MANILA – A cancer patient who jumped off the burning MV Mercraft 2 early this week said she lost P100,000 she was supposed to use for her treatment as she fought for her life in the waters off Quezon province.
Speaking with TeleRadyo on Thursday, Jessa Malate recalled how she jumped off the ferry even without a floater in order to save herself from the fire.
“Nung nasusunog na po yung barko, wala na po akong choice kundi tumalon kahit po walang salbabida. Kasi masusunog naman po ako. So tumalon na po ako nang walang salbabida at naghanap po ako nung mga tao na may salbabida at naki-share po ako.”
(When the ship was on fire, I had no choice but to jump even without a floater, because if not, I would be burned. So I jumped without it and looked for the people who had one so I can share with them.)
She said five of them shared a floater. She tried to find another one to hold on to, but she nearly drowned when another person clung to her for safety.
“May isa po akong kasama na nakakapit sa’kin kaya ilang beses po akong lumubog. At halos malunod na po ako at hindi makahinga. Pero buti na lang po nabitawan niya ako kasi sabi ko po, 'Please, bitawan mo ako Ate, hindi ko na kaya. Hindi ko na kayang huminga'.”
(Another passenger clung to me, so I would go underwater a couple of times. I almost drowned, I couldn't breathe. But it's good that she let go off me because I told her that I couldn't breathe anymore.)
Thankfully, a roll-on-roll-off vessel came to their aid and gave them life vests, she said.
Malate backed other survivors’ testimonies that no life vests were available on the MV Mercraft 2.
“Wala po akong nakita doon sa malapit po sa amin. Halos wala po kaming life vest. Mga styrofoam lang po, yung box po na malaki yung nakuha ng mga kasama namin doon sa unahan po na nakalagay,” she said.
(I didn't see any life vest near us. Almost all of us didn't have life vests, just a large styrofoam box that other passengers found.)
Malate said she brought her bag with her when she jumped into the water.
“Kaso nabuksan po pala siya sa dagat. Laman po noon, yung pera ko, saka yung cellphone po. Lahat po ng mahahalagang gamit, doon po nakalagay. Yung pera ko po na pampagamot po sana. Tsaka pambili po ng mga gamot ko at pang-therapy po.”
“Nasa worth P100K po ‘yun, pinag-ipunan ko po ‘yun nang ilang buwan sa mga pag-o-online. Nag-o-online selling po ako. Gumagawa ‘ko ng mga bouquet. Nagde-decor ako sa birthday kahit po pagod na pagod na ako, para lang makabili ako ng gamot ko. Tapos nawala lang po doon sa lumubog,” she lamented.
(My bag opened while I was in the water. It had my money, my phone, all the important stuff. The money was going to my treatment. That was worth P100,000. I saved that over months of online selling. I made bouquets and decorated birthday parties even though I was tired just so I could buy medicines. Then it all just disappeared.)
She said one of the ferry’s owner called her on Tuesday to say that they will give her financial assistance.
Mayors give aid to victims, survivors
Real, Quezon Mayor Diana Abigail Aquino said nine of her constituents were on the ill-fated vessel. Two of them died while a minor was injured.
She said they will be giving aid to the victims of the maritime tragedy, including those who are not from their town.
“Nagpasa po kami ng resolution, magbibigay din po ng ayuda ang lokal na pamahalaan maging po doon sa mga fatalities na hindi po namin kababayan saka po mga na-hospitalize.”
(We passed a resolution granting financial assistance to the fatalities, even those who are not from our municipality, and for those hospitalized as well.)
Mayor Cristina Bosque of Polillo, meanwhile, said they have extended monetary help to the victims in partnership with their local social welfare department.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo has said that the investigation on the ferry fire may take up to a week.
Malacanang has expressed its sympathies to the families of the 7 people who died in the tragedy.
2017 Mercraft tragedy victims still call for justice
This is not the first time that a maritime mishap involving a Mercraft vessel gripped national headlines.
In 2017, MV Mercraft 3 capsized off Quezon province after it keeled over en route to Polillo Island. At least 5 people died in that incident.
Algene Jules Bulilan told TeleRadyo on Thursday that his father, Alexander, remains missing after the said tragedy.
Almost five years on, their case against those involved in the incident remains pending in an Infanta court, he said. Neither have they received compensation from the shipping company’s insurer, he added.
“With regards po to financial assistance, wala naman po kami nakuha. Tapos po, yung insurance…ng shipping lines nila, hindi rin po namin makuha kasi nga daw wala kaming death certificate dahil ang tatay ko nga po missing passenger. Although yung mga namatay naman po na nakuha, na-recover, nakakuha po sila ng insurance,” he said.
(With regard to financial assistance, we didn't get any. As for the insurance of the shipping company, we didn't get any because we couldn't present a death certificate--my father is considered a missing passenger. But those who were able to recover the bodies of their loved ones were able to get their claims.)
Bulilan noted that both 2017 and 2022 tragedies had survivors reporting that no life vests were provided for the boat’s passengers.
“Kung sufficient sana yung life vest or may crew na nung nag-announce ng abandon ship, sana po may mga crew na priority muna yung mga pasahero nila kasi, kahit sa mga videos ng 2017 tsaka sa 2022 po na tragedy, marami po talaga na walang lifevest.”
(If there were sufficient life vests or if the crew prioritized passengers before they abandoned ship, things may have turned out differently. Videos from 2017 and 2022 show that many passengers didn't have life vests.)
He said he hopes the latest incident will serve as a wake-up call for government and shipping companies alike to ensure the safety of maritime passengers.
“Dapat careful tayo kasi, yung buhay po ng tao, hindi na natin mababalik,” he said.
(We must be careful because a person's life, once lost, cannot be replaced.)
--TeleRadyo, 26 May 2022
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