Revenge of the ‘pawikan’: 5 dead after eating sea turtle meat


TACLOBAN CITY—Five persons died while 153 others were taken ill after eating the meat of a sea turtle that was found dead on Aug. 17 in Arteche, a town in Eastern Samar.

Marlon Gabril, a fisherman who found the sea turtle and later sold its meat, is now in the custody of the local police, according to Albino Pinangay, in charge of the fishery and aquatic office of the Arteche municipal government.

Pinangay said Gabril found the dead sea turtle floating in waters off Barangay Rawis on Aug. 17 and later sold the meat to more than 100 residents of the village and neighboring Barangay Garden.

“He never told his customers that the pawikan that he butchered was already dead. This was the reason why there was this food poisoning incident,” Pinangay said.

The turtle weighed more than 12 kilograms, according to Pinangay.

Five of those who ate the meat bought from Gabril died while being treated at Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital in Borongan City.

They were identified as Ramon Galit and wife Lilian, Marcosa Picardal, Eugenio Nuguit and son Marlon. They are all from Barangay Rawis.

The Nuguits died on Aug. 18 and the Galit couple, on

Aug. 21. Picardal was said to have died hours after she ate the meat of the sea turtle.

Quoting results of an investigation, Pinangay said 153 residents from Rawis and Garden also got ill after eating the turtle meat bought from Gabril.

Several of the victims chose to self-medicate. Some were brought to Arteche District Hospital, more than 100 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Borongan City.

Most of the victims have been discharged and are now recovering, according to Pinangay.

Vice Mayor Linda Mejica, in a separate phone interview, said she was shocked by what happened because “we have never experienced this.”

The local government unit, she said, would conduct an information campaign in Rawis and in other villages to remind people not to catch or kill sea turtles.

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