Around four in the afternoon of December 6, 2013 (Friday), on our way to La Paz, Leyte, to distribute relief goods for the victims of typhoon Yolanda, we are about to land in the said area, when, without warning the pilot forced to land for the second time, it was shaking violently, and there was panic inside the chopper.

I was seating near the area where the gunman was situated and suddenly I heard an incredibly loud cracking sound from the back of the chopper, it was probably the elisi that was smashed and there was a strong vibration. I did not think that we will going to crash or die. I was just all the time praying to God to calm myself. Then, I rolled out of the chopper and people came to help us.

This is how Danny Franco Bitara, 29, a Municipal Link of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office 5 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program relate his story, surviving the recently Huey chopper crashed together with his co-DSWD staff Naome Mongaya, two pilots and two gunman of Air Force of the Philippines named Staff Sgt. Cristobal Amorin, Sgt. Quirubin Perez, Sgt. Angelito Anterola and Sgt. Henry Roque and two loader.

“It was my two little sons David Jofen, 3, Danielle Joseph, 3 months old, and my wife Julma, 27, that was in my mind,” he said in a low tone of voice seemingly very emotional recalling of what had happen.

Before the Crash

Daniel voluntarily joins the team in assisting the relief distribution in going to the Province of Borangan in Eastern Samar. Then, on December 3, 2013 he was tasked to go to Tacloban, Leyte to be the person in-charge of dispatching and sending DSWD staff to distribute relief goods to respective municipalities greatly hit by said typhoon.

For his last day in Tacloban, Leyte, having enjoyed of what he is doing, he was tasked in assisting and facilitating the relief distribution in La Paz, Leyte. “Masaya ako dahil, nakakatulong ako sa mga tao dahil wala naman ako pinansiyal na maibibigay sa kapwa ko kaya pinagbubutihan ko ang trabaho ko para sa mga nangangailangan,” he said.

He added that he was also overwhelmed of meeting new people with higher position. “Hindi ko man lang nga na foresee na mangyayari yun sa akin. Naiisip ko lang when I was in the air, what if the plane crash? What will happen to my family?” But he said it was just at the back of his head. He was more focused in looking the area and extent of damage brought by the said typhoon.

A Second Life

Pangalawang buhay ko na po ito,” he added. When he got out of the chopper, he was still conscious and terrified. He said everything was in pieces all around him. He saw the pilot and his companions hurt. People dragged them away from the chopper.

“I couldn’t feel any pain. I was lying under the shades of the tree, and I heard people’s voices around and they help me go to the nearest hospital using a motorcycle,” he stated. In his way to Burawin District Hospital for first aid, he said it was still a hard thing for him as he still needed to cross a river and walk.

Grabe ang experience ko pero pasalamat po ako at nabuhay pa ako,” he stated.

Assistance Provided

Having heard about the situation, the DSWD immediately provided assistance to its staff. According to Danny, Secretary Corazon Juliano – Soliman, Assistant Secretary Vilma Cabrera two other companions immediately went to the hospital where Danny was confined to provide assistance.

Danny felt severe stomach pain, and it was suggested to transfer him to Tacloban for further check-up. On the following day (December 7, 2013), there he undergone physical examination and find out an internal bleeding.

“I was operated but now I am fine,” he added.

The DSWD Field Office 5 provided financial assistance to Danny and immediately contact his family. “Nagpapasalamat po ako kay Director Arnel B. Garcia and Sec. Soliman and the people who help me dahil hindi po nila ako pinabayaan,” he said.

His Maxicare which is also one of the benefits provided to DSWD staff under contract was also utilized as assistance to such this kind of emergency cases.


His Realization

The pain and injuries Danny felt was a thing that makes him realize that life is beautiful and God loves him and his family.

He added that his cut in his stomach may have faded over time but it will always remind him, his lucky escape. He has no regrets only happiness and thankfulness for those who saved him.

My experience made me stronger. I love my job, and I felt it was my mission to help the people. I was even more committed now to continue what I am doing. I hope he could be able to inspire others to love their work, would not lose hope, trust God, and would not stop from helping the people who are in need,” he ended. ***G.A.N. Lindio