CEBU CITY (Updated) -- Fernando Sumagang heard a story from his relatives about an old woman who appeared in Sitio Cabancalan 1, Barangay Bulacao, Cebu City, asking for water last Wednesday night.
“Nagkabulingit siya. Gibugal-bugalan siya sa mga bata, gibato kay abi nilag ungo (She was all dirty. The children taunted her and threw rocks at her because they thought she was a witch),” he told radio dyRF.
His 11-year-old son Frederick, a special child, was not part of the group.
The woman, who wore tattered clothes, reportedly told the youngsters: “Masunog ra mo (You will all burn).”
Past 6 a.m., yesterday, firefighters found the charred remains of Frederick outside his family’s two-story house near the road, where the stranger encountered the kids.
The blaze reportedly started in the Sumagang’s house.
The Cebu City Fire Department received the alarm at 5:55 a.m.
Some neighbors believe Frederick may have been playing with matchsticks and ignited the fire.
The boy reportedly figured in a near-fire incident last year.
“Nagduwa-duwa kuno og kayo. Nagduwa-duwa og posporo, pero ato pa nang i-verify (The boy was reportedly playing with fire and matchsticks but we still have to verify this information),” SFO2 Lowell Opolentisima said.
Flames spread and razed 40 houses, mostly made of wood. The fire also destroyed Sumagang’s car and a neighbor’s motorcycle.
The incident displaced 47 families.
Frederick’s mother Joanry Quijano told investigators that the boy could walk. He was fifth in the brood of six.
Before the fire, she got up from bed after Frederick woke. They got out of the house so the boy could go to the bathroom.
“Sayo kaayo na siya momata (He always woke up early),” Quijano said.
They returned to the house. The parents went back to sleep, while Frederick went to his room on the second floor.
The heat from the fire woke Quijano. She tried to find her son, but she failed.
She tried to go back to the burning house, but her other children prevented her.
Firefighters controlled the flames from damaging more houses at 6:15 a.m.
Meanwhile, the Cebu City Government assured the 47 families who lost their house to the fire that they would be able to rebuild in their original lots.
Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) Chief Nagiel Bañacia said part of the affected area is owned by the City and most of the lots were already awarded to the residents under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Unlike previous fires, Bañacia said the City will not re-block the area as it is too close to the road.
Food and cash assistance
After the fire was extinguished, personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Services distributed meals to the affected families, who were temporarily taking shelter in the barangay chapel.
Bañacia also assured the family of 11-year-old Frederick that the City Government will provide them with burial assistance on top of the P20,000 cash assistance the City will provide the fire victims.
The CCDRRMO is also working with a nongovernment organization to conduct a survey of risk-prone areas in the city and check how many senior citizens, special children and persons with disabilities reside in these areas.
In a related development, another fire razed seven houses and damaged two others in Barangay Pulpogan, Consolacion past 4 p.m. yesterday.
More than 10 families were reportedly displaced. RTF
Latest issues of SunStar Cebu also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.