THREE men spent their New Year at sea without food, in a pump boat that drifted for three days from Sta. Fe town to the waters off Barili town in midwestern Cebu.

Their ordeal ended when a fisherman in Barangay Japitan, Barili rescued them yesterday morning.

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Cristituto Moncedor, 45, Winlove Derder, 26, and Richiemon Tapay, 22, had just ferried a passenger from the Hagnaya Wharf in San Remigio town to Sta. Fe town in Bantayan Island, north of mainland Cebu, when they suffered engine trouble.

The three left the Sta. Fe wharf at 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to go back to Hagnaya when they noticed that oil was leaking from the engine.

Rather than have the engine overheat and conk out in the middle of the sea, they decided to turn it off and just have the waves take them to shore.

They did not imagine it would take three days for them to step on land again, and on a shore far from home.

They failed to call for help because the battery of their cellular phone had run out.

The three could not fish for food because they had no implements aboard the boat.

The 30-seater pump boat is owned by Janice Tutor of Barangay Hagnaya.

With only drinking water sustaining them, the three were rescued by fisherman Dodong Cancio at 6:30 a.m. yesterday.

Cancio was gathering squid when his attention was caught by three men in a pump boat waving their arms at him. He brought them to shore.

After hearing about their ordeal, Japitan residents gave Moncedor, Derder and Tapay food and allowed them to charge their phone so they could contact their relatives at home.

Tutor, on the other hand, had sent another boat to search for them on Jan. 1 but it failed to locate them.

She was hopeful the three men lived because they grew up by the sea.

Edgardo Santillan, Tutor’s brother, told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday that they reported the three missing over a local radio station and to the authorities at Hagnaya.

He said the three, who are also his friends, brought his uncle back to Sta. Fe town because the latter wanted to spend the New Year there.

After they were able to rest following their rescue, Moncedor, Derder and Tapay boarded a bus that took them straight to Hagnaya, where family members met them.

Tutor had the pump boat dragged back to Hagnaya.

She also stopped by the shrine in Simala, Sibonga town to light a candle as thanksgiving for the safe return of the three men. (MEA/With JECT of Superbalita)