Home » Articles » Nestor Mata’s story, April 6, 1957

Nestor Mata’s story, April 6, 1957


Nestor Mata’s story

by Leon O. Ty
The lone survivor of the Mt. Pinatubo airplane crash in which President Magsaysay and 25 other persons perished gives his version of the tragedy. Newsman has second and third degree burns on thighs, arms and legs


April 6, 1957–PHILIPPINES Herald Reporter Nestor Mata, the lone survivor in the Mt. Pinatubo airplane crash in which President Magsaysay and 25 other persons perished, is still confined in the Veterans Memorial Hospital. He is fast recovering from second and third degree burns all over his body. We visited him last Saturday afternoon. As soon as he saw us, he said in a low voice:

“You are lucky you were not with us.”

Mata said these words because he personally knew that this writer had always been with him and the rest of the Malacañang newspapermen who used to accompany the late President on nearly all his trips to Mindanao and Visayas.

“You are the real lucky one,” we replied.

“Yes,” he said, “but I still do not know what God wants me to do. He spared my life because he wants me to do something. And I don’t know what it is.”

Asked how he got out of the ill-fated plane alive, Mata related the following story:

“The crash occurred between one and two o’clock Sunday morning, March 17…. All I remember was that there was a blinding flash for a moment. Then I fell unconscious.”

We inquired if it was true that he was seated at the tail end of the plane.

“No,” he answered, “I sat in the second seat next to the President’s compartment…. As I was about to board the Mt. Pinatubo at the Cebu airport, Mayor Sergio Osmeña Jr., asked me to spend the rest of the night in the city.”

Said Serging:

“Stay behind, little one.”

“No, I’m returning to cover the President,” were Mata’s exact words.

Relating the rest of the story, the Herald Malacañang reporter stated:

“President Magsaysay was standing on the side of the plane when I started to board it. ‘Let’s go!’ said RM and I immediately boarded the aircraft. I was the first to get inside… That was the last time I saw the President smile.

“As soon as I was seated, I fell asleep at once. I did not have the slightest premonition of what was to happen. I had full confidence in our pilot. I felt that if the President was safe in his hands, I, too, was safe. I had no reason to feel otherwise.”

Mata reiterated that after the momentary blinding flash, he fell unconscious.

“At about three o’clock that same morning, I regained consciousness.”

“But how did you know it was three o’clock?” we asked.

“My Longines watch was still running,” he replied with assurance. “There was a very bright moon and when I looked at my watch, it was about three….

“I found myself on the side of a steep cliff among dried bushes…. Agonizing with pain, I was completely at a loss what to do. About three meters away from me were parts of the plane. They were still burning. Meanwhile, I heard the distant howling of a dog. It was only then that I felt hopeful of being rescued. Thinking that there were probably people living not far away from where I lay moaning with pain, I made an effort to shout. I noticed that my voice echoed in the nearby mountains.

“After that, I began shouting, ‘Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr. President!’ When no answer came, I shouted for Pablo Bautista, the reporter of the Liwayway magazine. ‘Pabling! Pabling!’ Still no answer. It began to dawn on me that there was no other survivor except me.”

Mata remembered that it was about eight o’clock in the morning when the rescuers found him.

“After finding me,” he recalled, “the farmers had to return to the village to get a hammock on which they loaded and carried me to the barrio. It was a heroic undertaking because the descent from the mountainside was dangerous. One misstep on the part of the rescuers would have mean death to all of us.”

For 18 hours, twelve barrio men took turns in carrying Mata on a hammock. It was a hot day and blisters developed where the raw burns had rubbed against the old hammock.

As soon as Mata reached the Southern Island Hospital in Cebu City, Dr. Jose V. Agustines, hospital chief treated him for severe shock and pain from second and third degree burn on his thighs, arms and legs.

“But although I was suffering from intense pain,” Mata said. “I did not lose consciousness in the hospital. As a matter of fact, I was able to dictate to a nurse a press dispatch to my paper. I began that dispatch with ‘President Magsaysay is dead.’”

“When a physician saw what I had just done, he remarked: ‘You are newsman to the end.’”

At the close of our brief conversation, Mata repeated the question.

“What does God want me to do?”



  1. […] Forty-nine years ago yesterday, President Ramon Magsaysay died in a plane crash in Cebu. […]

  2. Rhodora de Jesus-Maiolo, G.G. says:

    RE: FAST BREAKING NEWS to be resolved Monday morning, 9/18/06

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I wanted to inform you about FAST BREAKING NEWS about to gain final resolution Monday morning, 9/18/06.

    Please let me introduce myself. I am Rhodora de Jesus-Maiolo, a dog lover and animal rights advocate.

    Late August 2006, I turned my attention towards campaigning within my 200,000 member-strong international group of dog lovers regarding injustices done to dogs in the Philippines.

    Our group is willing to back their words into action by starting a minimum 10,000-signature strong international petition. We plan to start a huge campaign including not only the Philippine press, but also within the Americas, and hopefully worldwide. We want the “eyes of the world” focused on the subject of the plight of our poor Filipino dogs.

    I bring this news to your attention because as a member of the Philippine press, I believe you may be interested in participating in our cause. Moreover, perhaps get the SCOOP on the story as it breaks!!!

    The best news I have to offer right now is that Nancy Cu-Unjeng of CARA (a Filipino NGO) sent me an email saying she’ll meet with the entire coalition Monday morning, 9/18/06 to bring-up the subject of my having the support of an international group of people (American citizens, Canadians, Europeans, Asians (the international community!) asking for the Philippine Animal Welfare Act of 1998 (RA 8485)
    to be updated including stiffer jail term sentences and certainly higher fines to reflect today’s market.

    Because I am based in the US, I am desperately limited in the daily actions I can do to further our cause. I not only have the logistics problem, but failing health to boot — currently battling Stage IV breast cancer that has metastasized to the bones, liver, etc.

    Moreover, I believe the RA 8485 coalition is better suitable to “head” this taskforce because they are currently the ones “in the trenches” and have first hand knowledge of the current animal welfare atmosphere in the Philippines.

    May I ask you for a favor of perhaps spreading the word about this issue within your inner press circle, and perhaps sending an urgent email to the below individuals voicing your support for the Filipino dogs to help “push” the coalition into action on Monday?

    Nancy Cu Unjeng/CARA

    Anna Hashim-Cabrera/PAWS

    Ramona Eliza Torres-Consunji/PAWS Legal Counsel
    consunjilaw@pldtdsl.net or breaker_dog@yahoo.com

    I believe every little bit will help. I think this is truly our last hope for action for a while since Monday’s meeting will cast the final yay or nay vote — forever sealing the fate of our beloved Filipino dogs.

    I once again thank you for any support you may be able to lend.


    Rhodora de Jesus-Maiolo, G.G.
    Email: rdjbox-actv@yahoo.com

  3. Dann Diez says:


    How is Mr. Mata?

    Next year we will be celebrating the 5Oth death aniversaty of Pres RM, and hope fully to get him back in Cebu.

    I just visited the crash site today since a friend of mine owns the property already and we are planing to have a great event as well as to develop it as an environement park.

    We have some conversation with the locals there and talk about the event, and he also have a song composed for the Pres. Have learned that the real name of the dog who saved Mata is Serging.


    Dann D.

  4. Noah Mata says:

    As a grandchild of Mr. Nestor Mata, the story of the honorable man that is my grandfather is touching, and impacting. 51 years this March, and I am proud to say my grandfather remains strong…

    • Leslie Edrington says:

      Going through my mother’s pictures, I recently had to put her in a nursing home due to Dimentia, I found a box of original photos of the plane crash site. also in the box is the book ” One Came Back “. I was wondering if you would like to have these ?

      Leslie Resseger Edrington

      • Fidel Mata de la Merced, Jr. says:

        Ms. Edrington –

        That was a very nice offer. I’m wondering is my nephew Noah had responded to your offer.

        I’m Nestor Mata’s nephew, son of his sister Emme. I’m living in the United States. Once a year, my Uncle Nestor comes to visit my cousins in New York and New Jersey and comes to my house when he’s here.

        Did anyone else took you up on your offer? If not, can you send me an email as I really would like to take you up on your gracious offer.

        With so much thanks.


  5. dann says:

    Hope we can invite your grand pa here in cebu. Next month will be the anniversary in Mt. Manungal March 17, 2008.

    email me at lead2serve@gmail.com

    Dann D.

  6. Ronnie A. Dulay says:

    The day that Leon O. Ty wrote and published his story about Nestor Mata was the day I was born – 06 April 1957.

  7. indian says:

    spoke to the gentleman …he is a nice guy

  8. jose renato c. clemente says:

    my dad was supposed to be the one boarding that plane instead of mister mata, mr. mata requested my father that he gave his place on that plane, in which my dad gladly give in as ‘pakikisama’ with his fellow journalist in philippine herald, my dad was one of the men requested by the late president to accompany the surrendered huks who will be living in kapatagan. perhaps i owe a debt of gratitude to mr. mata or else my dad will surely be one of unidentified dead on that plane crash, and as for me i will never been born then.

  9. Abigail Tujon says:

    he is really a lucky one. 🙂

  10. My father was one of those farmers carried Mr. Mata to the bario yes it was heroic undertaking because according to my father the mountain is very far and dangerous one misstep would make them death.. so I think my father deserve a appreciation from government .. now he is 74 yrs old living in Valencia city.. he will also recognize as rescuers.. thank you..

  11. I hope our government could give him recognition for their heroic undertaking… ” The Recuer’s of Mount manunggal “

  12. edison says:

    Meron bang me kopya ng ‘One Came Back’?
    Saan ako makakakuha ng kopya?

    Ed ‘gapo

  13. Dj says:

    The power of internet. Very interesting comments. Dami pa palang info behind the story. 🙂

  14. this is addressed to Manong, if he is still healthy, or any of his siblings. A few years ago, an uncle of mine, based in Dupax Del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya, narrated that a young woman-nurse( accor-dingly related to the VADIL clan) from Malasiqui, Pangasinan, visited our barangay Mabasa, my birthplace. She search for and connected with some members of the VADIL clan, whose ancestors lived in Pindangan, Pangasinan. That is before they moved to Nueva Vizcaya. Accordingly, her mother(?) was a 1st cousin of one of the senior members of our clan. Since then, I have wanted to meet with Manong, as I want to confirm such kinship, as well as to include such relationship as an input in our family tree. My late father and my departed sister were the principal researchers, but upon their passing, I appear to be the serious heir on the task of preparing the final manuscript of our genealogy. I should want to meet with Manong or any of his siblings, very soon. I am DANIEL C. VADIL, JR., now 64 years old. Thank you.

    • Fidel Mata de la Merced, Jr. says:

      Mr. Vadil –

      How can I get in touch with you privately?

      fidel mata de la merced, jr.

      • DANIEL C. VADIL, JR. says:

        This is Dan Vadil, Jr. Am now in Mabasa, Dupax Del Norte. Am staying with my mother Dominga Calauagan Vadil. My cp no. is 0927-730-7314. Pls get in touch with me. Tnx

  15. jon f dee says:

    The story is touching and a model of brevity in conveying a significant story in a detach manner that makes the story tell the the tale itself. Can we reprint the story in Gahum Weekly’s March 14-21 issue. Gahum Weekly is published in Region VIII specificaly Guiuan, E. Samar Atty. Leon O. Ty’s hometown before Salcedo separated from Guiuan.

    Thank you.

  16. […] Nestor Mata’s story, April 6, 1957 Newsman has second and third degree burns on thighs, arms and legsPHILIPPINES Herald Reporter Nestor Mata, the lone survivor in the Mt. …. […]

  17. Ricardo Endaya says:

    Where can i buy copy of his book about the 1957 plane crash?

  18. […] 1957 crash of an army plane into a mountain in Cebu, Philippines, killed the country’s newly-elected […]

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