Kalvin Melchor uses the backhoe his father disappeared in to recover his remains.
BENGUET, Philippines – As of Thursday, September 20, nine volunteer rescuers were confirmed dead in Barangay Loacan in the municipality of Itogon after a part of the slope eroded while they were searching for victims from a previous landslide in the area.
They were residents of Sitio Sabkil, who volunteered to help the authorities searching for family members inside a house that was pressed by the eroded soil.
The group was able to rescue the patriarch of the family and his daughter. The father is now recovering at a hospital but the child eventually died.
“Naka-11 na po tayong nahanap out of 15 na nawawala. So may dalawa pa pong hinahanap ngayon, isang driver ng backhoe and then iyong rescuer po,” said Army Major Mark Antony Ruelos, the team leader of the search and rescue, retrieval team in Barangay Loacan.
Dominador Siblag Jr. was hesitant to allow his son, 22 year-old Mark Anthony, when he asked to volunteer in the search operation.
He recalled how his son insisted in joining the mission despite the unfavorable weather.
Despite his death, Dominador said he couldn’t be more proud of his son.
“Sa akin po eh, si Anthony, hero po iyan sa akin,” Dominador said.
Janette Dimaslao also recalled how her husband, Hector, was willing to risk his life to help in the operation. Hector was a ‘spotter’ for signs of life or bodies of victims in the landslide area.
“Kung talagang may nangangailangan ng tulong, lagi siyang handang tumulong. Sabi nga niya: ‘Sa pagtulong hindi naman natin iyan nagagawa palagi. Pero kapag will mo, gagawin mo ang lahat ng makakaya mo para tulungan ang mga nangangailangan’,” she recalled her husband as saying.
But for Kalvin Melchor, the long wait is agonizing because until now, the body of his father who served as the backhoe operator has not been found yet.
The backhoe, however, was already recovered.
Kalvin is determined to use the same backhoe to recover his father’s remains.
“Patuloy pa rin po ang operation sa paghahanap sa tatay ko. Kasi mahirap, masakit ang nararamdaman namin ngayon na pamilya niya,” Kalvin said.
As of this writing, the search and retrieval operations are ongoing in various parts of Itogon, Benguet where landslide incidents are recorded. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)