MALOLOS, Bulacan — With the tolling of church bells, flags at half-mast and water salutes, Bulacan province mourned the death of 5 rescuers who had tried to help flooded residents during the onslaught of super typhoon Karding.
On Friday, the remains of George Agustin, Troy Justin Agustin, Marby Bartolome, and Narciso Calayag were brought to Bulacan's provincial capitol for a tribute called "Luksang Parangal para sa mga Bayaning Tagapagligtas."
The family of a fifth rescuer, Jerson Resurreccion, joined the tribute though his remains were not brought to the capitol upon their request.
Comrades from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) lined up the street in front of their office as the remains of the rescuers passed by.
Sirens from firetrucks and ambulances blared throughout while firefighting rigs sprayed arcs of water as men carrying the rescuers' caskets marched past.
Employees of the PDRRMO and other volunteers carried white balloons bearing the names and messages of thanks to the 5 rescuers. A wall was also put up bearing the photos of the rescuers where mourners left messages and flowers.
Flags across the province were flown at half mast while photos of the 5 rescuers were posted in various areas.
Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando and Vice Governor Alex Castro led the government officials who paid tribute to the rescuers and spoke to their respective families. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was also seen in the gymnasium condoling the victims' families.
"Sila po ay mga mapagmahal na anak, mapagmahal na asawa, kapatid, at magulang na katulad ng lahat na walang hangad kundi mapabuti ang kanilang buhay," Fernando said of the fallen disaster personnel.
"Ang ating 5 bayani ay mga karaniwang kawani ng pamahalaan ngunit ang kanilang damdaming tumulong sa kapwa gaano man kalubha ang panganib ay sumasalamin sa mga katangian ng isang dakilang Bulakeño -- matapang, may paninindigan sa sinumpaang tungkulin at laging inuuna ang kapakanan ng kapwa."
(They were loving sons, husbands, brothers, and parents who wanted nothing but to better their lives. Our 5 heroes were ordinary government workers but their sense of duty to serve others no matter the danger shows the qualities of a great Bulakeño -- brave, faithful in service, and always putting others first before themselves.)
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The governor announced that he has banned all forms of mining and quarrying in the province following the death of the rescuers.
Meanwhile, Bishop Dennis Villarojo presided over a Mass, where he hailed the rescuers' sacrifice and called it the greatest act of love.
"Ang nangyari ay 5 tao ang gumanap sa kanilang gampanin at sa walang pakundangan sa kanilang sariling kapakanan ay nag-alay ng kanilang buhay upang maglingkod. Ito po ay itinuturing nating kabayanihan. At sa turo ng ating Panginoon, ito 'yung sinasabing pinakahigit na pag-ibig... the greatest love," Villarojo said.
(What happened is that five people heeded their calling without hesitation and offered their lives to serve. This is heroism. And according to our Lord, this is an act of greatest love.)
"Ang ating Panginoon ay nagsabi sa atin 'no greater love than this: that when a man lays down his life for his friends.' Sina Troy, George, Marby, Narciso Jr., at Jerson ay nag-alay ng kanilang buhay in the highest way possible alang-alang sa paglilingkod sa kapwa," he added.
(Our Lord said, 'No greater love than this: that when a man lays down his life for his friends.' Troy, George, Marby, Narciso Jr., and Jerson offered their lives in the highest way possible for the sake of serving the people.)
But Villarojo warned that aside from tributes, honoring Bulacan's 5 new heroes must also include ensuring that disasters like the floods that killed them would be addressed.
"Sa pagdakila natin sa ating mga bagong bayani siguro po'y hindi lang pagdakila natin to honor them by recalling their brave deeds. Mas mahalaga din po sana at mapagbigyan natin ang kahulugan ng pag-alay ng kanilang buhay kung ating alamin bakit nangyayari ang mga bagay na ito, bakit biglang bumaha, bakit ang kabundukan ay nalalagas," the bishop said.
(As we honor our new heroes, it is not enough that we simply recall their brave deeds. It is also important that we give meaning to their sacrifice by getting to the root of why this happened, why did the floods rage suddenly, why are the mountains deforested.)
On the bishop's order, church bells across the Diocese of Malolos, which encompasses the entire province of Bulacan and Valenzuela City, tolled at 4:30 p.m. in honor of the rescuers.
As super typhoon Karding (international name: Noru) lashed through Bulacan and the rest of Central Luzon, the five rescuers braved the floodwaters in San Miguel town to assist trapped residents. As they paddled through the floods, a wall collapsed and sent them into the fast current.