Josh Vasquez: Travelin’ Man

At his neighborhood in Times Square, living and working in the Center of the World.

By Maricar CP Hampton & Cristina DC Pastor

Joesyl ‘Josh’ Vasquez’s coming-of-age was marked by a pair of tragedies. His father Edgar, a painter, died when he was 15. He was followed to his grave by his mother Rosario, an educator, four years later.

“I lost my dad from a heart attack when I was 15, while my mom died from cancer when I was 19,” said Josh, Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) area manager for New York and the East Coast. For a guy who is back-patting jovial and known for his irrepressible laughter, an early adversity in the family did not seem like a part of his life.

The death of his parents – who are both from Leyte — made Josh and elder sister Eda Rose closer. “We became each other’s protector and source of strength and support,” he said in an interview with The FilAm.

“When my mother told me she had cancer, I was devastated,” he spoke as if he was musing. “So during the whole Summer of 2000, I just stayed by her side and took care of her.”

Josh was then an incoming college senior. He promised his mother a graduation medal in the hope she would find the strength to fight her ailment so she could pin it on stage. “Unfortunately, she lost the fight.” His mother was buried in a cemetery on a sweltering summer afternoon. Her death only fueled her son’s desire to do well in school. Josh graduated with Cum Laude honors from the Pamantasan Ng Lungsod Ng Maynila.

Traveling Josh

Fast forward to 2013. The young PAL sales associate got his first foreign assignment in Bangkok as Country Manager for Thailand. After three years, Josh was sent to Vancouver for five months as District Sales Manager. It was a brief tenure because in 2017, New York was waiting for him to oversee sales operations throughout the U.S. East Coast.

This is the only snapshot Josh has of his parents Edgar and Rosario Vasquez. They passed away when he was in his teens.
A Hong Kong holiday with his family: Elder sister Eda Rose and her children Phoebe Rose and Lance Gabrielle. 

Early on, he saw Travel in his future. He recalled watching a travel show on TV that featured one of Thailand’s Floating Markets. He was mesmerized.

“The idea of the world being bigger than how I know it and that there are thousands of amazing places abroad I have to see, and interesting cultures I need to experience, I promised myself I will be traveling the world someday,” he said.

As PAL’s head honcho, Josh leads a staff of four — plus three at the airport — in an intimate office in Times Square four blocks away from his Hell’s Kitchen apartment. He wades through swarms of tourists to go to work, walks to his favorite restaurants for lunch and meets up with friends for coffee anywhere in the city.  Jollibee is a stone’s throw away; so is the Philippine Consulate on Fifth Avenue.

“True to what it is known for, New York City life is indeed fast-paced,” he said. “It was initially overwhelming, but I believe I have also adapted such a lifestyle. The city also teaches one to be tough in order to survive, physically and mentally.”

He has experienced much of the spectacle NYC has to offer – the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Halloween, Gay Pride, Broadway theatre and concerts at Madison Square Garden. He’s cheered for his favorite teams at Citi Field, visited museums, had picnics at the park, and even participated in the Santa Con. In New York, he said, “There is always something to do and places to explore regardless of the season.”  

On a regular day, he is usually running by the Hudson River or reading a book at Bryant Park. He loves The Met and just staring at exhibits he has come to know by heart. Trying new cuisines at restaurants is something he enjoys with friends or by himself.

Celebrating Christmas 2019 with his Philippine Airlines staff, from left:  Goldwyn Salazar, Charisse Arboleda. Gina Mendoza, and Erwin del Rosario. Mendoza left the company in early 2020.

When the pandemic erupted, “The city suddenly fell asleep.”

“When I first came to New York, one thing I complained about the most was that the city was always so busy and loud, with noises coming from everywhere. But during the pandemic, all these undesired noises are gone, and the usual busy crowds of Times Square are lost.” He welcomes that the city is now stirring back to life and that the clangor and clatter are “music to my ears.” 

PAL amid the pandemic

Amid the pandemic hit, PAL has suffered an 85 percent reduction in services resulting in employees being furloughed.  When things were nice and nifty, PAL was flying daily between New York and Manila. Today, he said, flights are down to once a week.

“Due to wide health and safety concerns, the demand for travel dropped massively plus governments around the world have imposed travel restrictions. This means vast number of flight cancelations, a situation that no one was prepared for,” he said. “Travel remains at very low levels compared with before the pandemic which is aggravated also by the ongoing travel restrictions to the Philippines.”  

He remains optimistic. “Once these restrictions are lifted, we will definitely look at increasing our flights especially during the Christmas season.”

When ‘homesick’ hits

He believes traveling for a living makes him a stronger person and boosts his desire to be independent. But he continues to grapple with being homesick. “Even in this age of technological advancement, social networking can’t replace personal interactions with people who really matter,” he said.

He remains in touch with his sister’s family in Manila through Facebook, and occasionally travels with his niece and nephew when they find a time they can all be together. He misses his parents and wished they were around to travel with him to places he knew they would enjoy.  

“I hope my parents are proud of what I have become,” he said. “My greatest regret is not being able to repay them, now that I am able to, for all the sacrifices and hard work they had to endure to ensure my sister and I grow up with proper guidance and education. I wish I could tell them how blessed I am to be their son.”

© The FilAm 2020

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