'Why these beautiful people?' Safety expert mourns rescuers who died in Bulacan

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2022 12:27 PM | Updated as of Sep 27 2022 12:50 PM

Workers bring out from the funeral home the remains of one of the 5 rescuers of the Bulacan Provincial Government found dead in Barangay Camias, San Miguel, Bulacan on Sept. 26, 2022. The bodies were found in the morning after super typhoon Karding hit the country. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News 
Workers bring out from the funeral home the remains of one of the 5 rescuers of the Bulacan Provincial Government found dead in Barangay Camias, San Miguel, Bulacan on Sept. 26, 2022. The bodies were found in the morning after super typhoon Karding hit the country. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News 

MANILA — A survival and safety expert on Tuesday mourned the deaths of 5 veteran rescuers in Bulacan province who were sent to help flooded residents during the onslaught of typhoon Karding. 

Rescuers George Agustin, Troy Justin Agustin, Marby Bartolome, Jerson Resurreccion, and Narciso Calayag were wading through floodwaters in San Miguel town when a wall collapsed, sending them into the fast current, police earlier said. 

“Why these beautiful people? I’ve been asking,” Dr. Ted Esguerra told TeleRadyo. 
 
He said the 5 men were experts in water rescue operations. 

“Kung meron specialty ‘tong Bulacan talaga sa rescue, mga vehicular tsaka baha. Yun yung ika nga, tapsilog nila sa umagahan. Kaya, parang mahirap tanggapin,” he said.

(If Bulacan rescuers have a specialty, it is vehicular and water rescue. That's why their death is hard to accept.) 

Esguerra said the Bulacan disaster risk reduction team was a "model" in the region and had participated in many training programs. 

"Meron kasing tinatawag na One Bulacan campaign na nabuo namin lahat ng rescuers ‘no, para... yung bawat municipality at city under Bulacan, magkaroon ng parang Olympics, so ang ganda ng samahan pati training. In fact, may mga trainings nga na sinasakay ako dyan sa Bulacan kasi lagi silang aggressive,” he said.

(They had this One Bulacan campaign, where they gathered rescuers from every city and municipality in Bulacan for an Olympics-style training and competition. I've been with them many times because the Bulacan group is very aggressive when it comes to seeking training.) 

“So kung sabihin natin sa isang taon, mababa na yung 2 na meron silang mga intensive training, in fact dumadayo pa yan sila sa Tarlac para mag-swift water operations to simulate floodwater.”

(They have at least 2 intensive training sessions a year. In fact, they even go to Tarlac for swift water operations training to simulate floodwaters.)

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Personnel of the Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) feel like they have lost family members with the death of the 5 rescuers, Esguerra said. 

He said he was especially concerned about PDRRMO chief Liz Mungcal, who was seen weeping after announcing the demise of the rescuers. 

“Ang una kong sinabi, alalayan niyo lang si Ma’am Liz kasi kilala ko si Ma’am Liz, motherly kasi yung treatment niya eh sa team. Parang family sila, 'pag pumasok ka sa opisina nila, you have a mother figure tapos yung relationship nila--hindi dahil sa ano ‘to ah, hindi dahil sa nangyari ngayon--ang relationship nila, parang pamilya,” Esguerra said. 

(The first thing I told them to do was take care of Ma'am Liz because she is very motherly towards her people. When you enter their office, they're like a family--you have a mother figure, and they just feel like a family.)

Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News
Jeff Canoy, ABS-CBN News

Esguerra also backed calls for better compensation and benefits for rescuers. 

“Sana yung mga kaibigan natin, si [Interior] Secretary [Benhur] Abalos, iakyat niyo kay President [Ferdinand Marcos Jr.] na bigyan nating halaga itong mga responder na ginamit natin nung pandemic,” he said.

“Bigyan natin nila ng sapat na mga benefits, yung mga risk transfers ‘no, and sapat na equipment din ‘no, saktong equipment at saktong training upang sa gayon ay hindi na natin ma-duplicate itong masamang nangyari.”

(I hope our friend, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos, can tell President Bongbong Marcos about the need for better benefits for our rescuers who were also there during the pandemic. Let us give them enough benefits, equipment and training so this won't happen again.)

The Philippines is hit by an average of 20 storms every year, Esguerra noted. 

“So makakasagupa pa rin tayo ng mga katulad nangyayari sa San Miguel,” he added.

(We will definitely face something that is as bad as what happened in San Miguel in the future.) 

Honoring the 5 late Bulacan rescuers, Esguerra brought up a quote by French writers Alexandre Dumas who said, "What makes a man is what he does when the storm comes." 

“Itong 5 [rescuer] natin, ibinigay nila ang kanilang today para tayong lahat ay merong bukas. Paalam, mga kaibigan ko. Good night, see you in the morning," he said.

(These five men gave up their today so we could have a tomorrow. Goodbye, my friends. Good night, see you in the morning.) 

Karding, which swept through central and southern Luzon on Sunday, killed at least 8 people and left an estimated P160 million in agricultural, the disaster agency said.