ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews /13 June) — Visitors have been flocking to the Capin Funeral Homes here everyday since May 27 in search of loved ones who have not come home from Marawi, have not contacted them at all or had earlier gotten in touch with them but could no longer be reached.
“Thousands na,” Danilo Capin, licensed embalmer and funeral director, told MindaNews Tuesday afternoon, referring to those who came to the funeral homes to look for their loved ones. He said they received several inquiries by phone but mostly they come over to check.
Out of the 20 bodies brought to the funeral parlor from Marawi between May 27 and June 9, only nine have been claimed as of June 12 while the remaining 11, in white cadaver bags provided by the Department of Health, are awaiting claimants.
All eleven, Capin said, are beyond recognition as they are in an advanced stage of decomposition. But a team from the Philippine National Police’s Crime Laboratory composed of members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) and the Disaster Victims Identification (DVI) had come on Sunday, June 11, for post-mortem examination, including taking tissue samples for DNA test, photos and tagging the cadavers.
Capin, whose funeral parlor took in the most number of cadavers in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong in 2011, said most of those who flocked to the then one-floor funeral parlor (now a two-story building) came from this city but this time, the relatives come mostly from outside.
He said a mother from Initao in Misamis Oriental sold chickens for fare to this city to look for her 21-year old son who worked in a bakery in Marawi.
She did not find him here.
Capin said parents from Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte, sold their refrigerator just so they could come to Iligan to find out if their son, Mamao Liwalug, a worker at a rice mill in Marawi, was among those in the funeral parlor. He was.
Claimants need not shell out money to retrieve their dead from the funeral parlor, Capin said, adding the Provincial Crisis Management Committee (PCMC) in Lanao del Sur is making the arrangements.
According to their records, two decomposed bodies were brought to the Capin Funeral Homes at around 5 p.m. on May 27; 14 bodies on May 28 — six decomposed bodies at 2 p.m. (two women, one girl and three men) and eight more at 4 p.m. (all male).
On June 3, at 10:20 a.m., one P03 Gopong brought a decomposed headless body but Capin said it was not through decapitation but due to exposure to elements.
On June 4, at 11:05 a.m., two decomposed cadavers were brought to the funeral parlor and on June 9, at 8:54 a.m., the decomposed cadaver of a male.
Identified and claimed by their relatives are Democrito Bagundol, Jr. of Barangay Dalipuga in Iligan, Joey C. Antigua Lopez of Lopez Jaena in Misamis Occidental, Ronald A. Bana-ag of Dinas in Zamboanga del Sur, Rey B. Polesteco of Dimataling in Zamboanga del Sur, Aliyaswer Condor H. Salam of Tamparan in Lanao del Sur, Mamao Liwalug of Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Alan B. Balatayo of Sultan Kudarat, Restnel B. Badelic of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental and Jason Navarro of Salvador, Lanao del Norte.
Capin said the unidentified bodies will be buried at the public cemetery in Dalipuga as soon as they get the clearances from the City Health of Iligan, City Health of Marawi, the SOCO and Department of Interior and Local Government.
He said he asked the City Government of Iligan to allow him to bury the remains as they are also preparing for the arrival of bodies from Marawi once the conflict zone is cleared.
Capin Funeral Homes has been identified in the protocols for retrieval of dead bodies in Marawi.
Capin assured relatives of those who have missing loved ones that the bodies have been properly documented and the DNA tests conducted. He also said they will ensure there would be Muslim and Christian religious leaders to do the final rites
The management has prepared a Photographs of the cadavers are available for relatives to see. But some, Capin said, ask that the body bags be opened while a number end up walking away because of the smell.
At the lobby of the funeral homes on Tuesday, relatives of Roel Jomillo looked at the photos of dead bodies. Jomillo, who hails from Barangay Maria Cristina in Iligan has been missing since May 23. His sister, Marivic, said they have lost hope that Roel is still alive after a fellow truck driver told them he saw how the gunmen killed him.
The relatives did not enter the morgue.
In Marawi City, Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the PCMC on Monday called on residents who have missing family members to provide the necessary information to the help desks they will be setting up in Marawi and Iligan cities.
The same call is addressed to families who are not from Marawi but have family members who were working in Marawi when the clashes started on May 23. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews with a report from Froilan Gallardo)