The spice of typhoon Labuyo, the wrath of typhoon Maring merged with the tempest of Habagat, and the exasperation of typhoon Nando deluged the significant areas all over the country, especially Manila and the respective places all over Laguna and Cavite. Many lives were spent. Some of the casualties were spared. These three successive typhoons left a devastating spell.
Among the numerous cities declared under the state of calamity was Sta. Rosa, Laguna. On the verge of this city, the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) Campus is situated. Since it’s part of Silang, Cavite, it’s not covered with that state; but who would have thought of the lurking catastrophe within its vicinity?
AUP Campus was spared from the deluge, but it was flooded figuratively with the tears of grief and lamentations for the loss of the three AUP working students, flushed by a flash flood, near the renown, hazardous Japanese Cave. AUP wasn’t spared from the loss of precious lives — literally lost and retrieved.
Since Sunday night, my FaceBook (FB) news feed was flooded with the updates and prayer requests for the retrieval of the three missing students. So, I offered prayers. Oblivious of the tragic incident, it was Monday afternoon when I finally learned about the specific persons who were drowned and were lost in the crazy current. And to my great surprise, one of my precious friends, Kat, was among them. I was TORN!
“Every habagat season in Tagaytay is extremely DANGEROUS because heavy rain is DEADLY to tributaries to Laguna lake, Taal lake, lowland Cavite, and lowland west Batangas.” ~ Jad Quiza
Unity in Adversity
On Monday morning, I was too occupied with the training at Pioneer Bldg., for the new batch of Community Disaster Risk Reduction Education Seminar trainees, given by the Philippine Public Safety and Order Support Group (PPSOSG). I’ve invited my recruit whom I just met on Saturday, and was motivated to join after I shared my experience in the training. Alarmed by the incident, I was reminded of Dr. Israel Virgines’ (Chief Director) lecture on meteorological hazards, especially regarding flash flood and flush flood. You shouldn’t tarry when signaled to retreat the flooded area, more during rescue operations. With flush flood, raging waters have logs, rocks and debris coming from the mountains are horribly disastrous.
In the afternoon, around 2:45 PM, I accompanied Ma’am Julie Diaz, our PPSOSG-NDO secretary towards Philippine International Church (PIC). Approaching the Head Quarters, I noticed the crowd: mixed student guards, faculty, staff, and the search and rescue team composed of Philippine National Police (PNP) – Special Action Force (SAF), Ambassador Mountaineering Club (AMC) volunteers, Philippine Life Saving (PLS) – AUP volunteers. I told Ms. Diaz I’ll take a picture after I asked some faculty friends about the update — still negative. They’ve just arrived from the second search and rescue operation which started after the incident on Sunday, around 5:00 PM at the river between Brgy. Casili and AUP. So I posted this picture in my FB account, which jump-start my correspondence. People has been asking for updates since, and I decided to blog it, but failed. So for the demand, I updated through FB; I just got more time to finally blog it today.
I noticed the weary and worn-out countenance of the search and rescue team. The man in white short-sleeves heralded: “We’ll wait for the body to float after 24-hour period…”, hence they ‘ll resume the search and rescue operations. I was dumbfounded!
I am grateful somehow that in the midst of this disheartening experience, the whole AUP family, together with goodhearted volunteers and prayer warriors all over the world, sympathized and helped the families and relatives of the victims. Unity amid diversity and adversity is a gift from heaven. I believed God is working closely with everyone.
High Hopes over False Hope
For superstitious people, butterfly has been an omen of death, same with a moth. I respect their belief, but I don’t believe that way. That afternoon, after my encounter with the crowd at the AUP Head Quarters at AUP, I saw this butterfly. As a butterfly lover, I never thought of a negative connotation. I actually held its wings. But lo and behold, it remained immovable. I took a picture of it, then that night, I posted it in FB. Weird as it seemed, but butterflies are elusive!
I was praying fervently for peace and for the search and rescue team’s guidance and endurance, knowing that the operations aren’t a joke. It’s a LIFE RISK in itself.
I was hoping, false hope as it may appear now, that somehow their bodies were just brought by the current somewhere and other goodhearted people rescued them. I was anticipating that the victims would be able to survive. I had high hopes. But those were indeed false hope as reality slapped me hard. Even the best experienced swimmer wouldn’t be able to conquer the turbulence of flash flood with sharp objects.
“Swim? EASIER said than done!!! Strong water current will EASILY carry you were it want to carry you. We, members of the search & rescue team almost lost our lives too in the process of recovering the dead bodies.” ~ Jad Quiza (volunteer)
Mr. Jad Quiza, and the rest of the search and rescue team were indeed the UNSUNG HEROES who took the great risk to retrieve the bodies of the missing students. They had high hopes, great faith that God would spare them to accomplish their mission. He continued:
“…Painstaking efforts almost took our lives too! We lost our cellphones under the water, we drank river water, and once in a while we were carried by strong river current… thanks to our long huge ropes!”
When Terror Lingers
For several hours starting Monday night, I’ve waited patiently for updates. Begging for peace, I remained online on FB and posted several encouragements. But the lingering terror of the outcome of the search and rescue operations punched me hard, I had nothing to struggle for, gave up my fears to God and slept with heavy heart.
Late last night, before I had my slumber, I’ve read the whole story behind the 3 AUP Students flushed in the flash flood. I surrender my lingering fears and anticipations before God’s throne of grace. I haven’t heard any recent update yet. But I felt peace as the stillness of the wee hours succumbs me to numbness.
Why I feel this way Lord?
I’ll blog whatever outcome of the further search & rescue operations tomorrow. Keep posted.
Be STILL and KNOW that God is GOD!
Here’s the WHOLE STORY behind the missing students, kindly read:
Then in the morning, I heard the news of the retrieval… Here’s a first-hand FB update from one of the volunteers:
Three AUP Students in a Flash Flood near AUP found DEAD!!!
18 AUP working students left AUP campus Sunday, 25 August ’13 with individual passes (having different reasons for their gate passes) assembled outside AUP and went to the Japanese cave in Canlubang Sunday mid-morning. They crossed the river between Brgy. Casili and AUP on their way back few minutes passed 5 pm disregarding the moderate river water current, with them was only a small & short piece of rope as the other members of their group attempted to rescue those that were caught at the middle of the river when it rained heavily and the river water suddenly rose despite them taking refuge on top of the huge stone, the mighty waters swept and carried them all the way to the river in Calamba, Laguna.
Search & rescue operations began right away early Sunday evening, members of the search & rescue team in full gear with large ropes persisted through the strong river current did their best to locate the 3 missing AUP students. Search and rescue operations lasted until Tuesday when the two confirmed female bodies of Kat Taroquin and Kim Guardians were found in the river of Brgy. Looc, Calamba @ 9:49 a.m. and confirmed male body (jay Mellapis) was also found @ 10:28 a.m. in Brgy, San Cristobal, Laguna. ~Jad Quiza (verbatim)
Mr. Jad Quiza also notified the media: “I was the one who notified ABS-CBN channel 2, GMA channel 7, and UNTV channel 37″
Here are some online news which surprised me, seeing a lot of errors; so FYI: it’s not a camping, it was a hiking trip, unknown to many. Please read the whole story:
ABS-CBN News Online: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/08/28/13/3-students-found-dead-laguna
WHOLE STORY written by Pastor Max Cadalig & edited by Dr. Gracel Ann Salangsang-Saban: An OPEN LETTER From the AUP President
That’s it! Finally they were found!
Everything sank in! My heart dropped.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Part 2: “Scars Wounded Afresh”
© 2013 LAF
Note: Photos of the search and rescue credit to Jad Quiza ” An Unsung Hero “, and the direct quotes were taken from his FB account with permission. Photos of the victims were taken from FB.
Second part of this story is focused more on the memorial service and epiphanies while grieving. Don’t miss it!