Written by Mond Ortiz
Xiona Castillo is like any 6-year old girl. She is bubbly, happy, and already got dreams of what she wants to become when she is older. While many little girls would like to be a princess, Xiona wants to be a flight attendant. She clearly knows that to be a flight attendant, one must have good looks, and that is exactly what's holding her back. She has this some sort of rare syndrome that made her look different from the rest.
Xiona and her mother, Bernadette, are experiencing the same syndrome. Not even doctors are still able to determine the cause of this syndrome. Inspite of their different physical appearance that have at times made them victims of face shaming and bullying, they live a very normal life. Bernadette is now happily married to a German guy she met through some dating app. Travelling from Hamburg to Manila back must have sparked Xiona's interest to be a flight attendant, perhaps after seeing different cabin crew members on board.
Quite a number of little girls do want to become flight attendants when they grow bigger.They must be mesmerized by a cabin crew's uniform, their grace inside the aircraft, their smiles, their beauty, their inter-personal skills, their height, and the fact that they get to travel around. To a few little girls, that ambition of being a princess one day is equivalent to that of being a flight attendant.
Mommy Bernadette must have seen Xiona's determination to be a flight attendant one day despite their conditions and this prompted her to call Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho.
The producers of the popular Sunday show then managed to get in touch with PAL Express and us in short notice, asking for help to turn Xiona's flight attendant dream into a reality for one day. In less than 24 hours, the PAL Express team led by Mr. Leonides Pena and Mr. Joselito Las got all papers approved for the shoot. They even formed a complete team to help out, a team composed of those incharge of the logistics, food, aircraft maintenance, security, safety, and cabin services. Two cabin crew of the airline namely F/S Gerby Estrella and F/A Tine Gaffud were to train Xiona to be a flight attendant. They were to teach her how to do the make-up, the safety demo, and how to serve passengers.
January 5 was the day of the surprise! Xiona had exactly no idea that she would be a flight attendant inside an actual aircraft, a Philippine Airlines Airbus A320, and not a mock cabin. The KMJS was to bring Xiona and her family straight to the PAL Express office at gate 1, Andrews Avenue in Pasay City. As she got down, the little girl had no idea where she was until she was greeted by PAL cabin crew members Gerby and Tine!
Xiona froze in disbelief but full of happiness especially that when she was told that she will be a flight attendant of no less than the only 4-star airline of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines. Mommy Bernadette started to cry as she saw the happiness in the face of Xiona. Both Tine and Gerby briefed her of what she will be doing that day, and much to her amazement, she was smiling and jumping. Xiona's dream is taking flight.
Tear jerking moment to some of us that time, especially for Kris Len and Janine of PAL Express.
Xiona was then led to the new dressing room where Xiona was made to wear a kiddie cabin crew uniform. F/A Tine Gaffud then applied her make-up and taught her some tips on how to put them on like a flight attendant. She sat steadily on the chair, watching her transformation from a normal little girl to a cabin crew ready to fly. She was guided throughout the way of how to do her hair and make-up.
Finally, she was done, and we all clapped after she stood up, in full uniform, make-up, with her little FA wings! Xiona now has her wings!
Everyone then proceeded to the aircraft where Xiona will be taught the safety demo and how to serve passengers. On the way, she was hopping and jumping with Gerby and Tine, just like a child excited to buy her new toy. Before proceeding to the aircraft, she was even asked to pose infront for photos and she really knows how to pose! According to Mommy Bernadette, Xiona would really join photo shoots, hence, she is not camera shy. So being in front of one doing turns and different poses is nothing new to the little girl.
On the hand, we saw how happy Mommy Bernadette and her husband were as Xiona climbed the aircraft with Tine and Gerby. They are such a sweet and inspiring couple too. As mommy Bernadette's husband said, he did not mind the looks of Mommy Bernadette because what mattered to him is the realy beauty in her which is skin deep. Awwwwwww.
Inside the aircraft, Gerby and Tine taught Xiona how to do the safety demo. She paid attention as both explained how to perform each part from seatbelts to life vest to the emergency exit doors and all. She picked-up all the lessons really fast and in no time, she was ready to perform the safety demo in front of us, her passengers.
She then proceeded to next part which was how to serve meals to her passengers followed by a walk down the aisle where we all clapped and cheered for Xiona, now that her flight attendant dream actually unfolded right before her very eyes. It was a tear-jerking moment for everyone of us who worked hard to turn a little girl's flight attendant dream into a reality.
Xiona a gift bag consisting of items from Philippine Airlines and she played with each of them to her amazement. More than just toys, they are also her "trophies" or "plaque of recognition" that for one day in her childhood, she became a flight attendant. Who knows what the future holds for Xiona but at 6 years old, she has that burning desire in her heart to be a flight attendant, flying the friendly skies, travelling from country to country. In fact, she was able to name a lot of airlines when we asked her what are the airlines she knows. She was able to name seven of them.
Xiona is a very jolly and happy little girl indeed. Before boarding their vans, I gave her a hug, congratulating her, and telling her "flying with you soon". Even her mom and dad seem to be the happy type of bunch. I was able to strike short conversations with them and they would answer with a smile all the time, especially mommy Bernadette.
I have always believed that the world would be a better place if we just learn how to accept each other for who we are despite our differences and to help each other up in good and in bad. This is where the heart of the Filipino stands out, ready to lift each other up towards our dreams and ambitions in life.
Indeed when we combine cabin crew love with the heart of the Filipino, we can go places and be in places which we once dreamed and prayed for.
Below is the video of the Kapuso Mo Jessica Soho episode of Xiona's flight attendant experience. The cabin crew part will appear somewhere near the 10:30 minute part but we suggest that you watch the whole video for you to understand their story.
Flying with you F/A Xiona! God bless you and more power Philippine Airlines!