MANILA (UPDATE)- On the first death anniversary of their 4-year-old daughter, Giovanni Mendoza received grim news that his wife, Perlita, 39, perished in the massive explosion that rocked Beirut, Lebanon on Tuesday.
While on his way home from work on Wednesday afternoon, Giovanni, a construction worker in his hometown in Ilocos Sur, received a call from the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding his wife's fate.
Just last year, Perlita came home for the burial of their youngest child who succumbed to an illness. It was the last time Giovanni saw his wife in person.
On Wednesday, Giovanni had to tell the shocking and sad news about his wife to their only surviving child.
“Nakatingin lang siya sa akin eh noong sinabi ko sa kanya na wala na ang Mama niya,” Giovanni told ABS-CBN News, referring to their 14-year-old son.
(He just looked at me when I told him that his mom is gone.)
Giovanni said Perlita wanted to try her luck in Lebanon where she had been working for almost a year to help give her family a better life.
He said he last talked to Perlita on the day the tragedy happened. They were planning on how to celebrate their daughter's birthday and death anniversary.
"Pinag-usapan namin yung gagawin sana namin ngayong Sept. 1. Kasi Sept. 1 birthday ng anak ko. Pagsabayin sana namin para minsanan na" said Giovanni.
(We talked about what we were going to do on Sept. 1. Because Sept. 1 is my daughter's birthday. We were going to celebrate them together so it'll be one ceremony.)
Perlita was a household service worker and was in the home of her employer in Beirut when the massive explosion struck. She was due to go home in January when her contract ends.
Giovanni, who asked that his wife’s remains be brought back to the Philippines as soon as possible, has this to tell her: “Ang masasabi ko lang sa iyo, mahal ko, kahit wala ka na, tandaan mo mahal na mahal kita.”
Seafarer Rhodel Maglangit, an overseas worker, was in his ship when he learned that his mother, Ardel, 42, also perished in the Lebanon blast.
Rhodel, the eldest of Ardel’s three children, shared that his mother was already planning to return to the Philippines and start a business as her overseas work contract was about to end.
“Simple lang naman ang pangarap niya para sa amin: ang bigyan ng magandang buhay at mapa-aral nang maayos. Natupad na iyong pangarap niya na iyon para sa aming dalawang magkapatid at ang bunso na lang sa ngayon ang nag-aaral at plano na niyang magtayo ng sarili niyang negosyo,” Rhodel said in a video sent to ABS-CBN News.
(He dream for us was simple: to give us a good life and education. She has fulfilled her dream for her 2 children, and only the youngest remains in school. She planned to start her own business.)
Sharing pictures of his mother’s last visit to the Philippines last year, Rhodel said he is thankful for the sacrifices she made, enabling her children to finish school. Her youngest is about to take Grade 11.
“Ang mensahe ko lang sa nanay ko...Gusto ko siyang pasalamatan nang buong-buo para sa mga sakripisyong ginawa niya sa amin at kahit buhay man niya ang magiging kabayaran nito, ‘Ma, mami-miss ka namin. Kung saan ka man naroroon ngayon, sana masaya ka na,” he said.
(I just want to thank my mom for her sacrifices, even if it cost her her life. We miss you, we hope you're happy wherever you are.)
Ardel’s husband, Rogelio, last spoke to his wife on Tuesday night in a chat with their children. He still could not believe that that was the last time he could speak to her wife who had to cut the call short as she still had a household chore to attend to in Beirut.
Ardel also perished in her employer’s home.
“Nagulat sir, hindi ako maniwala sir. ‘Pag dating ng umaga, hindi ko alam kasi iyong bunso ko, naalala ko, bakit siya umiyak nang umaga. Hindi ko alam. Hindi ako pinagsabihan dahil baka magulat ako. Sinabi ko, ‘Anong nangyari sa iyo? Bakit ka umiyak?’ Iyon sir, pinakita niya picture ng mama niya sa akin,” Rogelio recounted to ABS-CBN News how he learned about the death of his wife.
(I was shocked, I could not believe it. When morning came, I saw my youngest was crying. I asked, why are you crying, and then they showed me their mom's photo.)
The DFA said it would extend assistance to Filipino victims of the tragedy and was working to repatriate the remains of fatalities as soon as possible.
Aside from two fatalities, the DFA said 8 other Filipinos were injured from the explosion.
The Lebanese health ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the huge blast at Beirut port has killed at least 137 people, left dozens missing, and at least 5,000 wounded.
Tuesday's explosion obliterated part of the port and caused damage over a wide radius in the heart of the city, prompting fears the final death toll could yet rise significantly.
- with report from Agence France-Presse