CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 December) – Muslims prayed side by side with their Christian friends Thursday in remembrance of those who died and remained missing when tropical storm Sendong devastated communities here and in Iligan City four years ago.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma said Muslim leaders led by Ustadz Alaisa Alinog prayed together with other religious leaders during the Misa de Gallo (traditional Christmas dawn mass) at the St. Agustin Cathedral Thursday.
Ledesma said the Muslims and their Christian friends later exchanged stories on how their communities are coping four years after the destruction wrought by Sendong.
He said the Muslims and their Christian friends later exchanged stories on how their communities are coping up four years after the destruction of tropical storm Sendong.
“Like us, the Muslims in this city suffered as well. Many of their houses were also flooded and many of them have relatives who died during the flash floods,” he told his parishioners in Sitio Cala-cala, Barangay Macasandig, this city.
The prelate said Muslims and Christians also marched from Rodelsa rotunda to Gaston Park where they held an interfaith prayer led by Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independeiente and Monsignor Rey Monsanto of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese.
At the height of Sendong, floodwaters swept away many houses of Maranao Muslims in Barangay Balulang, this city.
Only their mosque, the Sharief Alawi Islamic Center, was spared by the flash floods that inundated most of the houses in Balulang.
Although there are no exact figures of how many Maranaos died during the tragedy, the death toll in Cagayan de Oro reached over 670 while 490 persons also died in nearby Iligan City.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council in its final report on Sendong said at least 181 persons are still listed as missing.
The National Bureau of Investigation conducted DNA tests and buried over 200 bodies in an unmarked concrete vault in the city public cemetery in Bolonsiri, Barangay Camaman-an.
It also conducted DNA tests and buried 128 unidentified bodies in Iligan City.
Among the missing in Cagayan de Oro are the five children of 36-year old Alma Beromoy.
Beromoy said she went to the NBI office in Cagayan de Oro four years ago to have her DNA taken in the hope of finding her children.
She said she kept on going back to the NBI office for news about her missing children but was told that the entire process of matching the DNA samples could not be completed because there was no longer money for it.
“I kept on asking where all the money donated by the foreign governments went. Can a small amount be used to find my children,” she said.
She said she missed her children—Angel, 7; Mary Grace, 6; Jasmine, 5; Christian 4; and one year old Ariel—very much.
“I just want to know what happened to them and bring closure to this,” she said.
Beromoy said their family was asleep in their house in Sitio Cala-cala when the flash floods triggered by Sendong came.
She said her husband brought them to the second floor of a neighbor’s house believing they were safe there.
“But the waters kept rising and I held on to my children as we climbed to the roof,” she narrated.
Next thing she knew, the waters washed away her neighbor’s house along with them on the rooftop.
She said she woke up the following morning floating on bamboo poles in Macajalar Bay near Opol town, Misamis Oriental. Her children were nowhere to be found. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)