Father of ‘miracle tot’ grateful for ‘second life’
MACO, DAVAO DE ORO—It was a supper that he could not forget.
Orlando Malacaste was with his wife Leziel and their three children at their house in Zone 1, Barangay Masara, early evening on Feb. 6, when they were startled by a loud noise akin to a strong thunderclap.
Leziel, 36, quickly stood up and called eldest daughter Shaira, telling her to grab 3-year-old Sheena.
Before he could call them back, Malacaste saw his wife and their two children swept away by a torrent of mud and other debris as they tried to dash to the front door.
“I tried opening the [back] door… but it had been tightly locked. With no way out, I embraced my second child and waited for my fate,” the 58-year-old security guard of Apex Mining Co. Inc. (Amci) told the Inquirer on Monday, speaking in Cebuano.
Luckily for him and 8-year-old daughter Shaina Mae, the landslide buried only the half part of their house. Malacaste suffered bruises from fragments of rock and a shallow wound after his leg was punctured by a protruding nail.
“My daughter and I were able to crawl out of the house which was tilted,” he recalled. “It was pitch dark and very quiet.”
He then started calling the rest of his family. No one answered.
Filled with gratitude
Malacaste said he was at the evacuation center at Lorenzo Sarmiento National High School in Mawab town, some 25 kilometers from Maco, when news broke on Friday, some 60 hours after the landslide, that a child had been pulled alive from under the debris.
“I was astonished that she survived when her mother and her sister were not able to make it,” he said of his youngest daughter Sheena.
Rescuers had found the girl from under galvanized iron sheets torn from the roofs of homes and other debris.
Joseph Randy Loy, Davao de Oro’s provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, said it was possible that Sheena was able to breathe because of pockets of air under the rubble.
“I thank Allah for saving me and my children. We are now living our second lives,” Malacaste, a Muslim convert, said. “But I am as saddened that my wife and our other daughter were lost.”
The bodies of Leziel and Shaira were found hours after Sheena’s rescue.
Sheena, who sustained only light injuries, was rushed to the Doctors Community Hospital in Mawab that Friday. She is now in stable condition and recovering.
As of 5 p.m. on Monday, 14 more bodies were recovered, bringing the total fatalities to 68, with only five yet to be identified.
Of the dead, 26 were Amci workers and the other 42, villagers from Masara.
The missing are down to 51, from 63 on Sunday, with eight of them Amci employees, 19 from the company’s contractor Maria Socio-General Services, and the remaining 24 Masara residents.
Amid the continuing search and rescue efforts, Amci issued a disclosure on Monday saying that it expected lower sales volume and production given the limited capacity of its mine site.
“It is expected that a lower volume of gold and silver ounces will be produced and sold in the following shipment due to the limited operations,” the listed company said, adding that shipment and sale of metal products produced in January were completed before the Feb. 6 landslide.
The United States has sent two cargo aircraft to assist in delivering supplies to the affected communities.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has also deployed its troops to the joint effort with the US in their disaster relief mission. —WITH REPORTS FROM FRANCES MANGOSING AND JORDEENE B. LAGARE INQ