For three years I was Air Boss at the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. I managed and scheduled all aircraft movement.
This year I will miss the Balloon Fiesta, the first time in 12 years. I am in Beverly Hills, California, for a senior leadership meeting of my company. Guess who this year’s Air Boss will be?
In 1997 my son Carlo won the Ateneo’s grade-level Interpretative Reading competition. He was in Grade 4.
In 1966, I also competed in the same contest. I won the Silver Medal! I was very happy to get Silver. I still remember who won the Gold. He was good.
That same day, I lost the medal. It fell from my pocket. Crushed, I didn’t tell anyone. At home, I told my Mom that I got second place, but no medal. “Congratulations,” she said, and she gave me a balut.
The next day, my teacher announced to the class that someone found my medal! She held it up in front of us. Greatly embarrassed, I said it wasn’t mine. Of course it had “Interpretative Reading, Second Place” on it. Dumbfounded, my teacher looked at me curiously the whole day.
Thirty-one years later, Carlo was a contestant in the same competition. He asked me to watch him at the Ateneo Irwin Theatre. I promised to go.
I arrived at an empty theatre. They had moved the battle to the old auditorium, I thought. Where I won my Silver medal decades ago. I went there.
I found Carlo in tears. He was completely distraught – he had sent me to the wrong venue. He was sure I would miss it.
He was 9 years old.
I tried to calm him down. I reviewed his technique and gave him tips. He was given the reading piece two minutes before his turn. His face was streaked with tears.
He won the Gold medal. First Place. He beat 9 other sections.
Carlo is now 25. He is the Air Boss at this year’s Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. As always, this is volunteer work. Normally he is an English teacher at the Ateneo college.
From today until Sunday, Carlo will manage close to 200 aircraft movements – take offs, landings, flybys, skydivers, paragliders, hot air balloons, ultralights, jets, gliders, balloon-bursting.
In Beverly Hills, 1,000 kilometers and 16 time zones away, in conference with the CEO, CFO, COO and a handful of other senior executives, I am wearing a leather flying jacket, not a business suit.
It’s my link to the biggest aviation event in the Philippines.
My friend Anna asked if I felt like a stage Dad.
No. I feel like I’m flying a desk in NATO HQ, and Carlo is in Tripoli. I feel distant.
Carlo isn’t a neophyte. He was my assistant Air Boss for 3 years. Still, the Air Boss briefs the pilots, and the assistant Air Boss briefs the girls.
Command is very different. Carlo is now responsible for safety, timeliness, execution. He will make thousands of snap decisions over the next four days.
Sons always do better than Fathers. My son Julio scored 100% in mathematics on the US SAT. He is an honor student who advises me on Economics. My son David, fit and pragmatic, is the person I would want with me on a desert island. Carlo became a pilot at age 20. I became one at age 45.
Sons always do better than Fathers. It’s how nature strengthens our world.
Posted from Beverly Hills, California, February 9, 2012.
Day One of the 17th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.