Guilt, grief hound kids’ guardian

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Monday, December 16, 2013

LAST Saturday dawn, after paying P400 to the taxi driver, Flordeliza Mutoc picked up her slippers and slammed the door behind her.

After a female friend grabbed her bag, she ran toward the boarding house where she was renting a room in Barangay Parian, Cebu City. The friend had told her their room was on fire.

Flordeliza’s neighbors stopped her and let her sit on a chair. They told her to take a deep breath, relax and to think positive.

Cebu City fire victim's wake
WAKE. Bernardo Ortiz (foreground) keeps vigil at the wake of Maria Alexa Mutoc, 4, who died in a fire in Barangay Parian, Cebu City last Saturday dawn. (Sun.Star Cebu Photo/Kevin A. Lagunda)

She learned from her two daughters’ guardian, Bernardo Ortiz, her eldest child, Maria Alexa, 4, was in the room on the second floor.

Ortiz was able to save Maria’s sister, Princess Rhaine, 2.

“Di gyud ko motuo nga mahitabo to ingon ato lang kakalit (It happened so fast),” said Flordeliza, 24. She cursed herself for not being around to save her child.

She remembered the face of her daughter the last time she saw her last Friday night.

Maria, who was already lying in bed, got up and ran towards her mother to kiss her.

Flordeliza was on her way out to work at an entertainment center in Lapu-Lapu City.

She kissed her child in return.

“I love you, Mama,” Flordeliza recalled the child telling her.

“Mas love ta mo kay sa akong kaugalingon (I love you more than I love myself),” Flordeliza replied.

Flordeliza told her daughter to go back to sleep and went to work with her friend, Berlyn Sintaon, 28.


Ortiz said he heard someone shout that they should get out of the room. He was sleeping beside Maria and Princess that time.

When he got up and opened the door, an intense heat hit him in the face. The flames were blurry because he didn’t have his eyeglasses on.

He carried Princess out. But he was not able to save Maria because the fire had already eaten the stairs.

“Nagtuo ko nga akong nabitbit og apil si Maria (I thought I also carried Maria with me),” said Ortiz.

He only remembered Maria after a neighbor asked him about the girl. He went back to the house, but the fire was already too big. He stepped back and shouted Maria’s name.

No reply.

He told himself it was now impossible to save the child and broke into tears.

Ortiz started taking care of Maria in 2009, a year after he met Flordeliza.

“Feel ko guilty nga wa gyod nako siya matabang ba (I feel guilty I wasn’t able to save
her),” he said.

Ortiz and Princess suffered burns in different parts of their bodies. But they were already treated and released from a public hospital.

Maria will be buried today at the Carreta Cemetery in Cebu City.

“Wa koy gi-blame (I blame no one),” said Flordeliza. “Akong gi-blame akong kaugalingon kay wa ko didto. (I blame myself because I was not there).”

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 16, 2013.

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