CEBU CITY, Philippines—Rolando Manliguis, 35, was watching a live band when “suddenly I heard what sounded like a blast…. the singer was thrown in front of me.” He said he rushed to wake up his wife and daughter but the water was rising fast.
“When the boat was on its side, the water level was up to here,” he said, pointing to his neck. “I thought about my child. It’s a good thing someone helped us immediately.”
He said they roped down the side of the ferry into the sea and were put on a life raft.
Manliguis, though, thought his wife, Gina Payad, had died after she was left behind on the MV St. Thomas Aquinas as they scampered to get out.
He said he told their Coast Guard rescuers his wife had been left behind.
What he didn’t know was that Payad, 25, had been rescued by another group and was taken to Talisay City.
The family reunion at the 2Go Terminal at Pier 4 was a tearful but happy one.
The Manliguises had come from Nasipit and were heading to Manila to look for work.
Elmo Minoza, 25, said he was at the railing when he saw the bow of the cargo vessel, the MV Sulpicio Express Siete, hit the port side of the passenger ship.
He said he jumped from the sinking ship to the cargo vessel as other passengers started to panic.
He said he was lucky he didn’t suffer any injuries unlike other passengers.
He was reunited with his brothers from Barangay (village) Pajac in Lapu-Lapu City at dawn on Saturday.
Minoza said he felt sorry for the children who were not able to get out of the ship. He said most were trapped inside their cabins since it took less than 15 minutes for the vessel to sink.
Alejandro Yamson, 23, of San Isidro, Siargao Island, said many passengers, including children, were not able to jump off the vessel since everything happened so fast.
Yamson was watching television with two friends who were planning to apply for work in Manila.
The St. Thomas Aquinas, which came from Nasipit, was bound for Manila following a brief stopover in Cebu. It was supposed to dock at the Cebu port at 10 p.m.
Yamson said that he was coming out of the restroom when he heard a loud thud.
“The vessel shook. It was a good thing that I was able to hold on. My companions were thrown to the floor,” he said.
Yamson said he sat on his cot after some people said that everything was OK.
A few seconds later, someone began yelling for everyone to put on their life jackets. This triggered panic among the passengers as the women and children began crying, he said.
Yamson said he stumbled to the railing as the vessel listed. He jumped into the cold water before the vessel sank 10 minutes later.
One friend survived but the other one was missing, he said.
The 2Go terminal at Pier 4 was a picture of chaos at midnight on Saturday as rescuers started to bring in survivors.
Some survivors were placed on the floor and were warmed with blankets. Others sat on tables on which souvenir items were sold. Others were crying while some looked for missing loved ones.
Paramedics arrived and treated some survivors at the terminal while many others were taken to different city hospitals.—Carmel Matus, Jhunnex Napallacan, Chito O. Aragon and Carine Asutilla, Inquirer Visayas; AP