‘I saw everything:’ fisherman-A A +A
By Januar Yap
Monday, August 19, 2013
A NIGHT’S incident broke loose before Noe Lastimada, 38, while he was out in the sea to fish last Friday. Two large ships collided a few meters from where he had just cast his fishing net.
“Bangga! Bangga!” he shouted to his companion. He didn’t know he would see so much of everything all at once in the next few hours.
Yesterday, two days after the incident, he showed up at the multi-agency command center of the search and rescue operations at the Talisay City Fish Port to tell his story.
Hopping from one circle to another, he’d tell his tale, his voice barely coming out as an aftermath of all the screaming he did that night. His telling, embellished by new details at every turn, was helped by elaborate hand gestures.
He knelt on the floor, took his slippers and illustrated the collision to a growing crowd: one slipper represented the m/v St. Thomas Aquinas, and the other, placing it perpendicular to the other, showing Sulpicio Express Siete.
In 15 minutes, the boat sank, he said. Although, everything felt like five minutes to him before he saw a commotion of people in the dark waters.
He saw a fastcraft up ahead, and he thought it was going to stop and help. “Ni-derecho ra man,” he said.
He went near the site of the collision, and managed to fish out four people. He saw another trying to lunge his way to his outrigger, but he saw more people coming.
Scared that more would be clutching at his small boat, he told the person to stay put, that he’d return for him. “Balikan tika, hulat lang!”
He brought the four to land, and paddled back to the site. He could no longer find the man. “Hilak ko nga wa nako makit-i (I cried because I couldn’t find him),” Lastimada said.
But he would find more people suddenly emerging from the dark, clutching at his boat’s bamboo rigging, wailing for help.
“Dili ta mo madala tanan (I cannot carry you all)!” he screamed at them, scared he’d instead lose his boat if he carried too many. But what he said broke him. “Nakahilak ko nga naghangyo nila (I was crying),” he said.
He took four, he didn’t choose them; they were just the ones who made their way up first. He paddled off the crowd and saw the Philippine Coast Guard boat. He let the four persons up the bigger boat and paddled back to where he left his fish net.
“Nibalik ko kay basin mawala akong pukot (I went back because for my fishing net),” he said. He brought the net home in Pooc, Talisay City, and sailed back to the collision site, and ferried more survivors to the bigger rescue boats.
“Nag-abot-abot na pagtaud-taud (Rescuers started to arrive),” he said. More boats have come to help.
He could not quite remember what time he had gone home. He had seen too many at once in a few hours at sea last Friday night.
At the command center, he managed a few interested individuals as his captive audience—some navy officers, media, police, some civilians. People come and go, and after telling his story to his biggest audience of 20 people, he left the center.
In the thick of his modest rescue efforts, he said, he found no time to ask for the survivors’ names, the ones he saved. He doesn’t remember, too, if he gave them his name.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2013.