Ex-Iligan mayor’s wife who was found dead after missing for a month laid to rest
ILIGAN CITY— “We were all looking for closure, now we found it.”
This was how former Iligan City Mayor Franklin M. Quijano described the end to a month-long frenzied search for his wife, Salma Theresa, who went missing around 10:30 a.m. on June 27.
On Thursday, August 8, relatives and friends joined the Quijano family in laying to rest Salma, also known as Titatit.
Also laid to rest was Salma’s uncle, Rafael “Lito” Maristela Gerona III, who died last July 30.
Quijano had said that Salma left “no clue nor trail” when she was gone, making the search for her difficult.
But on August 5, Quijano declared: “Titatit was found on June 29, 2019.”
However, it took until July 31 for his family and authorities to conclude that the dead woman they first saw on the morning of June 29 was Salma.
Salma’s dental records were crucial in unearthing that fact, putting closure to the case, as far as the Quijanos are concerned.
“Even as we say there may now be closure, our feelings are resisting, our minds are arguing against it … We now realize that closure, even as it is a conclusion, is painful,” Quijano said.
On June 29, two days after Salma went missing, a dead woman was found floating in Mandulog River, just several meters from the Gerona Compound in Barangay Hinaplanon, where the Quijanos live with Salma’s siblings.
When retrieved, the body was already bloated and unrecognizable.
“The impression we got was it was not her as it did not resemble her, even remotely,” Quijano recalled.
He also recalled that “not one of us ever remembered her having a rash guard as well as tattered jeans” which were worn by the dead woman.
As the search for Salma continued, Quijano said they took serious note of “even the sketchiest tip” so that their probe could advance.
Quijano had mobilized the help of friends to scour the possible places where Salma would go like hotels, retreat houses, to no avail.
The family has ruled out kidnapping as there were no indications of it, said Quijano’s younger brother Roberto.
“We always ended up facing a blank wall,” Quijano noted, leading the family to “retrace our steps to square one.”
Hence, they requested authorities to take a second look at the dead woman they saw a month back, which was already buried as nobody claimed the body.
On July 29, the remains were exhumed and a government doctor examined it the following day.
Salma’s dental records “almost perfectly matched” the dental profile of the dead woman, Quijano said.
Later, Salma’s dentist confirmed that the dental filling procedure previously performed on her matched that of the dead woman, Quijano further said.
A family member also recalled that Salma bought a rash guard while in Palawan sometime this year.
To ensure greater certainty, the family decided to have a DNA test, the results of which are not yet available.
But the dental and other clues seemed enough for Quijano and his children, although he said they were not preventing anyone from doing their investigation.
A police probe has established that Salma died of drowning and ruled out any hints of foul play.
Quijano cited a scene-of-the-crime report indicating “there were no bruises, no wounds and that her skin was intact,” which means there were no signs of violence inflicted on her.
Quijano said Salma, 52, had anxieties “as she was experiencing her menopausal blues.”
“She had hot flashes as well as other pains and symptoms that usually accompanies menopause, including vertigo,” he disclosed.
Quijano said their last moment was the usual banter and jokes. “She was in a happy mood.”
The couple last saw each other on June 26, just before Quijano went off to Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, where he holds office as Administrator and Chief Operating Officer of Phividec Industrial Authority, a government-owned corporation that runs a 3,000-hectare economic zone, one of the country’s biggest.
On July 28, 2017, their 27th wedding anniversary, Salma joined Quijano, an economist, and lawyer, in a ceremony at the Phividec office as he took over its reins after being appointed by President Duterte.
Salma last communicated with Quijano around 10:40 a.m. on June 26, through a text message. He was able to check on her late afternoon, en route to the airport to fly to Manila.
Quijano said when he called her, the phone just rang.
So, he called up their children for them “to tell their Mama that we may not be able to talk (on the phone)” that night.
Quijano was about to board the plane, and he estimated that by the time he reached Manila, Salma would already be asleep as she usually went to bed at 7 p.m.
The next day, it was their youngest daughter who last saw Salma; she embraced her mother before going to school.
Quijano remembered calling Salma at noon but her phone did not ring.
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