Low-key ‘Yolanda’ hero not forgotten
I have a duty. I’m an emergency responder.” Public school teacher Rogelio Lardera sent this text message to his younger sister while Supertyphoon “Yolanda” was unleashing strong winds and huge waves that would soon devastate the coastal town of Concepcion in northern Iloilo province on Nov. 8, 2013.
Lardera, 52, had just moved his wife, Leonora, and four children, aged 10 to 20, from their house to his parents’ in Barangay Loong when he texted his sister, Suzette de la Peña.
He set out to bring other residents to the municipal building at the height of the typhoon as a volunteer of the municipal rescue team.
The teacher died when he was struck by a broken tree branch and fell off a dump truck, which was carrying mostly children evacuees. He was among the 13 people who lost their lives in Concepcion, a third-class municipality (annual income: P35 million-P45 million) situated 109 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City.
On Yolanda’s second anniversary, local officials led by Mayor Millard Villanueva and residents unveiled Lardera’s memorial bust in a simple ceremony at the public plaza. Lardera’s widow, siblings and other family members were also present.
The 5.5-foot concrete bust will serve as a reminder for succeeding generations of Lardera’s selfless act, Villanueva said. The only other statue at the plaza is that of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Last year, the municipal council passed an ordinance declaring “Sir Roger,” as he was fondly called by his students at Concepcion Central School, a local hero.
“We remember and honor those who died but this anniversary commemoration is also to celebrate the people’s unity and to thank those who helped us,” Villanueva told the Inquirer.
In a program before the bust was unveiled, the town gave recognition to international nongovernment organizations that extended assistance to the survivors.
Melord Tupas, Lardera’s fellow teacher, said the faculty felt honored with Lardera’s monument.
“We are proud that he was one of us and that his heroism will always be remembered,” he said.
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