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Family reunited following Cebu maritime disaster

A survivor, left, of the ill-fated passenger ferry MV Thomas of Aquinas, cries as she is reunited with her relatives at the ticketing office of a shipping company, Saturday Aug.17, 2013, a day after the ferry collided with a cargo ship, the Sulpicio Express Siete, off the waters of Talisay city, Cebu province in central Philippines. Divers combed through a sunken ferry Saturday to retrieve the bodies of more than 200 people still missing from an overnight collision with a cargo vessel near the central Philippine port of Cebu that sent passengers jumping into the ocean and leaving many others trapped. At least 28 were confirmed dead and hundreds rescued. The captain of the ferry MV Thomas Aquinas, which was approaching the port late Friday, ordered the ship abandoned when it began listing and then sank just minutes after collision with the MV Sulpicio Express, coast guard deputy chief Rear Adm. Luis Tuason said. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

CEBU CITY, Philippines—A man, carrying his young daughter, cried in happiness on seeing his wife alive at the relief operations here Saturday morning.

The last time Ronald Manligis had seen his wife, Gina Payad, prior to that encounter was on the MV St. Thomas Aquinas, seconds before they got separated while scampering to jump into the cold waters as the vessel was starting to list on its left. He thought his wife had been left behind and had gone down with the ship.

Manligis, 35, said he was holding their two-year-old daughter when he woke up Payad, 25, when their ship collided with the  MV Sulcon Express Seven in Lawis Ledge, off Talisay City, some two to three nautical miles from the port of Cebu City about 9 p.m. on Friday.

Ronaldo said he did not have time to look for Payad. So he took a deep breath and his daughter tight as he jumped into the water.

They were later rescued by Coast Guard personnel.

Manligis told his rescuer his wife did not survive.

Little did he know that Gina had also been rescued by another group and was taken to Talisay City. The family was later reunited at the 2Go Terminal on Pier 4 where they all cried in happiness.

The Manligis family had come from Nasipit in Agusan del Norte and were on their way to Manila to look for work.

Survivors believed it was a miracle that they survived.

Elmo Minoza, 25, said he was by the railing when he saw the bow of the cargo slicing into the left side of the passenger ferry.

He said he had to climb and jump from the sinking passenger ship to the cargo vessel as other passengers were starting to panic.

He said that luckily, he was able to jump and didn’t suffer any bruise or fracture, unlike other passengers.

He was reunited with his brothers from Barangay Pajac in Lapu-Lapu City at dawn Saturday.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” he told the Inquirer.

Minoza said he felt sorry for the children who were not able to get out of the vessel. He believed that most were trapped inside the cabins since it took less than 15 minutes for the vessel to sink.

Alejandro Yamson, 23, of San Isidro, Siargao Island, said he too believed many passengers, including children, were not able to jump off the vessel since it happened too fast.

“Perhaps many failed to get out of the vessel. I pity the children,”  he said.

Yamson recalled that he was watching TV with his two friends who were traveling to Manila to apply for work.

The MV St. Thomas Aquinas had come from Nasipit in Agusan del Norte and was to proceed to Manila after a brief stop in Cebu City. It was to dock at Cebu at 10 p.m.

Yamson said that he was coming out of the toilet when he heard a loud thud.

“The vessel shook. It was a good thing that I was able to hold on to something. My companions were thrown to the floor,”  he said.

Yamson said he sat on his cot after some people told them that everything was okay.

A few seconds later, someone started yelling to put on life jackets. This triggered panic among the passengers and women and children began to cry.

Since their cabins were located in the lower level of the vessel, they had to run up the stairs to get out. Yamson said he was stumbling as he ran to the railing since the vessel was already listing to its left side. He was able to finally jump into the cold water before the vessel sunk about 10 minutes later.

Yamson said he thought he would die but his faith in God remained strong. He was in the water until Navy men rescued him.

One of his friends also survived but the other was among the missing, he said.

The 2Go terminal on Pier 4 was a picture of chaos around midnight Saturday as rescuers started to bring in survivors.

Some survivors were lying on the floor, warmed by blankets. Others sat on tables used for selling souvenir items. Still others were crying while some family members were looking for missing loved ones.

Paramedics had also arrived. Some of the survivors were treated at the terminal while many other were taken to different hospitals in the city.

2go said 62 survivors were taken to the  Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, 26 to Chong Hua Hospital, 52 to Perpetual Succor Hospital and 89 to the Cebu City Medical Center.

Later, the survivor were transferred to the Mariner’s s Court on Pier 1 since it is bigger and more convenient for the survivors and their families.

The center was to be equipped with communication facilities so the survivors could call their loved ones.

The city governments of Talisay and Cebu as well as provincial government formed a crisis management team.

Reports from Carmel Matus, Jhunnex Napallacan, Chito O. Aragon and Carine Asutilla, Inquirer Visayas

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Tags: 2go , cargo , Cebu , collision , ferry , MV Thomas Aquinas , Sulpicio , Vessel

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