Father ignores stench to see son in coffin for last time | Inquirer News

Father ignores stench to see son in coffin for last time

ILIGAN CITY—Grief-stricken Arnaldo dela Gracia could not contain himself at the final blessing for 12 victims of the fury of Tropical Storm “Sendong” who were buried Tuesday at  Palao Public Cemetery here. He threw himself into the uncovered tomb of his 18-month-old son Aldrin.

Dela Gracia, 28, insisted on opening the coffin and, using his hand, wiped the glass of the lime spread over just to see his son’s decomposing body one more time.

Aldrin was among at least 283 people killed by the flood that hit this city on Saturday.


Of Dela Gracia’s five-member family, only he, his wife and another son survived the raging waters that swept their house in Barinaut village. Aldrin’s twin brother is still missing. An older sister is also dead.


Sendong’s victims were laid to rest in hastily built graves in a public cemetery.

Soldiers carried the first batch of 12 bodies in wooden caskets and deposited them in a 45-square-meter mass grave, while dozens of survivors watched, covering their noses against the stench.

Others wept as the caskets were opened, revealing plastic-wrapped bodies applied with powdery white lime called “apog,” to minimize the foul smell.

Maria Luisa Tutor, 28, wept as the casket containing her 4-year-old son Aljun was deposited in the grave.

Her husband Nicolas, a coconut vendor, said their three other children were missing—Nico, 3, Joan, 2, and Neliza May, 6. The children were swept away by waters that slammed into a two-story house where they had taken shelter.

Shared tombs


At a tomb “apartment” built by the local government, four members of a family shared one tomb. Another tomb was shared by two families, and still another by three.

Mayor Lawrence Cruz pleaded for the public’s understanding when told about protests from bereaved families who wanted the dead to be identified first so they could be claimed by their families.

“We can’t just put them anywhere. We can’t allow the bodies to be out in the open,” he told reporters.

In nearby Cagayan de Oro City, some relatives of missing persons have given up hope of seeing their loved ones alive.

“I just want to see their bodies,” said 64-year-old Divisita Baler, who lost two of her brothers, three nephews and a niece in the floods.

Senior Inspector Ariel Pontillas, station commander of Barangay (village) 13, said much as the police wanted to find those still missing, there were survivors who also needed more help.

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“We have to prioritize the living. The dead can wait,” he said. With reports from Bobby Lagsa, Frinston Lim, and Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao

TAGS: Death Toll, Disasters, Dumaguete, Flashfloods, Iligan, Joan Valdez, landslides, Mindanao

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