|He's Finally Home
On March 4, we received word from the Philippines Red Cross that Pop would be released the next day. In the morning of March 5, 1973, three of my children and I, along with the Balagot family boarded a plane for Clark Air Base in Angeles City. I was somewhat dismayed that we were rushed to leave much earlier than the scheduled time. Tess and Junn were left behind. At Clark Air Base, we were met by Red Cross personnel and were escorted to a briefing room where the Philippines President, Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady, Imelda Marcos were. She was a tall and beautiful lady with a sweet smile.
In the briefing room with Imelda Marcos, Asuncion Balagot and Dorothy Badua
Shortly after that, we were led outside where we waited. A lot of people, mostly Americans and Filipinos, have stood behind the security tapes anxious to meet the POWs. Most of them perhaps from Clark Air Base. I was told there were students from the nearby Angeles University holding "Welcome Home" signs. Also in attendance were Philippine Defense Secty. Juan Ponce Enrile, Public Information Secty. Francisco Tatad, U.S. Ambassador Henry Byroade, Noel Gayler, Commander in Chief of American forces in the Pacific and Lt. Gen. Moore, Commander of the 13th Air Force. Security was tight since the prisoner repatriation began and because of the presence of the President and his wife, Imelda, who was the target of a failed assassination attempt the previous December.
The red carpet stretched down the tarmac to where we sat. We waited for about an hour, but it seemed forever before the plane was in sight. It was almost sunset and the sky was turning yellow and orange - It was the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. When the plane appeared in the horizon until it touched down and taxied, I had goose bumps. At 5:50 P.M. the plane doors were opened. My heart pounded louder and stronger as each name was called and the men would walk cautiously down the stairs. It seemed like an endless stream of Americans. When I looked up to see who was next I saw Pop standing by the door. My heart went wild. "My God it is him!" We were instructed to approach the plane as Pop's name was called. I dont know if I moved by instinct or floated on cloud nine. I looked up and observed every move and absorbed his presence. He was thin but not malnourished and he walked down slowly. We looked at each other and hugged one another, tears rolling down our cheeks. He turned around and hugged the children. We were all crying. President Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos walked over to him and shook his hands. The President said, "Welcome to the free world, Mr. Badua!" Next came Art Balagot. I can't remember all the details after that because I was so focused on my family, but I remember looking over at the Balagots and they were all just as happy as we were.
Pres. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos extend warm greetings to both the Badua family (right) and the Balagot family (left).
All the POW's went straight to Clark Air Base hospital except for Pop and Art . They were flown back to Manila with their families. I was so glad once we were out of the limelight. It gave me a chance to talk to Pop alone with my children.
At the Manila airport, the children boarded a bus while Pop and I, Arturo and Asuncion rode in an ambulance. The motorcade started from the airport to General V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City where Pop and Art were quarantined for a week. At the lobby of the hospital were Tess and Junn and hundreds of well wishers waiting for us. A mass was given in celebration of their release. This was their first mass since their capture in 1968. Afterwards, they were given a thorough physical exam. Although both men were given a clean bill of health - w/ some dry skin and fatigue, and Arturo feeling weak and nauseated, they were quarantined for 12 days. Dinner that night was seafood and lots of Filipino delicacies.
A Thanksgiving mass was given in honor of Pop & Art's safe return at the lobby of the V. Luna Hospital.
This page was last updated 02/20/00