Iligan’s funeral parlors deal with “the worst ever” disaster

ILIGAN CITY  (MindaNews/18 December) –  “The worst ever,” 81-year old Elena Mansueto, owner of the Mansueto Funeral Homes, said of  Saturday’s flashfloods that claimed the lives of at least 194 fellow Iliganons.

Mansueto has been in the funeral business since her husband opened it in 1952 but in their nearly  six decades of service, this was the largest number of  cadavers — 55 (53 identified, two still unidentified)  — that they had to attend to in a single day.

The number cadavers brought to them from Saturday’s floods has surpassed the highest number of dead brought to them from a single incident at the height of the armed conflict in the 1970s. She recalls a truckload of 30 soldiers delivered to them from an ambush or encounter in the neighboring Lanao provinces.

“We  slept at 5 a.m. already (Sunday),” said Mansueto, who had long retired from embalming but because of the huge number, picked up her instruments again to embalm the children,  her daughter Evelyn Relucio, said.

She showed MindaNews a list of 53 names representing the cadavers identified. There are two more cadavers  awaiting identification, she said.

The Mansuetos  had stopped accepting cadavers even as more were brought to them and they expect more from the retrieval operations because “we still had to attend to the other cadavers.”

Very shocking”

At the Capin Funeral Homes in Camague where 105 cadavers were brought as of  7:30 Sunday morning,  it was the second day the stench of decaying flesh and formalin assaulted anyone who dared enter the building.

Danilo Capin, owner of the funeral parlor, had to hire more embalmers and ask funeral parlors in neighboring towns for more coffins.

A licensed embalmer and former employee of a network of funeral homes who set up his own business in 1993, Capin says this was the highest number of cadavers they had to attend to – more than the 42 cadavers from the flashfloods in Linamon, Lanao del Norte a couple of years ago.

“Very shocking kaayo” (It’s too shocking), he said.

He said more cadavers were brought to them because his is the only funeral parlor that offers a special package for indigents, paid for by the congressman.

But there is hardly any space for the dead in the building, parts of which are still under construction.

Juvy Maganoy, a worker in a construction nearby, described what he saw as “murag massacre” (like a massacre). Maganoy meant there were so many cadavers on the floor it felt like viewing victims of a massacre).

At the San Guillermo Funeral homes in downtown Iligan,  no personnel was around when MindaNews visited at 8:30 a.m. Sunday but seven cadavers were still lined up on the driveway, unattended to.

Marilou Asjali, a teacher at the Iligan City East Central Elementary School, who was attending to the wake of  her 72-year old mother Emilia Dorio and 15-year old niece Rochelle Anne Nuval, said she estimates between “20 to 30” cadavers were brought to this funeral home on Saturday. “Giuli na ang uban”  (the rest are not here anymore).

There were only three victims left behind in the funeral home early Sunday morning, two of them  Asjali’s mother and niece.

Fourteen cadavers were brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor.

At the Mary Venus Funeral Homes in the outskirts of Iligan, on the highway to Cagayan de Oro City, Al Entera, the owner, said about 20 bodies were brought to his funeral parlor on Saturday, all of them he declined to accept because of the power outage in the area.

He explained his location was also very far from the city’s medico-legal officer  so the process would take even much longer. He advised those who brought the bodies to proceed to Capin which is on the highway leading to Marawi and Zamboanga. (Carolyn O.Arguillas/MindaNews)