SITIO DIAT, Napnapan, Pantukan (MindaNews/06 January) – Miner Bernard Tolentino could not just watch rescuers dig through the debris. Using a spade, he dug and dug in search of the body of eight-year old Cho-cho, the fourth daughter he lost to Thursday’s landslide.
A day earlier, the bodies of his three other daughters – Ivy, 14; Sheena Mae, 12; and Bea, 6 – were retrieved from the spot Tolentino was now digging.
Rescuers from the military, police, miners, search and rescue groups and local villagers have been deployed to the landslide. Search and rescue operations were suspended at 4 p.m. Thursday but resumed early Friday morning with at least a hundred volunteers.
The landslide struck at 3 a.m. on Thursday, klling at least 27 persons, including Tolentino’s three daughters. Cho-cho is not yet included in the list of 27 as the number represents only the bodies retrieved.
Tolentino, a widower who works for Hexat Mining, said he left for Sitio Boringot on January 4 to earn extra income since operations in Hexat would resume on January 10 yet.
The Tolentinos reside in the poblacion about two hours’ ride by motorcycle. But he brought his daughters to their bunkhouse here on December 27. He said they were supposed to return to the poblacion to celebrate New Year but stayed on because they had no money for motorcycle fare. It costs P300 per person to return downtown.
“Our house is located 20 meters away from the spot where my three daughters were retrieved by the villagers,” the 39-year old miner said.
Randy Cobrado, a miner since 2004, managed to rescue the six-year old Bea as soon as the rocks and soil stopped falling.
“Katong bata, si Bea daw to, mao ako na nakarga pasaka pero namatay man daw bag-o pa kaabot sa Crossing Tibagon” (The girl Bea, I carried her up to where it’s safe but I was told she died before reaching Crossing Tibagon), Cobrado said.
Tibagon, one of the alternate routes to the landslide site, is at least two hours by motorcycle from the poblacion.
Cobrado said the landslide missed his house by a few inches. But rocks damaged the roof.
The night before the landslide, he was in a drinking spree with his neighbors until 11 p.m.
“Milakaw na ko atong orasa kay mejo daghan na sad nainom. Pero sila, nag inom pa to hantud magbuntag na. Naapil hinuon sila sa natabunan” (I left them at around that time because I drank much. But they continued drinking until morning. They were among those who were buried), Cobrado said.
Cobrado said he was awakened by rumblings, prompting him to jump out of his house and run to higher ground.
Tolentino is not alone in losing children to the landslide.
Antonio Dayami, 47, lost two of his three sons — Christopher, 17, and Jayson,18. But 16-year old Raymart survived.
“Dugay na kami dire ga trabaho sa tunnel. Ako daan 10 years na ko dire ga mina-mina. Murag naanad na mi aning landslide dire” We have been here for a long time. I have been working in this small-scale mining operations for the last 10 years. We’re used to landslides here), he told MindaNews.
The last time he was with his sons was on Wednesday. He said they went down to celebrate New Year then returned to the minesite on January 3.
At 3 a.m. on January 5, the landslide cut a swath of destruction 350 meters from the ridgeline, 50-meters wide.
Rescue volunteers are focusing their work at the bottom where most of the bodies were retrieved.
Records from the Incident Command Post of the Disaster Risk Reduction Managmeent Council (DRRMC) set up near the town hall showed that of 27 retrieved bodies, 23 had been identified. Of the eight reported missing, three were found dead. Of the 16 rescued, nine were rushed to the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City for head injuries, only six have remained, one of them still in critical condition. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)