MANILA, DECEMBER 31, 2012 (PHILSTAR) It was an “OH!” moment, both for the country & for Philippine Airlines (PAL).

It was a first, as PAL, the first Asian carrier to cross the Pacific (1946) and the first Asian carrier as well to fly to Europe (1947), made Philippine history anew as the first local airline to fly non-stop to Toronto, the largest city in Canada and its financial capital.

Toronto, the gateway to the magnificent Niagara Falls in Canada, and home to the biggest Filipino population (estimated at 200,000) in that country, is PAL’s 26th international destination.

PAL president and CEO Ramon S. Ang noted with pride that the new service, “establishes the flag-carrier’s presence in the North American East coast after 15 years.”

PAL’s maiden flight to Toronto last Nov. 30 officially kicked off the flag carrier’s route expansion plans with more exciting destinations scheduled next year. (PAL sources say the first of the European destinations will be London.)

The 15-hour, non-stop Manila-Toronto service uses PAL’s new long-range Boeing 777-300ER, whose two engines are the largest and most powerful in the world. They can easily cover the 13,230 kilometers between Manila and Toronto non-stop.

The fuel-efficient, wide-body jet features ergonomically designed Recaro seats with individual in-flight entertainment systems. Its in-flight fusion menu includes specialties from world-renowned chefs, including Filipino chefs Glenda Barretto (pork humba) and Jessie Sincioco (estofado) as well as arroz caldo, gourmet tuyo and spicy sardines.

When the PAL B777 landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport, some passengers noted how Filipino airport personnel on the tarmac started waving and taking photos of the aircraft, the Philippine tricolor proudly emblazoned on its tail.

For me, who took the second inaugural flight on Dec. 2, it was a choke-up moment as well, as national pride surged through me.

PAL’s sunny smile shone through freezing Toronto and good weather prevailed, literally and figuratively, throughout the inaugural festivities the airline prepared for its guests, who included tourism and transport officials, businessmen, tour operators and members of media.


Toronto is the financial capital of Canada and the fifth most populous city in North America. Nearly all of the world’s culture groups are represented in Toronto, making it a multicultural convergence point for more than 4.5 million people with more than 80 different nationalities and over 100 dialects spoken. The Filipino-Canadian community is the third largest Asian-Canadian group, with the Indian and Chinese communities ranking first and second in size.

According to Ang, “The opening of this new gateway is a response to public clamor, most especially from the Filipino-Canadian community in Toronto.”

PAL country manager in Toronto Allan Coo says from Toronto, passengers may just take a short flight across the border to NYC.

To me, Toronto is a cleaner, less frenzied New York City, where you have the buzz of a financial hub and the calm of a city that still retains its pristine natural beauty. It boasts the longest street in the world (Yonge) and the CN Tower — the fifth tallest free-standing structure on land and in the world and the third tallest free-standing tower. It is Toronto’s national icon and an engineering wonder.

Toronto is also the gateway to the magnificent Horseshoe Falls of the Niagara Falls (the biggest of Niagara’s three falls, the other two being the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls) that straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York.

This was one of the biggest “OH” moments of my life — beholding the 16-story-high falls (173 feet), a silvery green horseshoe-shaped water curtain whose thunderous drop on the river courts mist so thick and so refreshing the mist seems like a geyser in itself.

If only to see, feel, taste and hear the Niagara’s Horseshoe Falls — Toronto is worth the 15-hour flight (on a B777, you won’t really think it’s long).

An OH moment is certainly worth a journey of a thousand miles.


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