Staff from the Hong Thai travel agency were present to mourn their former coworker Masa Tse, a 31-year-old man who was leading the 15 tourists on the bus in Manila and alerted his home office by cell phone when 55-year-old Ronaldo Mendoza, an ex-police officer carrying an M16 automatic rifle and pistol, took them hostage.

As the flower-draped caskets arrived at Hong Kong's busy Chek Lap Kok airport earlier Thursday morning, an announcement over the public-address system asked staff and passengers to observe three minutes of silence.

Two bagpipers played "Amazing Grace" as the caskets were rolled off a Cathay Pacific jet

Ongoing investigation

Anger in Hong Kong is still running high after the Philippine government admitted "inadequacies" in their handling of the 12-hour-long crisis.

Under bright floodlights and television cameras broadcasting their efforts live to the world, Philippine police attempted to negotiate with Mendoza during the day, then by night tried to break into the bus, finally ending the showdown in a hail of gunfire that left Mendoza dead and local investigators still trying to determine whether some victims had been shot by police.

Hong Kong officials have called for an inquiry into the incident.

"I still believe that a full, comprehensive, thorough and impartial report is the best condolences and the best closure for this whole tragic incident," Tang said.

Jejomar Binay, the Philippine vice president, will lead a "high-level" delegation including his country's foreign affairs secretary and the president's spokesman to Beijing on Thursday, China's Xinhua news agency reported.

They will brief Chinese officials on the hijacking and visit relatives of the victims.

Four police commanders who participated in the raid on the bus have been suspended, and investigators are currently conducting ballistic tests on weapons from the raid to determine whether officers shot any hostages.