful for their answered prayers.
Fireman Second Class Machinery Repairman Joemari Bag-o of the Philippine Navy finally flew home after over three months of being stranded in India. He was one of the injured sailors of BRP Ramon Alcaraz when a fire broke out from its main engine room on May 7, this year.
BRP Ramon Alcaraz was the companion ship of BRP Davao Del Sur on a voyage back to the Philippines with Filipino repatriates and 200,000 pieces of donated face masks when the fire incident happened. Bag-o, who suffered second degree burns, stayed over a month in a burn treatment facility at the Sanjivani Naval Hospital in INS Southern Naval Command for medical treatment. For almost two months, he eagerly prayed for a chance to come home.
Cecilio Godito, an OFW who used to work as a dance instructor in India, also flew home, free of charge. Before the pandemic, he underwent some surgeries. Due to his health condition, he lost his job and the surgeries drained his savings. Stranded for over five months, he was able to pull through with the help of his former students and fellow Filipinos.
According to Marites Sequeira, co-in-charge of the Filipino Community Delhi NCR, through their group chat, distressed Filipinos in India communicate and in some feasible ways help each other. The group has close coordination and communication with the Philippine Embassy in India.
Sequeira helped in the coordination for the inclusion of the distressed Filipinos when it was announced that the Delhi-Manila Special Flight—with the organizers’ intent to further extend humanitarian help—would accommodate stranded OFWs for free. In coordination with the Philippine Embassy in India, Bag-o and Godito, together with over 10 other OFWs, were able to avail of the free flight.
There are still stranded and distressed OFWs in India. Alongside Indians who need to fly to the Philippines, Sequeira says many Filipinos—some even willing to pay for their own tickets—are hoping that there will be other special flights.
“Special Flight Helpline” was announced on FICWSI’s FB page with a phrase “Fly Home For A Cause.” Proceeds, if any, above expenses of the chartered flight from the ticket sales will be used for “Helpline On Wheels,” an ongoing charity effort of filindihelpline, FICWSI’s outreach program, which grants bicycles for workers, and wheelchairs for indigent Persons With Disability (PWDs).
On August 27, 2020, the chartered flight flew back to New Delhi, India, flying home stranded Indians with much gratitude to everyone who made the special flight happen.
Kumar, Evangelista, and the Embassy Of India Manila expressed their utmost gratitude to the kind accommodation and prompt assistance of various Philippine government agencies in making this Special Flight Helpline possible: the Department of Foreign Affairs; Philippine Embassy in India, led by its Ambassador, H.E. Ramon S. Bagatsing, Jr.; Bureau of Immigration, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the Manila International Airport Authority.