“AMPING (Take care), Pa. I love you.”
This was how Alexander Villanueva always ended his phone conversations with his father, Allan.
For many years, their family of four lived together in a small house in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City.
But after deciding to start anew, the Villanuevas relocated last year to their family matriarch’s hometown in Boljoon, located 103.3 kilometers from the city.
While Susan tended to a small garden and looked after their sons, Allan had to go back to the city to provide for the family.
Because of his job as a family driver, Allan could only see his sons and wife at the end of every month.
Although alone in the city, Allan never felt lonely since Alexander made sure to always call him at night to tell him, “Take care and I love you.”
As if that was not enough to warm his father’s heart, Alexander always repeated the same words through text.
It has been three days since Allan last heard his son say and text those words. He has been staring at the small screen of his phone, rereading for the umpteenth time Alexander’s last text message, since then.
Alexander was one of nine casualties who lost their lives after a dump truck fell on its side Friday morning, July 19, 2019, as they were making their way to a sports activity in the town proper.
Although he had classes that day, the 20-year-old Grade 11 student did not report to school to support his younger brother, 12-year-old Adrian.
Adrian was supposed to compete in his first track and field event as one of San Antonio Elementary School’s representatives for the district sports meet.
Adrian looked up to his big brother as a role model. He found it endearing that Alexander would rather spend time with him than his own peers.
Despite their austere lifestyle, the boys found joy in simple things, such as waking up early to have breakfast with their mother and spending time with their father when he had the chance to go home.
On that fateful Friday, the brothers were joined by their mother who was also very excited for her youngest child’s sports event.
They woke up earlier than usual and shared a hearty breakfast meal to prepare Adrian for what would have been a day of athleticism and fun.
But the Villanuevas and several others also hailing from mountain barangays never got to their destination.
According to Police Master Sergeant Nelson Saquibal, traffic investigator of Boljoon Police Station, the truck was going downhill in Upper Becerril when the driver Danilo Niere lost control of the vehicle, causing it to fall on its side.
Alexander remained at Adrian’s side, keeping the latter in a tight embrace as the truck started to fall on its side.
Adrian suffered cuts in his face, while their mother suffered serious injuries that required a CT scan.
Alexander died on the spot after he banged his head, face first, on the steel side of the dump box.
Allan said he was about to leave for work when he found out about the accident through his brother, who heard Alexander’s name mentioned in a radio report.
He immediately called Alexander’s phone to check how they were doing, hoping his family was among those who survived.
Allan heard a sobbing, almost unintelligible voice on the other line. “Wala na si Alex, gikuha na sa Ginoo (Alex is gone).”
It was Allan’s brother-in-law, who rushed to the scene, hoping to save his nephews and sister.
The brother-in-law (who refused to be named) said he was almost hit by the same truck as it made its way to the mountains before the accident happened.
But as much as Allan wanted to take the first bus to Boljoon, he had to rush to a private hospital in Cebu City where Susan was taken for a CT scan. It was their relatives who tended to Adrian and took care of Alexander’s remains.
Last Friday night, July 19, on the bus ride home to Boljoon, Allan held his wife’s hand tight as Susan cried profusely.
Alexander and the eight other casualties will be buried on Sunday, July 21. (RTF)