PAL pilot surprises parents on plane after being apart for 17 Christmases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 22) — Stories of families reuniting after years of being apart always pull at the heartstrings, but these become even more meaningful during the holidays.

A Facebook post dated December 18 by Juan Paulo Fermin, a pilot of Philippine Airlines, has gone viral and the video showing the joyful reunion with his parents has garnered thousands of views.

Fermin shared on the post: "It's interesting how dreams take form - like when a sick loved one prompts a young man to become a doctor, or being with kids who haven't had the chance to read and write inspires one to teach; as a child, to me it was pretty simple: I wanted to fly my parents home."

Fermin told CNN Philippines that while his parents come home at least every three years, they have not spent Christmas together for 17 years - his Facebook post said 16. But Fermin said he had miscalculated. His mother Pureza, and stepfather, Gregory, live and work in Bermuda.

His parents made plans to come home for the holidays, and decided to take a Philippine Airlines flight because their son began working for the company in March. The trip had been planned for a year, and Fermin knew of his parents flight details a month in advance.

Closer to the date of his parents' flight home, Fermin found out that his friend was part of the flight crew. He made arrangements with his superiors and the pilot to let him fly the plane carrying the precious cargo back to Manila. And did all this without his parents' knowledge.

His parents would be traveling a long way. From Bermuda they would fly to New York, take another plane to Vancouver, and then finally fly to Manila.

Fermin covered the last stretch of the flight - Vancouver to Manila on December 18.

It was during the two-hour layover in Canada when the reunion took place.

"While walking to meet them, I was nervous, excited, and happy. Surprises aren't really my thing," Fermin said.

But the experience of seeing his parents so overjoyed was "the greatest Christmas gift forever."

"Telling this story now, I still can't believe it happened. I never expected it to go viral," he told CNN Philippines.

Fermin's Facebook post has gotten over 45,000 likes, and has been shared over 9,000 times as of December 22.

The video Fermin shared on his Facebook page showed him walking through the plane's aisle, holding a bouquet of red roses behind his back.

A few seconds in, a woman is seen pulling her headphones off while exclaiming, "Anak (my child)!"

Fermin's mother then envelops her son in a hug, laughing as she does so.

A man's voice is heard out of frame as Fermin moves from his mother's embrace - and walk toward his stepfather who soon holds him in a hug as well.

There were not a lot of words exchanged, Fermin said. There was silence, a lot of hugs, and tears - mostly from his mom, but Fermin said he was also holding back tears.

Fermin said his parents will be in the country for two months, and then will fly back to Bermuda in February.

A family apart, now together

Fermin's life mirrors a lot of Filipinos with family working overseas.

He was born in Tuguegarao and lived there until he was eight years old. His parents had to leave to work overseas, so he had to move to Cagayan de Oro to live with his grandmother Jane; Aunt Ella and Uncle Ramon; and his cousins, Regina, Raya, and Mon.

"They took care of me like I was their own son," Fermin said. "I'm an only child, and so my cousins were like my siblings."

He moved to Manila only recently, because of his job.

Netizens commenting on Fermin's post were moved by the story, saying it was "sweet," and "heartwarming and moving."

Fermin's friend posted the story on Twitter on Monday, and as of December 21, it has gotten over 34,000 likes, and has been retweeted over 6,000 times.

Another netizen who said he was Fermin's friend posted the story on Twitter. As of December 19, it has gotten over 22,000 likes, and has been shared over 4,000 times.

Philippine Airlines shared Fermin's story on their official Twitter page, saying, "Nothing warms our hearts more than reuniting families so that they can spend the holidays with the people they love the most. Happy holidays!"