2 UPLB students drown in Makiling stream

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CAMP PACIANO RIZAL, Laguna—The decomposed bodies of two junior students of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), who were reported missing since Sunday, were found on Thursday afternoon along the Mt. Makiling hiking trail inside the UPLB campus.

The two students—Mark Lorenz Valdez, a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition student from Muntinlupa City, and Kevin Lagadon, a BS Computer Science student from Caloocan City—had died due to drowning, according to an autopsy by the regional police crime laboratory released on Friday.

Senior Supt. Fausto Manzanilla, Laguna police director, in a text message on Friday, said the students were identified by their families and friends through the pair of shorts Lagadon was wearing and the shirt and towel of Valdez that were found on the scene.

A group of residents, who were planning to swim in the area, found the two wearing shorts without a shirt, floating in the shallow part of a stream in a portion of the trail where a huge boulder formation called Flatrocks is located. Flatrocks, about 250 meters above sea level, is located about 1 kilometer from Station 1, the registration area of the Makiling trail. From that point, one hikes 700 meters to the second station and takes another 300 meters to reach Flatrocks.

The students were believed to have been dead for days since the bodies were already “bloated and in the state of decomposition,” Manzanilla said.

Valdez was a member of the UPLB sociocultural organization, Kapatirang Plebians, and was a former member of the student college council.

UPLB student and Kapatirang Plebians president Ren de Leon said Valdez and Lagadon went missing since Sunday.

Valdez’s roommates at New Dorm, the on-campus dormitory for students, said the two went hiking to Mt. Makiling on Sunday.

Police ruled out foul play in the death of the two, as the autopsy results showed there were no external wounds except for some minor abrasions on their faces, possibly caused when their bodies hit against the rocks.

“Their lungs and trachea, however, were swollen and hemorrhagic. That’s why we were able to conclude that they drowned,” said Supt. Roy Camarillo, M.D., chief of the police medico-legal division.

He disproved earlier reports that the students died of fraternity hazing.

“It’s possible that people who first saw the bodies thought there were bruises because the cadavers were already greenish. But actually, those were signs of decomposition,” he said.

Chief Insp. Conrado Masongsong, Los Baños police chief, said the two could have drowned in a deep portion of the water.

“There’s this part that is beyond the average height of a person. They must have not known it was deep. (Valdez’s) father said his son was not a good swimmer,” he said.

Based on the logbook that Valdez had signed at the trail’s jump-off, the two went hiking on Dec. 2 at around 9:05 a.m. Hikers were supposed to log in and out of the trail but the two never logged out.

Masongsong said the person manning the jump-off had overlooked that the students were still inside the trail, as there were really some who camped out in the peak.

“He said his shift ends at 4 p.m.,” said Masongsong.

He said there would be no further investigation with the case now closed.

UPLB officials have yet to issue a statement.

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