Throwback: The Early Freight Service
and PALShop Program Of Philippine Airlines
By Apolinario Villalobos
Almost always, when it comes to specific topics for recollection of ex-PALers, the cargo operation, if ever mentioned becomes only a “by-the-way” as part of the Manila Station- Domestic. One reason, perhaps, could be the unassuming character of the ex-PALers who moved commodities from station to station, but the fact is, cargo operation was never behind as regards revenue generation of the airline, especially, during its Golden Years.
The early years of PAL saw Manila Station-Domestic under Manny Panlilio as manager, and located at the old Domestic Terminal (today, NAIA Terminal 4) where Airfreight Marketing-Domestic (AFMD) under Louie Adecer was also located. He was assisted by the All Cargo Aircraft Coordinators (ACAC) such as, Alfonso “Boy” Bayani, Beda Cuenco, Cecille Mella, and Tony Bejar. As Coordinators, they set up domestic cargo flights utilizing three to four DC3s, one YS-11, the “ubiquitous” Argosy, to quote Boy Bayani who added that the said aircraft should have been better called “Agony” as it spent more time on the ground due to frequent servicing than in-flight. In addition to those aircrafts, they sometimes chartered the L100-20, a civilian C-130 from the Philippine Aerotransport, Inc. (PATI), a competitor which was later absorbed by PAL.
The sales aspect of the AFMD was supervised by Johnny Corpuz, while the cargo handling was under Nonoy Tolentino. Later, however, due to an organizational shake up, both MSD and AFMD were brought under the administration of the MSP which at the time was headed by Mr. Ricardo Paloma. The organizational change also resulted to the re-assigning of the personnel to other offices, and among them was Boy Bayani who was transferred to the Vernida building.
As there was a dire need to shape up the operations of AFMD, Dr. Avelino Zapanta (PAL President during his retirement) was made to manage it in the interim, and later replaced by Jose Clemente. It was during the time that Dr. Zapanta prepared studies that led to the development of the Domestic Cargo Operating Manual, and which further resulted to the mechanization of the whole operation. From such feat, the Cargo Department became a formidable revenue earner of the country’s flag carrier which could have even enabled it to stand on its own as a “separate business unit” (SBU). But, that’s another story.
The metamorphosis of what was just a small airfreight division at the Old Domestic Terminal resulted to the conceptualization of other revolutionary programs, with the most remarkable as the “PALShop”. It was a program which benefited both the employees and the company. With the program, the employees were afforded the opportunity to enjoy the products of the provinces where PAL stations were located from Batanes to Tawi-tawi, at the cheapest possible price and could be picked up fresh from the PALShop outlet at the old Domestic Terminal. On the other hand, the company was assured that allowable weight of cargoes that translated to revenue would fill up the regular passenger and cargo flights, especially, during the “lean season”. All that the employees did was fill up an order form based on the list of products provided by the PALShop Office to be covered with the regular airway bill.
A year-end bonanza following the PALShop concept was the Christmas “tiyangge” (bazaar) on the fifth floor of the Vernida Building where the Administrative Offices were located. The bazaar was filled with products packed in crates sent by the different stations. Employees of the stations pooled their financial resources that they used for the purchase of local products based on the “order list” prepared in advance by the Standards and Coordination Division, under Ed Guatelara, and in close coordination with the Manila Station and Domestic Cargo Office for speedy delivery to Vernida building. With this arrangement, the provincial/station-based employees earned extra pesos to tide them over the holiday season while those in Manila were able to save on the commodities that they need, instead of being strangled by the prices of those found on the shelves of supermarkets that have soared expectedly.
Ex-PALers who benefited from the PALShop would reminisce about it with fondness. “Those were the days”, is what they could just say with a sigh.