GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- Families of the hundreds of fishermen who went missing at the height of Super Typhoon Pablo have gathered around the memorial marker - put up by the city government - to commemorate the tragedy.
It was on December 4, 2012 when over 300 fishermen from Gensan and Sarangani were caught by the fury of Typhoon Pablo while they were at sea.
A few, around 16 fishermen—were recovered. The rest were not found.
Albeit the despondency, the bereaved families of these fishermen still hold a flicker of hope in their hearts.
Last December 4, exactly three years after the tragedy, the families visited the memorial marker put up by the city government to reminisce and honor their loved ones.
It was a solemn day, but peculiarly mixed by hopeful thoughts. Flora Lara, 46, of Bulaong, was one of those who have never given up their faith that someday their lost kin would come home.
"Until now, I still remember my husband when he left to go on fishing. He boarded a boat owned by the LPS Fishing. It was December 04. We then received text messages that their boat was gone with my husband," Lara narrated, while sobbing.
"But up till now, I am still hopeful that he will come back. No body of him has been recovered yet so I am still hoping. For now, I am thankful that there is a memorial marker put up by the local government so that at least, we have a place to go," she added.
The memorial marker is a brainchild of City Mayor Ronnel Rivera, who was raised by a family of one of the fishing industry leaders, knows the sacrifices of the fishermen.
He was aware that these fishermen stake their lives every time they go fishing.
City Mayor Ronnel Rivera first proposed the construction of a memorial marker to honor the fishermen of Gensan when he was a still a city councilor.
But majority of the local legislators back then — all from the ruling political party - slammed the idea of Rivera.
It was until he became the mayor in 2013 that Rivera was able to push for the construction of the memorial shrine.
"I am raised by the fishing industry and I have experienced and witnessed the perils of the sea. That’s why I had been fighting for this memorial shrine because I want to honor every fisherman who made Gensan the Tuna Capital of the Philippines," Rivera explained.
“We are the Tuna Capital of the Philippines. They (fishermen) are our heroes here. We must give pride to them,” he added.
As for assistance, Rivera told the families that the city government is now mulling for a scholarship program for their children with the help of the City Social Welfare and Development Office.