Kin of dead Maharlika 2 passengers cope with loss; some anxious of the future

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/19 September) — For some families of the passengers who died when MV/Marharlika 2 sank off Southern Leyte over the weekend, the loss did not only mean grief – it also meant the end of their dreams for a better life.

Until now, some of them couldn’t believe that their loves ones perished in the sea tragedy, exactly a week ago today (Friday), and their hopes were shattered upon receiving the heartbreaking news that they were among the cadavers recovered by rescuers.

Betty Montecello Bahi of Barobo in Surigao del Sur, was among those who died in last Saturday’s sinking of MV Maharlika II off Pintuyan, Southern Leyte. She had worked in Saudi Arabia for six years and was supposed to leave the country Wednesday.

“We were worried at first because her employer from Saudi Arabia called us that our daughter was in trouble because her vessel was about to capsize,” her parents, Jaime and Norma Bahi, said.

“We tried to contact her but the phone just kept ringing at that time,” they recalled.

Betty’s younger sister Jessamie said that maybe Betty did not want her parents and other siblings to worry about her ordeal at the vessel. Until they got news that Betty was among the dead passengers.

Betty, the eldest of eight siblings, acted as the family’s breadwinner. Jessamie said her sister sent part of her monthly income to her family for their needs.

“Now she is gone, we don’t know what to do; she is the best sister ever. She supported me during my college days until I graduated last year. She is the only provider in our family,” Jessamie said.

Betty also provided the needs of her other sister, Jemina, a college student in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur.

“Wala na ang magpaiskwela nako, wala nakong ate” (The person who supported my studies is dead, my elder sister is gone), said Jemina, who broke into tears.

“She provided our needs in small-scale mining. She gave everything to us,” Betty’s father said.

A single parent, Betty left behind two children, Ella, 8, and Kimboy, 9. Her parents are now taking care of her children.

Betty was supposed to marry next year Adeel Bashir, a Pakistani.

Jessamie said Bashir was hospitalized after learning of her fiancé’s death. “Tulala pa hangtod karon, nag istorya man kami sa Skype” (He’s still in a state of shock, we talked on Skype).

Jessamie said their plans for her return next year is now gone. “We talked and planned several things when she comes back next year after her wedding. She said her would-be husband will visit us in Borobo.”

Betty was found floating by the Philippine Navy Boat near Hagakhak Island in Basilisa, Dinagat Province. She was buried last Wednesday in her hometown.

His brother said they needed to bury her body as it was already about to decompose.

For Jessie Saberon, 57, a survivor, he said he couldn’t imagine how her two-year-old granddaughter Tiffany died and how she missed her.

Saberon said they raised the child after her biological mother left the baby to her care.

Like Betty, Tiffany was found on Monday afternoon floating lifeless near Hagakhak Island.

Saberon said her husband, Felizardo, 61, is still missing. But she said she had given him up for dead. She doubted her husband could survive by the strong waves that night.

“I don’t know what to do, I don’t what to go back to Laguna if I can’t see my husband. It’s like I lost half of life without him, I relied on him,” she said in tears.

Jessie and Felizardo had been married for 36 years.

Maharlika 2, operated and managed by PhilHarbor Ferries and Port Services Inc., left Lipata port here for Liloan, Southern Leyte on Saturday morning despite the strong winds and rough seas. It developed a steering problem after over an hour of sailing.

The vessel carried 58 passengers and 26 crewmembers based on the manifest. But it turned out the boat actually has 32 crewmembers and 89 passengers aboard.

At 2 p.m., survivors said the boat leaned on its starboard and began to sink. At 5:30 p.m. the ship’s skipper declared “abandon ship.” By 6 p.m., the boat dived, together with its 13 rolling cargoes.

At least eight people were dead — Nelson Custodio, 56, chief engineer of Maharlika 2, from Liloan, So. Leyte; Ramon Molato, 69, from Bacolod City; Ret. Army Col. Armando Mosqueda, 64, of Carmen, Cagayan De Oro City; Gloriosa Manawatao, 56, of Bislig City; Arlita Puyales, 50, of Parang, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur; Betty M. Bahi, 30, an OFW from UAE; Rahima Esmael, 25, of Mamasapano, Maguindanao; and Akirha Tiffany Saberon, 2, of San Pedro, Laguna.

The Coast Guard said Felizardo Saberon, Alberto Labadan of Bislig City, and Noel Colminar, 38, of Basey, Samar were still missing. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)