Hope brief in search for missing

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NO WORDS can describe the grief of this woman who cries after seeing the body of a girl in the funeral home where the fatalities of the Aug. 16 sea tragedy are brought. TONEE DESPOJO/CEBU DAILY NEWS

CEBU CITY—Hope turned into despair in so short a time for Emmalyn Sinday, a 22-year-old survivor of the Aug. 16 sea tragedy here who has been searching for her missing daughter, Gwen.

Sinday’s search for Gwen led her on Aug. 17 to the terminal of 2Go at the city port where a list said her daughter was among those who survived when MV St. Thomas Aquinas, a cargo-passenger vessel owned by 2Go, was rammed by the cargo ship MV Sulpicio Express Siete off Talisay City.

On paper, Gwen, Sinday’s only child, was alive but Sinday wanted to take her daughter in her arms, which she was unable to do as huge waves kept them bobbing in turbulent waters in their life jackets together until a fisherman got hold of Gwen and Sinday tried to get over the separation with thoughts that her daughter, who was unconscious at that time, would at least be alive.

After seeing her daughter’s name on the list of survivors at the 2Go terminal, Sinday went to all the hospitals in the city and Talisay, hoping to see Gwen alive even if it meant seeing her with bruises or wounds, but alive.

The hospital search was fruitless, leaving Sinday with no other place to search but the one where all searches become dreadful—Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes here where fatalities from the Thomas Aquinas have been brought.

There, Sinday saw a row of unidentified bodies, the one in pink dress and pink shoes was unmistakably that of Gwen.

Sinday remembered the list at the 2Go terminal that said Gwen was alive. “I was angry because I did not believe she is dead,” Sinday said. “When I saw her here, I cried hard. I could not explain how I felt,” Sinday said at the funeral home.

Sinday was with an aunt and a cousin, who survived the ramming of Thomas Aquinas. She was on the ship bound for Manila to join her common-law husband, Felix, who had work there.

The agony continues for others who are still searching for their loved ones who had been aboard the Thomas Aquinas.

One is Mercedita, a 51-year-old employee of the Bureau of Customs, who traveled from Surigao City to here in search for her daughter, Geonidiza, one of those declared missing. Two of Geonidiza’s aunts had also been declared missing.

Like what Sinday did, Mercedita scoured all the hospitals here and in Talisay for Geonidiza. The search also took her to the Cosmopolitan, but Geonidiza was not there.

The search is over for others, but in the case of Vilma Maligro, 43, it is both over and continuing. Vilma is still in a state of shock after confirming that her husband, Hilario, also a passenger of the Thomas Aquinas, is among the dead. She couldn’t return home to Agusan del Sur, however, as her 8-year-old son Christian Mark and 78-year-old mother Agatona are still missing.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Vilma said. They were on the ship to be in Bohol for a fiesta in Loon.

Vilma last saw her son and mother jumping off the Thomas Aquinas as the vessel started to sink after being rammed  by the Sulpicio ship. Vilma, too afraid to jump, clung to a rope at the edge of the Thomas Aquinas until some hard object fell and knocked her unconscious.

She regained consciousness in the hospital where she was told of the death of her husband and the disappearance of her son and mother.

The death toll in the ramming of the Thomas Aquinas by the Sulpicio ship stood at 75 as of Thursday.

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