Who will be the first Pinoy in space?
3 Filipinos off to space camp in US
MANILA – The search for the first Filipino astronaut is now down to its final three candidates.
Evan Rey Datuin, Ramil Santos and Chino Roque are off to the international Axe Apollo Global Space Camp in Orlando, Florida in December. One ticket has been reserved for the Philippines, with the remaining 22 for candidates from over 60 countries.
Datuin, 24, is a familiar face for being one of the two winners of the Axe Apollo National Challenge last August. The other frontrunner in the competition, Air Force pilot Lt. Mario Mendoza Jr., dropped out of the space race, citing conflicts in schedule.
Roque, who was Mendoza’s replacement, and “wild card” Santos were introduced to members of the media on Wednesday.
Axe Philippines brand manager Gem Laforteza said Datuin, Roque, Santos and the rest of the candidates at the space camp will undergo simulation training, adding that they will be judged according to their performance.
He said the three main challenges include being subjected to hypergravity, experiencing weightlessness for 20 seconds, and flying at twice the speed of sound.
“It will be a four-day training at Orlando, Florida. And from there, we will choose that one person [from the Philippines] who will get the ticket to space,” Laforteza said.
Despite beating nearly 28,000 hopefuls in the Axe Apollo National Challenge, Datuin considers himself a simple man with big dreams.
The 24-year-old graduate of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas said he has always wanted to go to space, and is thankful that his family has been very supportive of him.
“Sila actually ‘yung nag-inspire sa akin na sumali rito,” he said of his parents. “Kahit simple akong tao, nangangarap ako nang malaki para sa family at para sa sarili ko. Ganoon din para sa Pilipinas.”
While he believes that his fellow Filipino candidates also deserve a ticket to space, Datuin said successfully completing all the tasks he went through during the Axe Apollo National Challenge and his childhood dream are enough reasons for him to win.
“Para sa akin, naisip ko na deserving ako – although lahat kami deserving – parang ‘yung mismong karanasan kasi na manalo ka sa Top 2 is something difficult… With that, ‘yung mga naranasan ko at the same time, sabi ko nga kanina, mula pagkabata pangarap ko na ito,” he said.
Datuin said he continues to prepare his mind and body for the space camp this December. But more importantly, he said he wants to make sure that he is also spiritually ready for the competition.
“Siyempre dapat pinaghahanda rin natin ang spirit natin. Dapat mag-pray tayo sa Lord. Faith with action,” he said.
‘Meant to be’
An engineer with a Masters in Electronics and Information Engineering from South Korea, 29-year-old Santos came up short in the Axe Apollo National Challenge, but tried his luck again by joining the fragrance brand’s electronic raffle.
“I think that I was meant for this challenge,” he said, referring to his second chance at the space race. “At first when I didn’t make it to the challenge, I felt sayang, but because of the Hyperdrive promo, I felt that I had another chance to compete and represent the Philippines.”
Santos believes that his knowledge when it comes to machines gives him an edge in the competition.
“My background will be an advantage for me,” he said, adding that he has also been preparing his body for the series of tasks at the space camp.
“I’ve been doing intensive and more challenging exercises. I need to improve by 90% my endurance, strength and cardio.”
While he does not have the knowledge in machines like Santos and Datuin’s physical strength, 22-year-old Roque said his edge lies in his “never-give-up type of attitude.”
The De La Salle University Manila graduate and crossfit coach said he grew up joining different competitions.
“I like competing. Basically, I just find excitement in representing myself, my school,” he said.
“I admire Evan’s and Ramil’s strengths, but for me, I think my attitude to always want to get better gives me the edge,” he added.
Roque, the youngest among the three candidates, said he has been doing high-intensity crossfit workouts to prepare for the space camp.
Just recently, he watched Sandra Bullock’s film “Gravity,” which quickly became his favorite space movie.
“You see, I just watched 'Gravity.' I really loved how Sandra Bullock got through all those challenges,” he said.
When asked what he learned from the film, he said: “I think mental will is important. You will be faced with a lot of pressure in outer space, a lot things will be going on. Being able to think… a split-second decision could really save everyone’s lives during complications.”