Home | Lord B-P | World Scouting | Early Days | Philippine Council BSA | The BSP | Post War | The 60s | Martial Law | Today

The 11th World Jamboree Tragedy

The 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.

Days 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.

Friday, 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 Scouts.

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.

Some 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 began.

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 the search.

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 their condolences.

On 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."

After 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 Jamboree Foundation.

In 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 hand
While they sing a song
And bring a bright smile to help
Things along

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
World Brotherhood.

Condensed by Christopher Ragudo of Quezon City Council
from the work of Ernesto B. Rojo, Jr. of
the Philippine Scouting Magazine, Volume 11, Number 04, July-August 1999 Issue

Home | Lord B-P | World Scouting | Early Days | Philippine Council BSA | The BSP | Post War | The 60s | Martial Law | Today

Unless Otherwise Noted
Contents of this site are from the BSP Diamond Jubilee Yearbook

Copyright Boy Scouts of the Philippines

Hosted by the Merit Badge Center, Philippines