After two months since he moved to Cebu from Surigao del Sur, to study a caregiving course, Richard Ortiz, 26, said he was excited to see his parents in Cebu for a short vacation.
But when he was about to go out and meet his parents at the ferry’s 2GO terminal at around 9 p.m. on Friday, August 16, he received a report that the ship his parents boarded had sank in the Lawis Ledge, Talisay City.
What was supposedly a simple, happy family vacation in Cebu Province turned out to be a horror for Ortiz, whose parents boarded the sunken ferry MV St. Thomas Aquinas.
The passenger ship was allegedly hit by cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete few kilometers away from the Cebu port and sank off the waters of Talisay City.
Ortiz’ parents, Claro, 54 and Pecita, 57 are still missing since the tragic sea accident at 9 p.m. last August 16.
In one fell swoop, Ortiz said his excitement turned into dreadfulness and pain. “Sakit kaayo kay silang duha gyud ang nakasakay,” he said. His sister Mimi, who is now residing in Barili with her own family, accompanied Richard.
They said they have been to the 2GO terminal, and Vicente Sotto Medical Center (VSMMC) and Cosmopolitan Funeral in the hope of finding their parents.On Monday noon, almost 72 hours after sea tragedy, Ortiz’s parents are yet to be found.
An aspiring boxer from the province of Surigao del Sur, Quinan Alvarez, 17, and his common law wife, who is five months old pregnant are also among those who are still unaccounted after more than a week of search and rescue operation.
Andrada Alvarez, Quinan’s mother said she already accepted the bitter fate of his son but couldn’t stop herself from crying. She said her son desired to be a boxer in order to support his incoming child.
“Sa wala pa siya milarga, sige man sila ug gakos sa iyang live in partner. Ug silang duha miggakos ug mihalok sad namo. Wala nako taga-i ug kahulugan”, the teary-eyed mother said.
Andrada said she tried to dissuade them to go to Manila and for his common law wife Angelie to give birth in Surigao but the two insisted. They first booked a trip last August 13 but it was cancelled due to bad weather. But they bought tickets again on August 15. “Nakaligtas sila sa bagyo, pero sa Sulpicio hindi,” she said.
Alvarez urged the families of the victims to show up and join her to indict Sulpicio Lines. She said the liability of the cargo ship is clear as some witnesses even heard the horn of the ferry before the accident took place.
One of the survivors, Adela Guevarra, 27, said they heard the thunderous impact of the collision between the ships. The light turned off and everyone in the vessel panicked.
In 10 minutes, the ship went down. Luckily for her, somebody gave her and her two and half year-old son lifejackets and they were able to save themselves without injury. However, her son was admitted at hospital as he had drank seawater with oil that spilled from the fallen ship.
Guevarra said 2GO gave them P5,000 cash as partial indemnity and promised to shoulder her fare in going back to Surigao.
Isidra Mabuhis, 78, also shared her experience. Her husband is already 81 years old and is already slow. Fortunately for them they had a flashlight, which led Isidra to the lifejacket storage room. But after he got the lifejackets, she lost her husband.
The last time she heard from him, she said he shouted, “Ali na kay takilid na ang barko.” She went to the other side of the ship and stood there until the vessel sank. When it finally descended into the water, a wave struck her away from the ship. From there, she did not know where her husband was until she learned that he was confined at VSMMC due to injuries.
“Hadlok kaayo ko, pero pasalamat na lang mi sa Ginoo nga kaming duha naluwas,” said Isidra.
After more than a week of search and rescue operations, some of the families of those who are still missing say they no longer expect they are alive. But they need to recover the bodies in order to find closure as well.
Marvin Sevilla, whose sister Viviene Sevilla Ravelo together with her one year and three months old child are also missing, said they are now tired of tracing their whereabouts.
“Samtang magkadugay gud, maglisod nami ug identify nila,” said Marvin, who arrived in Cebu from Siargao, Surigao hoping to find her sister and the child.
According to the report of the incident management team headed by the Cebu Provincial Government, there are about 40 bodies that are still to be retrieved. Central Command Commander Major General Roy Deveraturda said they presumed the bodies were trapped inside the vessel.
But if some of them were just drifted ashore in some places, Deveraturda urged the local authorities to bring them to the command center in Talisay City for accounting. (Xerxes Alkuino)