Dead Tacloban firefighters honored as heroes

by Andrew Jonathan Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 04 2013 08:42 PM | Updated as of Dec 05 2013 04:49 AM

TACLOBAN CITY - Sirens wailed through downtown Tacloban as firefighters paid tribute to comrades who died during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda.

At a motorcade that waded through the city's main streets under the heat of day, members of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) stood guard over a casket draped with a flag and perched atop a fire truck.

It represented not only one, but 5 fire service officers washed away by floodwaters while they rescued relatives and compatriots.

The BFP is still busy with relief, recovery, and restoration efforts, but the work was temporarily halted Wednesday morning to honor SFO4 Ricardo Raga, SFO3 Marius Andre Sison, FO2 Rolando Cinco, FO1 Felix Miranda, and FO1 Melquiades Baguio.

All fire servicemen were on red alert during the storm. Their bodies were found days later and buried soon after.

"They responded to the call of duty, I respect them so much," said Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, the BFP director for Region VIII. "They're really heroes."

Florentina Sison could not hold back sobs as she sprinkled holy water on the symbolic casket at the memorial service outside the damaged regional fire service headquarters building. She remained teary-eyed throughout the entire service.

Her son, Marius, returned home to secure his house and rescue his family as the storm surge bore down on Tacloban City.

Marius, his wife, and their 3 children walked hand-in-hand through the flood, but were separated from each other. Only the youngest child survived after he latched on a steel bar.

Three of their bodies were later recovered at a neighboring seminary. One of Marius's children is still missing.

Every night, Florentina remembers her lost family members when she is alone.

"If only God took me instead of them," she told reporters as she broke down. "It's really painful."

Cinco, Miranda, and Baguio were stationed in Tanauan, Leyte and lost their lives saving children from the floods.

Mamoliano Baguio is another grieving relative who has to bury his child instead of the other way around. They found Melquiades Baguio's body after eight days.

"I can't do anything. The Lord took him. I am very proud," Baguio said.

But he is already thinking of what's next for his son's young daughters.

"What they need are scholarships. I hope I get help," he said. "We're getting relief, but that easily runs out."

Their fellow firefighters lighted candles and offered flowers to the 5 officers.

They opened hoses from their trucks as a water salute, while police officers fired a 21-gun salute. All the while, a lone trumpeter played taps and fire trucks rang out their sirens.

This was the first memorial activity for fallen servicemen lost in the typhoon.

Amid the struggle to rebuild following Yolanda, a convoy of fire trucks carrying a flag-draped casket brought back to Tacloban residents the memories of heroism that kept many alive during the storm.

But it also reminded them of the selflessness now needed on the road to recovery.