It seemed like a perfect day for everyone on board the vessel. Many of the passengers were families, like the Eugenio’s who were looking forward to spending time together as they ventured on their first outing as a clan.
Ramon, Franco’s father, sat beside his parents - Franklin and Daisy, while Ramon’s wife, Monique sat beside him and beside her were the children and their yayas. Towards the front of the boat sat Ramon’s younger brother, Carl, his wife, and their two children.
From the beginning of the trip, Monique said she had felt antsy about the trip. “I was counting the passengers as they got on board, checked for the safety of the boat. I kept looking around and asked the barker if the waters were going to be calm that day…” Monique counted 40 passengers that sat across her, in a boat that
the Coast Guard would ascertain later in an Inquirer news report, was only allowed to carry 42 passengers and 5 crew members. “There was just something unsettling about the trip…” Monique adds, ” and the ferry’s engine would shut off, every time big waves would hit it.”
And then, after about 45 minutes, approximately 20 minutes away from their destination, the passengers heard a loud crack, and the boat keeled over and flipped.
“It was your worst nightmare…” Monique relates as she looks into the distance, “the bags and the children… everyone just started to slip and then the boat just filled up with water,” she says of those frantic minutes. Franco’s yaya, had tried to hold on to him for dear life as they both sank but the waters were rushing like mad. Still she managed to grab onto a portion of his shirt, until the sheer weight of the water and her need for oxygen, forced her to let go of the tiny portion of his shirt she had left clutching in her hands.
Monique on the other hand, was able to pull out Anton of the sinking boat but it seemed like it was too late for the one and half year old toddler. Meanwhile, someone else had managed to fish Franco’s older brother, Paolo, 9 out of the waters and placed him on top of the boat. The unidentified man, also a passenger of the boat, kept Paolo company until his mother and father could get to him. On the other side of the boat, Ramon had been valiantly trying to save his mother, Daisy but it was to no avail.
The rescue boats came after 40 agonizing minutes. Franco’s yaya told this writer that if the rescue boats had come a few minutes later they would all have been goners. “The boat had already begun to sink by the time they arrived,” Monique says. Worse, as Ramon narrated in a PDI story today two boats had passed them by, he had taken off his shirt and waved frantically at them, but the boats did not bother to stop and help.
What have we come to as a people? Have be become so callous so as not to stop and help a brother in need? How could those two boats in conscience, have gone on in their journey, having seen the sinking boat and knowing that so many lives were at stake? And the gall, of those people on those two boats, to even have the temerity to take photos and videos of the sinking ferry? What has happenned to us, a supposedly caring nation, that we have become so desensitized to the the needs of others? I wonder what those people on the boat must be feeling now, knowing that they have the blood of three innocent children, and nine adults on their hands?
Many questions beg to be answered… Why have we not learned from the countless tragedies in the past of overloaded vessels and total disregard for life and safety? Who regulates the maintenance of the ferries that leave the Batangas port? What safety measures have been set in place — even after countless sea mishaps such as these have taken place? How many more lives do we need to lose before we earn our lessons?
Last night, at the wake, a heavy pall of gloom and sadness filled the church as a grandmother and her two grandsons, lay in state, one on each of her side. Daisy, the wonderful and caring wife, mother and grandmother that she was lay in an eternal slumber. Franco and Anton, clutching their favorite toys, bright colored cars in their tiny, chubby fingers, looked like they were only sleeping, with smiles on their faces. One must find consolation and strength in knowing that the boys were not able to feel any pain as they fell into the water, that the Father had safely picked them up and brought them safely to the shores of heaven where they now live for all eternity.
We who are left behind, mourn their loss and can only pray that in the wake of their departure, a greater meaning to their loss will be found, and that measures to prevent future tragedies from happenning will finally, be set into place.