Still missing: Maykaela, Carmelita, Farrlah….

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/25 December) – The photograph of five-year old Maykaela P. Mansueto is just one among many posted on the walls of the Capin Funeral Homes in Camague, the message above the photograph in huge fonts, all caps: “Still Missing.”

It is Friday afternoon,  December 23, six days after the flash floods that killed at least 300 residents, displaced 15,000 families and rendered  hundreds of persons missing in this city,  including the little girl on the photograph who was last seen “wearing Mickey Mouse shirt and pink shorts.”

Above the bond-size message printout on Maykaela is another printout containing four photographs of the missing members of the Deano family: Christina B. Deano, 44; Jed Anthony B. Deano, 22; Kriscole B. Deano, 3; and Farrlah B. Deano, 8.

When MindaNews first visited the funeral parlor afternoon of December 17 and early morning of December 18, the photographs were not on the wall. Some of them were lovingly held by relatives asking the management of the funeral parlor if they could recognize their loved one or loved ones on the photograph from among the cadavers brought there.

As of  morning of December 19, 105 cadavers had been brought to Capin. By December 23, Danilo Capin,  owner and manager, said they received a total of 170 cadavers, 130 of them identified, the remaining 40 unidentified. Most of the dead have been claimed and buried, he said.

On the left, beside the message printout on Maykaela, is another printout containing a photograph of five women wearing shorts, all smiling and posing like beauty queens. Their names are not indicated, only two mobile phone numbers written under the “Missing” message. They could be a mother and her daughters, or sisters, or friends.

Another  photograph on the wall is that of 61-year old Carmelita Solomon-Anasco.

Above her photograph are two computer printouts containing a photograph each of Isabel Bianca Solis and Rhean Julia Solis – apparently sisters; Isabel estimated to be 4 years old, Rhean likely two.

At the corridor leading to the main chapel, more photographs on the missing are found on the wall. But there are other photographs as well — no longer of smiling faces — but decomposing corpses recovered but not yet identified by relatives. Their tissue samplings had been taken by forensics personnel and the corpses taken to a temporary burial site, said Capin.

Photographs of  personal effects like wedding rings were also posted along with the photographs of the cadavers.

Relatives of the missing took efforts to describe their missing loved one, hoping the description of what he or she wore,  would help. “Missing: Remedios L. Rubio. Wearing black sleeveless (shirt) and blue short. Wedding ring 4 pcs diamond stone, 35 years old, 5’4” have CS operation.”

While most of the messages are computer printouts, there is one handwritten message describing in Binisaya the identifying marks of the person on the photograph: 70-year old Antonio Ylaya. The message also indicated he slept alone in his child’s house in Bayug, the hardest hit village in the city.

On December 19, MindaNews saw a young couple at the office of Capin informing his secretary, Gina Mae Azures, that one of the cadavers in the funeral parlor was their four-year old son. But they were still looking for their three other children, one aged six, another aged two and the youngest, four months old. “Mag-four (months old) to siya karon” (He would have turned four months old today), she said, as she covered her mouth to stifle a cry. Nearby, her husband looked away, tears flowing down his face. They lost all their four children.

Capin says his funeral parlor received 170 cadavers from the December 17 floods, the highest ever since he opened the business in 1993.  On normal days, his funeral parlor would serve an average of 100 a month, under the program of the congressman intended for indigent residents.

Azures told MindaNews afternoon of December 23 that they continued to receive inquiries from residents bringing with them photographs of their missing loved ones.

She said relatives started posting the photographs on the wall on Monday, December 19.

“Makakuha mig patay duha, tapos naa sila’y kulang pitol makkuha mig patay lima naa sila kulang lima. Makakuha mig patay isa naa silay kulang walo. Makakuha mig duha naa silay kulang dose kabuok sa ilang pamilya” (We have two corpses, they’re still looking for seven others; we find five, they are looking for five more; we have one, they’re looking for eight others. We find two and they’re still looking for 12 more missing in their family), Capin said.

He recalled how a mother, clutching a dead baby, arrived in the funeral parlor afternoon of December 17, repeatedly mumbling that another daughter was missing. When she put down her lifeless baby on one side, she realized the cadaver beside the baby was her missing daughter.

“Nakahilak ko uy. Sakit kaayo,” (I cried. It was so painful), Capin told MindaNews.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)