MANILA, Philippines – Three Filipino elderly sisters who were reported missing for a week in China have been found and are on their way back to the Philippines, their relative said on Sunday evening, August 18.
Linda Varela Guce, Josefina Varela Baysic, and Pacita Varela de Guzman went missing in China while they were on their way back to the Philippines from the United States.
Guce is 72 years old, Baysic is 71, and De Guzman is 77.
John Florencio Guce, a son of Linda Guce, said they were told by a friend with a contact at China Eastern Airlines that the 3 would be arriving in Manila past 11 pm on Sunday.
The circumstances of their disappearance are still unknown.
The sisters had flown aboard China Eastern flight MU 298 with a departure time of 1:45 am on August 9 (eastern US time), from the JFK International Airport in New York City.
They were scheduled to arrive at the Shanghai Pudong International Airport by 4:40 am on August 10 (China time). From there, they would have flown back at 7:05 pm the same day from Shanghai to Manila via connecting flight MU 211, which was scheduled to arrive at 11:10 pm.
However, one of their relatives – already at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to fetch them – reported that he received a call through Viber early morning on August 11, from an unknown number. It was Linda Guce who borrowed a fellow passenger's phone to tell them that their flight was canceled and they were stranded due to Typhoon Hanna (Lekima).
Guce also informed one of their relatives that China Eastern would shoulder their accommodations until the rescheduling of their flight. She was not able to mention which hotel they would be staying in.
A day later, August 12, the relative called back the same Viber number, but the passenger told the relative he did not know the women's whereabouts anymore. The passenger told them, "Nauna kasi akong umalis para ihatid sa hotel at naiwan pa sila kaya hindi ko alam kung saang hotel sila." (I left ahead of them to be driven to the hotel. They were left behind, so I don't know which hotel they were in.)
Their relatives contacted China Eastern's offices in Shanghai, New York, and Makati, but were unable to get details on their whereabouts.
The Philippine Consulate in Shanghai, meanwhile, told one relative to send an email with flight details of the 3. On August 16, the consulate replied that immigration authorities are "looking for them already and they will advise her once they have information."
Details that reached their relatives through a friend on Saturday, August 17, showed that the flight "did not land in Pudong International Airport" in Shanghai, "but in Wuhan Tianhe International Airport" in Wuhan, Hubei province, instead.
In addition, another friend said that according to the China Eastern office in Shanghai, there were "no records" that the 3 Filipinos were booked in a hotel, and that they were booked for the flight from the Wuhan airport back to the Pudong airport on August 12, but there were "no records" that the 3 boarded the plane.
Data from flight tracking website FlightAware showed that MU 298 flew at 2:10 am on August 9 (eastern US time) bound for the Pudong airport, but it was diverted and landed instead at the Wuhan airport at 5:31 am on August 10 (China time).