The 11th World Jamboree Tragedy
success of the 10th World Jamboree held in Mt. Makiling (Los Baños,
Laguna, Philippines) in 1959 was still fresh in the minds of Filipino
Scouts that's why many responded when the call for the 11th World
Jamboree was sounded in 1963. Sons of prominent families applied,
so did Scouts who raised funds to join the historic event. They
knew the Northeastern Attica, the site of a Greek victory in 490
BC where a soldier ran 22 miles from Marathon to Athens to bring
news of their victory, but they had no inkling that their participation
would make them part of the worldwide Scouting history in this most
remembered Jamboree of all time.
After a thorough screening, 20 Scouts were chosen to form part
of the delegation. They underwent rigid training in Manila and Mt.
Makiling, Laguna from July 8 to the departure date. Dr. Lazcano,
the BSP physician and the contingent's Scoutmaster, handled the
training. Joining him, as Contingent Assistant Scoutmasters, were
veteran Scouters Florante L. Ojeda, Librado L.S. Fernandez and Rev.
Fr. Jose A. Martinez, a Jesuit priest and also the contingent's
chaplain. The boys were in good hands.
before they left, on July 23, the contingent went to Malacañang
Palace to pay a courtesy call to President Diosdado Macapagal, who
presented the Philippine flag to Scouter Lazcano. Earlier, the contingent
also visited the Greek Consulate.
Despedida parties were thrown for the boys who were very excited
for this culmination of their youthful dreams.
July 26, everybody was prepared. A simple send-off ceremony was
held at the Manila International Airport led by Acting BSP National
President Fernando E.V. Sison and Deputy International Commissioner
Antonio C. Delgado, father of Life Scout Ton Delgado who was with
the delegation. They exhorted the Scouts to be good representatives
of the BSP (Boy Scouts of the Philippines) and to return as better
In their uniform and native salakot (native hat), the boys waved
goodbye to their families and other well-wishers as they boarded
the KLM plane that would bring them to Hong Kong before proceeding
to Bangkok for another stopover. That was the last time their loved
ones saw their happy and innocent faces.
It was raining hard in Bangkok, most of the boys preferred to stay
in their hotel rooms, when Aid Scout Observer Chito Albano wrote
his last message on a postcard:
"Dearest Pa, Ma, Brothers, Sisters and Everybody,
We arrived in Bangkok at 10:25 PM (Manila time)
safe and in good condition. We departed in Hong Kong at 8:45 PM
(Manila time). I already sent Tio Pati a postcard. Please pray
for me. Thank you.
Love, kisses and prayers,
From Bangkok the contingent boarded the United Arab Airlines Jet
Comet with 39 other passengers. The plane's senior pilot, Mohammad
Shoura was a professional and distinct pilot being a former pilot
of Egyptian President Nasser. The co-pilot, Ibrahim Rustom, was
also an experienced and veteran pilot.
The plane had been informed of a low 800 feet cloud base over
Juhu beach where it was raining as a No. 3 cautionary signal was
aloft, warning ships of rough seas. Visibility was three kilometers.
At 1:30 AM of July 28, a Sunday, the passengers woke up to the
frantic call of "fasten seatbelts." The control tower
in Santa Cruz Airport in Bombay gave instructions on landing. The
plane maneuvered over the Arabian Sea. It veered to land, still
nine miles off the coast.
fishermen off Madh, a town near the crash site, said they heard
a loud explosion. Residents of Versova also reported a loud noise
at around 2:00 AM. Five hours later, search and rescue operations
News of the tragedy spread like fire. In Manila, newspapers carried
stories about the crash. Parents and relatives of the group were
shocked. A number of them immediately enplaned to Bombay to join
Everybody was hoping and praying that they boys were safe and alive.
"They are so young to die," The bereaved Filipinos exclaimed.
"He is not dead," a mother wailed, "he promised to
return. He cannot be dead." The Boy Scouts broke his promise:
He did not return alive.
A prayer vigil was held at the BSP National Office as telegrams,
cables and calls of sympathy poured in.
President Macapagal sent condolences saying:
"The Boy Scouts died in the line of duty.
Their noble death shall inspire the youth and the nation."
Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Indonesian President
Sukarno, Pope Paul VI and other luminaries here and overseas sent
August 1, Crown Prince Constantine, Chief Scout of Greece, formally
opened the 11th World Jamboree with 14,000 participants from 85
countries. The Philippine flag stood at half-mast on Sub-Camp Antiochis.
The winds at Marathon, with over 50 mph, knocked down tents and
sprayed layers of sand and dust into clothing, sleeping bags and
food. Many fixtures were destroyed. Was nature sympathizing with
the ill-fated Filipino Scouts?
Scouts Louis Santiago, Nicasio Fernandez and Guillermo Flores
left for Greece, August 3, as special representatives of the Philippines
to the Jamboree. The following day, an Alitalia plane took off from
Bombay and Indian Navy frigate Kripan sailed to the crash site in
the Arabian Sea off Madh Island. K.M. Modi, Indian consul general
to the Philippines, and Indian Navy Commander J.D. Cooper laid on
the waters a giant wreath to honor the dead.
Masses and necrological services were offered as more sympathies
continued to pour in. At a necrological service held at the Rizal
Memorial Stadium, BSP President F.E.V. Sison spoke to parents and
kin of the 24 Scouts and Scouters:
"My friends, it is not given to man to bring
the dead back to life. But perhaps it would be wrong or amiss
for me to say here that in more than just a symbolic way these
Scouters and Scouts are not dead. They live, and shall continue
to live in our midst. Their spirit of honor, of loyalty to God
and country, their allegiance to the Scout Law of helping people
at all times this spirit of honor did not perish in the Arabian
Sea; this spirit of honor came back to us with these mortal remains.
And this spirit has entered into thousands of young hearts that
look forward to their scouting days tomorrow. And it has even
come back to us who are no longer young, but who can still remember
how real and sacred the sense of honor and loyalty was in our
own Scouting days of yesterday."
On behalf of the parents, Antonio C. Delgado, father of Scout Jose
Antonio, gave the response:
"For this is the other side of the coin
of grief. The glory. The honor. The triumph.
"…In the forefront of these boy's
minds were always held as shining goals the noble ideals of the
Scout Oath: 'honor…duty…God…Country.' These
boys kept their honor; and they kept the faith; and they gave
their all for their country…and I am sure they kept themselves
in the friendship of God."
the tragedy, the Ala-Ala Mausoleum was built in North Cemetery to
perpetuate the memory of the Scouts and Scouters. Several streets
in Quezon City were renamed in their honor; memorial markers were
erected in a number of places here and abroad. Parents and relatives
of the departed continued to meet and exchange stories of their
young boys that eventually lead to the formation of the 11th World
1988, former President and Chief Scout Corazon C. Aquino declared
July 28 of every year as Scout Memorial Day honoring the ill-fated
Jamboree heroes and other Scouts and Scouters who died while serving
the country and our fellowmen.
Today, 42 years after that Black Sunday, the 24 Scouts and Scouters
are not just streets, monuments or markers but are still symbols
of Scouts who live by their promise to fulfill their duties. They
remain as shining example of young people embedded with the values
and virtues worth emulating by all. Let us relive their fond memories.
They may have never sang the Jamboree song for the world to hear,
but they are now singing with the Great Scoutmaster because they
have never died…Scouts never die…they just hike to heaven.
Quick to the call "Be Prepared"
Come the Scouts today.
You'll find wherever the need
They are there.
They lend a strong helping
While they sing a song
And bring a bright smile to help
They come from homes far away
With a will to fight,
Though nor for lands or for gain
But for the right.
And then united as one
To aim high for Good
And to Scout Wide for
Condensed by Christopher
Ragudo of Quezon
from the work of Ernesto B. Rojo, Jr. of
the Philippine Scouting Magazine, Volume 11, Number 04, July-August