Man, 77, burns self at Magellan’s Cross

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Friday, September 28, 2012

CEBU CITY - A man is in critical condition after he set himself on fire while praying Thursday morning at the historic Magellan’s Cross, just outside the Basilica del Sto. Niño.

Passersby and vendors at the tourist attraction in downtown Cebu City were shocked to see Exequiel Geneston, 77, pour gasoline on himself and lit a lighter.

Geneston, a resident of Barangay Lorega San Miguel, sustained second-degree burns on the upper part of his body and is being treated at the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC).


CCMC officials did not disclose further information on his condition and background.

A security guard, who asked not to be named, said Geneston had burn injuries from the face down to the groin area when he arrived in the hospital.

The old man is conscious but cannot move because of his burns.

A policeman from the Cebu City Police Office’s Homicide Section said CCMC doctors will check on Geneston’s mental condition.

Candle vendor Marjorie Salbi, 36, said she saw Geneston praying inside the kiosk that houses the Magellan’s Cross, just in front of the Cebu City Hall at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.

She was standing outside the kiosk when she saw Geneston open a bottle of liquid then poured it over his body while praying and lit a lighter.

He did not stop praying even when he was already on fire and he did not cry out in pain, Salbi said.

She said that when Geneston, dressed in blue jeans and a t-shirt, was already burning, he lay down, with his face on the ground, and continued to pray.

A passerby who saw what has happening took off his jacket and used it to try to put out the fire.

The fire spread to the ground when flames reached the bottle of gasoline.

City Hall’s security guard Brian Felisida, who also saw the self-immolation, ran to the old man with a fire extinguisher and helped put out the fire.

The security guards then called the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation to ask for an ambulance that could bring Geneston to the hospital.

Homicide investigators had difficulty identifying Geneston immediately after the self-immolation since no one in the area knew him.

Aside from a receipt for the bottle of gasoline, the police did not find anything in his clothes that could help them identify him.

But at 4 p.m. Thursday, Geneston’s son went to the city hospital and identified his father.

Albert Jagunal, a security guard at the Basilica del Sto. Niño, said he recognized Geneston who often visits the basilica.

He said they even kept an eye on him, thinking that he was a pickpocket.

The guards would see him go inside the basilica to pray and at times use the restroom, said Jagunal.

At 7 p.m., Geneston was transferred to the male surgical ward of CCMC. (JBT of Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 28, 2012.

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