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Cebuana sisters among AirAsia’s lady pilots

CEBU CITY – Cebuana sisters Marizette and Abegail Bacus who both passed the Nursing Board examination after graduating in 2008 and 2010, respectively, are now proud pilots of AirAsia Philippines and this is their story.

Flying was a childhood dream for both women, whose father, Mario, was an airline pilot.

Cebuana sisters Marizette (second from right) and Abegail Bacus pose with AirAsia deputy group CEO Aireen Omar and AirAsia Philippines Chief Executive Officer, Capt. Dexter Comendador. (Photo by Luel Galarpe for the Philippine News Agency)

“Our inspiration to become pilots was our father. He was a pilot of the Philippine Airlines. My conviction to become a pilot began when he took us to the flight deck for the first time. I think I was about five years old at the time,” said the 30-year-old Marizette. “I felt the excitement seeing the instrument panel in the cockpit. And that was it! That triggered my desire to become a pilot like my dad,” said Abegail, who is two years younger than her sister.

“After that amazing experience, we would always ask our dad to take us to the flight deck every time we travel and he was by chance the pilot of the flight.”

After graduating from high school, Marizette asked her dad if she can go to flight school and pursue her dream of flying. “I remember him saying, yes, why not? But he added that I needed to have a college degree first,” Marizette recalled.

At this stage, their mother Suzette, a physician, proved to be a big influence, too, as Marizette took up Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the Cebu Doctors’ University. Abegail followed her elder sister’s footsteps a couple of years later. They both set aside their dreams of flying for a time to practice their nursing profession.

Marizette looked after patients of the Intensive Care Unit at the Mactan Doctors’ Hospital while Abegail was assigned as an Emergency Room nurse at the Chong Hua Hospital. After several years of attending to the needs of sick people, Marizette and Abegail decided it was time to make their dream a reality.

“We were very determined to become pilots, so we enrolled at a flying school in Mactan,” Marizette said.

The Bacus sisters eventually completed their flying qualifications and went on to become one of the 25 female pilots of AirAsia Philippines. “We were lucky to be chosen to train with AirAsia, who trained us to become not just first officers, but captains,” Abegail said.

AirAsia Philippines Chief Executive Officer Capt. Dexter Comendador said the airline is investing in the training of their pilots. “We have 240 pilots, 25 are women, who have all undergone our Airbus training, which costs AirAsia P1.7 million. In fact, we are encouraging employees who wish to become pilots to enlist for the training,” he said. He said some of their pilots are former flight attendants and ground crew members who have undergone the Airbus training.

Comendador said AirAsia has the most number of female pilots in Asia and they are proud to have them. “We take pride in our women pilots, who have proven that they weren’t any different from male pilots,” he said.

Marizette and Abegail both fly domestic and international flights for AirAsia Philippines and have not experienced any untoward incident so far. “You cannot feel that you’re flying a big aircraft, but you have to keep your composure up there. You have to be prepared for any eventuality,” Marizette said.

However, the sisters have never flown together as AirAsia prohibits siblings from flying together as pilot and co-pilot. On gender issues, the Bacus sisters said female pilots are treated equally and fairly at AirAsia. “Our male pilots never discriminate against us. They treat us, even if we’re still first officers, with respect,” Marizette said.

For young ladies aspiring to conquer the skies someday, Abegail only had one thing to say: “When you put your mind to it, you can do anything.” (Luel Galarpe)

 

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