A COUPLE and their housemaid died in a fire that hit the victims’ house inside the Calderon Compound in Sitio Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City at 1 a.m. yesterday.
When the last ember was put out, investigators from the Cebu City Fire Department and the Homicide Section found the remains of lawyer Manuel Barrios Pastrana, 79, his wife Norma Calderon Pastrana and the housemaid, initially identified only as Joy from Negros.
Two other occupants of the house, Justice Manuel Barrios of the Court of Appeals–Cebu and his son, lawyer Manuel I.R.A. Barrios, survived.
Shortly after the fire broke out, family driver Oliver Flores recalled, the lights went out, which probably made it more difficult for the three victims to get out.
“Seconds ra, napawong na derecho ang kuryente. Lisud na makita kay baga na kayo ang aso. Nadunggan pa gud si Atty. Pastrana nga, ‘O, pa-gawas na mi’ (In seconds, the power was cut off. It must have been difficult to see inside because the smoke was so thick. Atty. Pastrana was heard saying they were making their way out,”
Flores and the Barrios lawyers banged on the doors to summon those inside, until the smoke and flames drove them away.
John Peter, the couple’s son who lives in the adjacent house separated by a fence, also tried desperately to alert his parents.
Damage to property was placed at P900,000. The destroyed structure was reportedly built in the early 1960s.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City chapter will pass a resolution asking the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) to investigate what caused the fire.
Atty. Pastrana belonged to the same IBP chapter.
In a radio dyLA report, IBP Cebu City chapter president Michael Yu said the BFP should determine what caused the fire in order to set and implement preventive measures and guidelines.
“This isn’t the first time it has happened. We should be extra vigilant and we have to be very proactive. The BFP should come out with warnings and guidelines to prevent the same incident,” he said.
In the same resolution, Yu said they will ask the Department of Trade and Industry to be more effective in screening electrical products sold in the market, since faulty electrical wiring is one of the most common causes of fire.
The family will receive a mortuary benefit of P20,000 from the IBP, he said.
Yu said that Pastrana was “good-natured and friendly.”
Justice Barrios decided to see a doctor for the pain in his throat, which may have been caused by the thick smoke he inhaled during the fire, FO3 Antonio Gonzales said.
A daughter-in-law of the Pastrana couple, who requested that her name be withheld, said Atty. Pastrana was a son of a former governor of Kalibo, Aklan, while Norma was the sister of former congressman Emerito “Tito” Calderon.
The couple has three sons.
FO3 Antonio Gonzales, a fire investigator, said the fire department received the call for help at 1 a.m.
Four trucks from the Bureau of Fire Protection and trucks from the Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to the first-alarm fire.
When they reached the area, Gonzales said, the fire already spread throughout the house. The firefighting lasted for 12 minutes before the flames were declared under control.
Gonzales said they prevented the fire from reaching the nearby houses.
Gonzales said the couple’s remains were found a few meters apart from each other outside their room, while the other body, believed to be that of Joy, was retrieved from the dining room near her quarters.
Gonzales theorized the victims struggled to get out of the house but the smoke may have suffocated them, trapping them inside.
“Duna daw mi-orange dapit sa division sa hallway sa living room una pa miulbo ang kayo (Something orange reportedly flashed near the division between the hallway and the living room before the fire started),” Gonzales said, based on the initial information he gathered.
He could not say yet whether an electrical short circuit started the fire.
Gonzales and fire investigators Alikasem Espinola and Nick Ouano returned to the fire scene at 10 a.m. yesterday to gather debris and other samples for examination.
Gonzales said that when Justice Manuel and his son Atty. Manuel noticed the fire, they immediately knocked on the door of the couple.
The father and son, however, were forced to run outside because of the thick smoke and the flames that were spreading, Gonzales said.
Flores, 29, the family driver for seven years, banged on the locked door leading to the kitchen, in a desperate effort to wake up the housemaid. Joy was in her 40s and started to work with the family more than a month ago.
Flores showed reporters his swollen hand which he got from trying to break down the door to save Joy and the Pastranas.
The remains of the victims were taken to Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes in Nivel Hills, Lahug.
Last Feb. 18, four people also died in a fire on Don Pedro Rodriguez St., Barangay Capitol Site, Cebu City.