‘In the end, it’s only family that matters’

ALTHOUGH her tears ran out, 66-year-old Corazon Conejos’ wails echoed while she watched flames engulf their three-story house on Sikatuna St., Barangay Day-as, Cebu City last Saturday.

Her son, Christian, 27, and two grandsons John Carl, 4, and John Steven, 2, were trapped in the burning house.

“I was crying hard, but my eyes could no longer produce tears. I was screaming, tasting blood as I strained my throat,” she told Sun.Star Cebu in Cebuano.

With their house burning before her, she told herself that the smoke was thicker than the chances of her family members surviving.

But there won’t be any wake to attend. Two hours after the fire was controlled, she was told that her family members were safe and sound in Bonifacio St.

“I don’t mind being practically homeless at the moment. Anyway, home could be anywhere as long as the family is complete. I thank the Lord for clearing out my son’s mind despite the situation before him,” she said.

Christian rescued himself and his nephews by jumping out of the window in the kids’ room in the third floor level of their house.

“I was crying, but I wasn’t really scared because I know Papa Jesus loves us,” John Carl said.

Despite not having sheets to tuck themselves in for the night, Corazon said having her family with her is more than enough to keep her warm.

Her sister-in-law, Florita, 66, shared the same sentiment as she herself had saved nothing, except for her statues of the Sto. Niño, St. Pedro Calungsod and Our Lady of Fatima.

A devotee of the Lady of Fatima for eight years now, she said all she had in mind was saving her grandchildren and holy statues.

“Even if I lost my important documents to the fire, what’s important is that I came out more faithful than ever and I have my family,” Florita said.

Aside from praying to have everyone safe, she asked the Lord to enlighten her paralyzed 72-year-old brother, who, she said, was ready to face death given his condition.


In a separate interview, her brother’s wife, Lorna, 63, said she was grateful for her children and neighbors who despite the situation, went on their way to save her husband.

“Death is inevitable, but if I could ask, I’d like for us to have more time together,” she said.

Lorna, who was doing the laundry when the fire broke, took her seven-year-old granddaughter who was scheduled for surgery first and when she went back to get her husband, the flames blocked her way.

Out of adrenaline rush, her son braved the fire and went on to kick the galvanized sheets that fenced the rear passage of their house to head the rescue of his father.

Lorna’s son and husband sustained minor injuries and were tended immediately by barangay health workers.

The Barangay, for its part, is mulling declaring a state of calamity.

However, Barangay Secretary Carlito Sarmiento said they have yet to validate the total cost of damage to formally do so.

The Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS), on the other hand, distributed food assistance since last Saturday.

As for the financial assistance from the City Government, the DSWS said it will proceed with the distribution as soon as the profiling of survivors is completed.

“We’ll distribute food for three days. After which, we will give out packs of rice and water basins to name a few,” DSWS personnel Marites Tomaquin said.

Although grateful for what they received, Corazon asked not only the City, but others as well to extend sleeping mats, if they could, for the little children.

“We’re currently sleeping in cold, concrete floor and we don’t want the kids to get sick. Let’s not make them feel more scared and bad,” she said.

After receiving a pair of hand-me-down pants, Florita, who has been wearing shorts since the fire broke, said she’ll head to Sto. Rosario Church to pray that all the affected families remain strong.

Based on DSWS’ initial report, there are 107 families, 357 individuals and 28 houses razed by the fire. The barangay sports complex have been designated as the survivors’ temporary shelter.


The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Central Visayas will invite four witnesses to explain the cause of the fire.

SFO2 Leo Magallon said he will summon members of the Conejos family for a statement about the fire.

Magpadala pa mi og subpoena sa upat ka buok witnesse. Amo pa na silang imbestigahon (We’ll send a subpoena to the four witnesses. We’ll still investigate them),” Magallon said.

The fire investigator identified the witnesses as Florita, Pura, Randy and Anthony.

However, Anthony who was allegedly the one who was in the ground floor when the fire broke out, had not sought the BFP yet.

Residents of the area heard an explosion from the three-storey house owned by a “Pastor Conejos,” Magallon said.

Twenty houses were razed to the ground while two commercial buildings were partially damaged.

The blaze was raised to Task Force Alpha that signaled other fire stations to respond to the alarm.

It was completely extinguished at 11:29 p.m. on Saturday.

When the flames started consuming the houses, Jake Montes, 24, a student from a nearby university said that he can only run.

Pag-start pag-ulbo sa ilawm, nikalat na. Gikaon na sa kayo ang mga balay sa usa ka pamilok, wala na makabalik og kuha og gamit (When the fire started, it spread quickly. The fire ate our houses with just one wink, we couldn’t go back to get our things),” he said.

He added that the strong wind that blew fanned the flames to get bigger.

Montes said that his thesis was left to burn and was worried what he will do next.

The damage of the fire was pegged at half a million pesos.
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