School awards 3 dead students’ families

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Thursday, April 3, 2014


CECILIO Estella helped his wife, Ellen, attach a corsage to the white toga of their daughter, Cristine Joy, surrounded by other parents who were getting ready for the Boljoon National High School’s graduation.

They did not mind the summer heat.

Cristine, 17, posed with her classmates for a photograph.

Grief in Boljoon, Cebu graduation
GRIEF IN BOLJOON’S GRADUATION. The mother and sister of Judy Ann Lomera (foreground), one of the three senior students who died after a pharmaceutical company’s representative hit them in a road accident about two months ago, attend what would have been Judy Ann’s graduation rites in the Boljoon National High School. (Sun.Star Cebu Photo/Alex Badayos)

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Cecilio, 46, later placed his arm around her shoulders and smiled while a relative clicked on the camera.

But there was one person missing: Cristy Marie, 18.

Cecilio and Ellen’s third child was also supposed to graduate yesterday with her younger sister, Cristine. She was then planning to marry an American boyfriend on April 11.

But all that changed when Cristy Marie and two of her friends died in a road accident, while walking home from school, last Feb. 6.

Mixed emotions

High School Principal Roger Banogbanog acknowledged Cristy Marie, her classmates and close friends Judy Ann Lomera, 17, and Joanne Marie Romero, 16, among the 138 graduates, during the ceremony held on the grounds of the Boljoon Central School.

“Malipay ta mi kay maka-graduate na si Cristy, pero kulang among paglipay (We are happy that Cristy is graduating today, but our happiness is incomplete),” said Ellen.

Ellen and Cecilio later received a posthumous award for Cristy Marie. Judy Ann’s mother, Gemma, 48, and Joanne’s aunt, Belinda, 58, accepted the same recognition.

Gemma traveled with her other daughter from Talisay City to Boljoon just to accept the award.

They cried when they stepped onstage.

The seniors’ class adviser, Daisy Villarta, said she gave a symbolic mark of 65 for the fourth grading period, which the three girls never got to finish.

When she computed for her students’ average, the three still received a mark above 75, the standard passing percentage in government schools.

3 survivors

Cristy Marie, Judy Ann and Joanne Marie died after they were hit by a vehicle driven by medical sales representative Al-Dhinier Hadjula Sanaani in Barangay Poblacion last Feb. 6.

Sanaani is on trial for cases of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and injuries.

The girls were heading home after their class.

Sanaani’s car also hit sophomores Nice Ancheta, 15, Melissa Mendez, 14, and her cousin Kynth Marie Mendez, 14. But these girls survived.

A private hospital in Cebu City has already discharged Ancheta and Kynth Marie, but Melissa is still confined in a private room. Sanaani’s company reportedly shouldered the expenses.

Kynth Marie said that Melissa remains unable to talk because of a tube. She communicates with her relatives and friends by typing her messages on a cell phone.

After two months in the hospital, she learned to walk again with the help of physical therapists.

Recovery

Ancheta’s mother, Paquita, 48, said her daughter was worried about her injured right arm.

“Naguol siya basig di na siya kaapil og beauty pageant (She was afraid she won’t be able to join a beauty pageant),” said Paquita. “Ako siyang giingnan nga mamaayo ra siya (I assured her she will be fine).”

While her right arm remains in a sling, Ancheta learned to write using her left hand.

Kynth Marie recalled walking with Ancheta and Melissa before the accident. They were teasing Melissa about their schoolmate, who wanted to date her.

“Nangutana siya kon unsay buhaton niya (My cousin asked what she should do),” said Kynth Marie. “Amo siyang giingnan nga pasultion ang lalaki (We told her to let the boy speak).”

They were laughing when Kynth Marie felt a hard object—

“morag baril” (like a barrel)—hit her in the back.

When she regained consciousness, she was beneath Sanaani’s car. She got up and hit her head on the vehicle. She felt pain all over her body.

A schoolmate helped Kynth Marie get up; they saw Judy Ann and Cristy Marie sprawled on the road.

Ancheta, Joanne Marie and Melissa were thrown from the bridge and hit the riverbed, about 15 meters below.

Families

Judy Ann’s sister Jay-Anne, 23, said that witnesses had told her the three seniors sang while walking home.

Gemma said she still can’t accept her daughter’s death. She has refused to delete Judy Ann’s pictures from her cell phone.

Judy Ann and Cristy Marie were about to attend college, to prepare to become teachers.

Joanne Marie, a choir member, had been offered a scholarship in a college in Minglanilla because of her singing skills. She was planning to take up tourism.

Ellen and Cecilio are farmers in the mountain barangay of Dalayday, Boljoon. Cristy Marie had worked as a helper in another family’s household in Poblacion.

After the graduation Cristy Marie didn’t live long enough to celebrate, the Estellas had a simple dinner. They prepared two roasted chickens.

Ellen said it had been Cristy Marie’s request to get some “lechon manok” for her graduation meal.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 04, 2014.

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