Plane crash victims identified through dental records return home

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 07 July) — Vilma Monera of Maramag, Bukidnon wept as six military trucks bearing flag-draped white caskets rolled into the parking lot of the gym at the 4thInfantry Division headquarters here on Wednesday afternoon.

A military aide gently took her hand and guided her to the casket bearing the remains of her son, Army Private Vic Monera, 22, but when she tried to open the casket and was told gently that she cannot, she broke down in tears.

Rachel Maestro (in green) weeps as she embraces the flag-draped sealed casket of her husband, Army Sgt. Butch Maestro, at the 4th Infantry Division gym in Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Rachel Maestro, wife of Army Sgt. Butch Maestro of Balingoan, Misamis Oriental also wept when she was told she could not open his casket.

Maestro just held on to the Philippine flag that draped her husband’s casket.

“Most were burned beyond recognition. That is the reason we have to seal the caskets,”  Major Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said.

Monera and Maestro are  lucky their loved ones were identified immediately.

Brawner said only 19 of the 52 confirmed dead in the C-130 plane crash in Sulu on Sunday, July 4, were identified through their dental records.

The rest who could not be identified through dental records will be identified through DNA tests.

The 55-year-old Monera recalled how she pleaded with her son not to join the Philippine Army.

“I wanted him to join the maritime fleet. He did not listen,” Monera said.

A military honor detail carries one of six caskets from the Philippine Air Force C295 plane which brought the remains of six soldiers killed in the July 4, 2021 C-130 crash in Patikul Sulu to Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday, July 7, 2021. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Vic, the eldest of her three children, was a graduate of Bachelor Science in Maritime Transportation and had plied the Cebu-Manila interisland route aboard a passenger ship but lost his job when the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year.

Her son came home to their two-hectare farm in Maramag, Bukidnon dejected.

“He said he wanted to help us. He also wanted to marry his girlfriend,” she said.

Monera’s son and Maestro’s husband were among six soldiers whose remains were flown to Lumbia Airport here on board a Philippine Air Force C295 Wednesday morning.

Honor guards keep watch on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 during the wake at the 4th Infantry Division gym in Cagayan de Oro City for six soldiers who perished three days earlier in the C-130 crash in Patikul, Sulu. The remains of the six were flown to the city Wednesday morning after they were identified through their dental records. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Brawner said military probers used dental records of the dead soldiers to determine their identities.

He said the 4th Infantry Division sent to Zamboanga City copies of the dental records of the soldiers who died in the crash.

Major Francisco Garello, Jr., 4ID spokesperson identified the six soldiers whose remains were flown to this city as Sgt. Butch Maestro of Balingoan town, Misamis Oriental; Private Raymar Carmona  of Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte; and the four from Bukidnon — Private Marcelino Alquisar of Impasugong; Privates Mark Nash Lumanta and Vic Monera of Maramag; and Private Mel Mark Angana of Malaybalay City.

After an overnight vigil at the gym, they will be transported to their respective hometowns on Thursday.

Three more soldiers who were identified were transported to their hometowns in Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental on Wednesday, he said.

The 4ID recruited 86 of the soldiers who took the C-130 plane that crashed in Patikul, Sulu on Sunday.

They were supposed to be deployed to the 11th Infantry Division in Jolo, Sulu to fight the Abu Sayyaf. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)