MANILA, Philippines?Veterinarian Nelson Tobillo blames no one for the sad fate that befell his 12-year-old daughter Paula Marie, or ?Lalaine,? on that black, stormy Saturday.
?If I could blame anybody, I?d probably blame her,? the 57-year-old Tobillo said on Tuesday with that curious blend of fondness and exasperation some fathers show when talking about their children.
?Why didn?t she listen to me?? he said. ?But then how could I blame her when she?s already gone??
Lalaine, a Grade 6 student at Marikina Catholic School, was among the 246 people who perished in the rampage of floods unleashed across Metro Manila and parts of Luzon by Tropical Storm ?Ondoy? (international codename: Ketsana) at the weekend.
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said relief agencies had so far tallied 101 dead in the National Capital Region, three in the Cordillera Administrative Region, 37 in Central Luzon and 105 dead in the Calabarzon area (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).
At least 38 people were missing, according to the tally of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).
Last phone call
Tobillo said the last conversation he had with his daughter was on the telephone at 10:30 p.m. Saturday.
Lalaine was in their bungalow-type house in Provident Villages in Marikina City, along with her nanny Jocelyn, while Tobillo was in Los Bańos, Laguna, on a business trip.
?The last thing she told me was the flood was already knee deep,? Tobillo said. ?I told her, ?Get out of the house now. Go to our neighbor. They have a second floor. You?ll be safe there. Call your Tita Tess.??
?But she didn?t follow,? he said.
Phone already silent
Tobillo said Lalaine was ?delicate? about dirty things. ?When the water is a little murky, she wouldn?t touch it. That?s probably why she wouldn?t get out of the house and dive into the muddy water.?
Tobillo recalled the panic he felt when he heard the news of the rampaging floods.
At the time, Lalaine?s 14-year-old brother Fredrick Vince, or ?Johann,? was in Tobillo?s shop with his grandfather at a more elevated part of the subdivision. Tobillo?s wife Salvacion was with their eldest daughter Theresa Camille, 15, in a hospital for a check-up.
?I called Johann. I told him, ?Johann, she has to get out. You better make sure she?s out of the house.? But he said she was no longer answering the phone,? Tobillo said.
No one answers
Tobillo said he even called the barangay officials. ?But no one was answering ? I?m sure she would have been saved,? he said.
Desperate, he tried calling the numbers of tricycle drivers in the subdivision, but again, there was no answer. ?My cell phone battery was nearly dead but I kept calling and calling.?
Tobillo braved the harsh weather to return home, finally reaching Provident Villages at 1 a.m. ?But they wouldn?t let anybody inside. It was already 8:30 a.m. when we finally got inside.?
Lalaine?s body, along with her nanny?s, was found inside the Tobillos? house. They were among the more than 50 bodies recovered in Provident Villages alone.
?My wife was telling me nobody would pull out her white hairs for her anymore,? Tobillo said. ?Nobody would go to the market with her anymore. Nobody would accompany her to the grocery anymore.?
Difficult to understand
Losing Lalaine, he said, was something he could never understand.
?I don?t mind losing my business even though I?ve had it for 33 years. I?m used to a hard life. I don?t mind losing the house. I?d gladly exchange these for the life of my daughter,? he said.
?My wife told me it was enough that God gave us 12 years with our daughter. But I don?t agree. Maybe I?m selfish. He shouldn?t have given us 12 years if it would just be taken from us. If only I had known there would be this much pain.?
1.9M people affected
The Tobillos are part of a total of 1.9 million people, or 334,959 families, affected by the flood. The number of evacuees stood at 567,417, according to the NDCC.
Total damage, so far, has been estimated at P4.7 billion.
Funeral parlor making a killing
As parents like Tobillo poured out their stories of grief, a Quezon City barangay leader Tuesday accused some funeral parlors of charging exorbitant fees to bury the victims.
Barangay Bagong Silangan chairman Armando Endaya told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that parlors normally charged from P7,000 to P8,000 before turning over the bodies to relatives but now, some of them were charging from P10,000 to P15,000.
?It?s as if they don?t understand the situation of the families. They are overpricing their services, that?s why the families could not immediately claim the bodies of the victims,? Endaya said in Filipino.
Based on police reports, Barangay Bagong Silangan located at the boundary of Rizal province and Quezon City had among the highest number casualties?35?among barangays as a result of Ondoy?s onslaught.
The death toll is expected to increase, Endaya said.
Elsewhere, 11 bodies have turned up in waterways in the cities of Las Pińas and Taguig the past two days, police said.
Senior Supt. Camilo Pancratius Cascolan, Taguig police chief, said six of the bodies were joined to each other by a rope.
At least two of them were female and one was male, Cascolan said.
?Maybe the victims tried to avoid being carried away by the floodwaters by tying themselves together. Unfortunately, the rope was not enough to save them,? Cascolan told the Inquirer.
?It?s possible that the six were all family members and that they were from Marikina or Rizal,? he added. With a report from Marlon Ramos