River guide still in trauma after rafting accident

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Thursday, June 26, 2014


THE river guide who was on a raft that capsized on June 13, 2014 killing a 26-year-old nurse from Loboc, Bohol, is still coping from trauma, the Task Force Rapids said Wednesday.

“We understand why he cannot show up. We will not force him but it would also be better that he is here with us in the training,” TFR consultant Dorothy Jean Pabayo said.

Pabayo was referring to Philip Posaras, the river guide from Kagay Journey–White Water Rafting and Kayaking (Kagay), who was in-charge of the trip and whose raft capsized causing tourist Aizza Mae Balbin’s early demise.

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TFR is a body created by the City Government to monitor Cagayan de Oro’s rafting industry following Balbin's death.

Kagay owner Roldan Kaamiño said there are doctors who are monitoring Posaras’ condition.

“He is undergoing therapy. As to when he is going to get well, that I have no idea,” Kaamiño told Sun. Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Wednesday.

Posaras will not be part of the training in the first batch, but Pabayo said he can still catch up in the training of the remaining two batches.

The two-day training, on its second day Wednesday, was focused on basic life support and emergency first-aid headed by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

PRC trained the first batch where 27 rafters participated and three others from the City Tourism Office (CTO).

Ninety rafters from six outfitters are expected to join the training that will last until the end of July.

Pabayo said that this is TFR’s first step in training. The City Government subsidizes the trainings by PRC and the International Rafting Federation (IRF).

“They [rafters] need this training in order for them to qualify for the IRF. Once they qualify in the IRF training, then they can go back to their operation. Although there are some outfitters which continue their white water rafting service, it would be much better if their river guides are fully equipped,” she explained.

Postponed plan

Elmer Wabe, chief tourism operations officer, said that prior to Balbin’s accident, the city has been preparing for an international rafting competition.

“We have been preparing for a competition before pa where our rafters would join so we made sure that all participants are well-equipped,” Wabe said.

Pabayo added that this coming November, a national rafting competition will take place in the city.

“Those rafters who are very competitive enough will join the national competition. By 2015, an international rafting competition will follow,” she said.

Education and ability

Wabe suggested that in order to have a “professional” industry, river guides must have attained a particular educational attainment.

“It is actually in the ordinance. But, it is not strictly followed by the outfitters because they know that education cannot undermine skills of those river guides who know the river well,” he added.

All 115 river guides are living along the stretch of the Cagayan de Oro riverbanks, Pabayo said.

“Ability does not come from education. And these river guides have been living along the riverbanks a long, long time ago. It would be difficult if outfitters will hire someone who knows theories but nothing much on the real-life situation when rafting,” she said.

She also said that there have been cases when river guides feel inferior.

“There are some instances that when a group of professional people ride the raft, the river guide does not have the confidence to command his rafters anymore because he feels inferior,” she said.

TFR does not acknowledge tourists being called merely tourists when riding on the raft. Instead, they are called crew members since they participate in the whole extreme activity.

A mock whitewater rafting trip where guests are tapped from the academe will be held after the three-batch training.

Pabayo said they see this as a resolute to evaluate the river guides in their ability to command.

Wabe added that from the guests’ end, since tourists can range from Korean to American nationalities, TFR is looking into the implementation of additional guides who can speak in different languages.

“To make the tourists understand what white water rafting is, how dangerous it is and how they should be taking it seriously, we look into the idea of outfitters hiring translators too,” he said.

Tourist retraction

Pabayo admitted there were approximately 200 guests who withdrew their reservations from the different outfitters last week.

“The numbers is just estimation, but yes, because of the incident, there have been withdrawals of reservations from whitewater rafting companies,” she said.

She later countered this that there were tourists who pursued rafting in spite of the tourist’s death and the controversies surrounding the local rafting industry.

“There are still those bold ones who still seek thrill so the rafting industry is obviously not dead,” she said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 26, 2014.

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