Survivors recall sea mishap; swim skills saved them

IT was a miracle for 62-year-old Milagrosa Oteda that she survived after a boat capsized during their trip from Carmen to Camotes Island last Tuesday morning. 

Oteda shared that the strong current swept her away from the banca, but she managed to swim and grab a life vest that was thrown her way by one of the crew of another vessel.

“Kung di pa ko kahibaw molangoy, wa na uy (If I did not know how to swim, I would have died),” she said.

Oteda was among 29 survivors of the sea tragedy.

A Mandaue City Social Welfare and Services (CSWS) Office record shows there were 30 persons on board the MB Habagat Romeo. (As separate report listed 34 passengers total.)

Of the group, two died while three others were missing. The fatalities were Teresa Gonzaga, 34, and Althea Gonzaga, 2. The missing persons include Andrea Delion, 2, and Kevin Gonzaga, 4.

The youngest survivor was a three-month-old baby girl.

They were staying in the CSWS office after a Lite Shipping Inc. (LSI) vessel, which was traveling from Ormoc City in Leyte, brought them to the Ouano Wharf.

Jessie Perez, head of the CSWS, said they received a call from the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office requesting the City Government to accommodate the survivors.

CSWS personnel provided the survivors with meals, water and clothes.

Oteda, a resident from Barangay Santa Cruz in San Francisco, was emotional when she shared her experience.

She and the rest of the survivors held a rope that was attached to the boat to stay afloat until a strong current carried her away from the other survivors. She eventually got a life vest, which was thrown by one of the crew of LSI vessel.

Oteda had joined her neighbor in going to Carmen to celebrate the fiesta in Barangay Luyang. She never expected that the celebration she hoped for would turn into a nightmare on their way home to Camotes.

“Kalit ra man gyud to uy. Gisundan og ikaduhang bawod tuwad na ang banca (It was sudden. A second big wave hit the banca and we all fell),” she said.

While Oteda now despises the thought of traveling on a banca, she said she has to because her home is in another island.

Another survivor, 57-year-old Bonifacia Gonzaga, braved the strong currents when she saw that help was on their way as the crew of the LSI cargo vessel arrived to rescue them.

“I knew that we were already near the Consuelo Wharf in San Francisco because we had seen the shore of Camotes when the boat capsized,” Gonzaga said.

The Mandaue City Government decided to hold a thanksgiving mass in the CSWS office for the survivors yesterday afternoon. Msgr. Danilo Sanico of the National Shrine of Saint Joseph presided the mass.

Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna, who served as the acting mayor, said the survivors will stay in the CSWS office until the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office will transfer them to Camotes.

Fortuna said boat captain Romar Hermosilla, who also survived, was brought to Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center due to high blood pressure yesterday.

Perez said that CSWS, together with a social worker from the Capitol, already conducted a stress debriefing for the survivors.

He added that CSWS also processed the death certificates of the casualties. (FMG)  

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