By Nimfa U. Rueda
LOS ANGELES – The first Filipino astronaut, Chino Roque, has said he would bring with him two items on a space flight scheduled next year: a rosary and the Philippine flag.
A third item, if allowed, would be a family photo, said Roque, who was honored at a family reunion held at a church hall in Torrance over the weekend.
“I am proud of my pamangkin,” said Carson Mayor Pro Tempore Elito Santarina, one of the more than 200 maternal relatives of Roque who attended the Maniquis (also spelled Maniquiz) clan reunion.
Santarina handed Roque two plaques of recognition – one from the City of Carson and another from the clan, whose members trace their roots in Bulacan and Nueva Ecija.
The 23-year-old crossfit trainer is one of 22 people from around the world who will fly in space – and the first Filipino to do so – aboard a suborbital Lynx space plane built by the U.S. company XCOR Aerospace.
The psychology graduate of De La Salle University won the lone slot for the Philippines after a series of grueling physical and mental challenges at the AXE Apollo Space Academy (AASA), a global contest that promised to send 22 winners to the edge of space and back aboard the private spaceship.
More than 100 candidates from 60 countries took part in the Florida camp, competing for the 22 slots on the flight.
Roque said he plans to visit the XCOR space port in the Mojave Desert, a possible launch site. Mojave in California is the American epicenter of private spacecraft development and XCOR Aerospace is based in Mojave.
At the family reunion, Roque autographed copies of his photo with legendary astronaut and AASA Space Camp judging committee chairman Buzz Aldrin who selected Roque and the 21 other aspiring astronauts.
Aldrin became the second person ever to walk on the moon during NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission.