Two days later, six of us clamber into a multi-cab in Tagbilaran and head back to Maribojoc with the plan to visit Jenny and the student’s bereaved family. We drop by the home of Inday, Jenny’s sister first as her son will be the one to accompany us to Jenny’s home. On arrival, we meet Jenny’s husband, Bobong and he leads us into the family’s temporary one roomed home. Jenny greets us with a warm smile. She is lying down on a mat with Jian Therese, her 8 year old niece sitting beside her. Marianne, her six year old daughter comes in soon after. Gwyneth (11), the couple’s eldest is in school.
We start talking about the fateful day when the earth began to shake. Jenny tells us she grabbed her two children but as they reached the door she fell with Marianne and Gwyneth underneath her and the metal frame of the door fell on top of her. Her husband Bobong, was working in Tagbilaran at the time and was not able to reach her until the evening, 12 hours later because the roads had been cut off. In the end, he had managed to get on a boat which bypassed the destroyed bridge.
Jenny’s situation is bleak. She has lost control over her bladder so she needs to use a urinary catheter. Bobong has given up his work as an electrician to look after his wife and the children. The family get by on the honorarium he earns as a Barangay councillor and the proceeds from producing and selling copra from their coconut trees. As for the future, it remains to be seen whether surgery could bring about any improvement in Jenny’s mobility and bladder functions but we promise to help in some way. As for Bobong, he is very supportive and the children are recovering from the trauma; Gwyneth had needed to be hospitalised with a leg fracture but she is now recovered.
We bid our farewells to the family and walk back to the quiet country road to await a tricycle to take us to Antequera. We are going to meet the family of Karen Mae, the high school girl who died so tragically in the earthquake. The family is not expecting us of course but we are warmly greeted by Karen Mae’s mother on arrival; she is tending the family’s sari-sari store. She invites us in and we meet Karen Mae’s father, Ernesto. He tells us what happened to his daughter on the day of the earthquake.
October 15th was a National holiday to commemorate the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Adha which meant there were no regular classes. Karen Mae, however had to get some papers signed in her school which adjoined the Maribojoc Parish church. Most unusually, she had woken her family up on that day and they had all had an early breakfast together. Karen Mae met with her teachers just before 8am that morning and the earthquake struck at 8.07am. According to her father, there were eight of them, teachers and students in a classroom at the time. They all ran for the door and Karen Mae never made it. She had been holding on to the hand of another student but let go when she could not longer see because of the dust; tragically masonry fell on top of her when she was just a few feet from the door. Everyone else was able to get out on time. As this was happening, the adjoining 200 year old Parish church was also crumbling to the ground.
It pains us to see Ernesto and Gloria grieving their daughter. Ernesto speaks of his pride in Karen Mae’s achievements at school; she was a consistent honours student. He shows us a poem she wrote the week before she died in which she seems to express some foreboding in the last few words:
“ For just a blink of eye, all change and all pass by”
Ernesto shows us Karen Mae’s collection of barbie dolls and her scrap book in which she wrote her poems and a montage of trees, birds and butterflies made up of twigs. He also shows us the family photo album where we see photos of Karen Mae proudly displaying her medals when she graduated from elementary school. It is all very sad.
We walk down to the basement to have a look at the damage sustained to the lower half of the house. There had been two bedrooms but no more; the walls had crumbled in the earthquake. Ernesto tells us that that Karen Mae’s younger brother and sister had slept there; were it not for the fact that she had woken them up on the day of the earthquake to have breakfast together, more tragedy could have befallen the family.
After spending a little over an hour with the Lamoste family, we bid our farewells and promise to return; Ireen and I will consider ways in which we could help the family. It is so hard to help those who mourn but I hope our presence today has been an encouragement to the family.
There is one more family we will meet today, a family that lost four members in tragic circumstances on October 15th and Ernesto has told us we can find them just up the road where they are building a house.
Jenny with her daughter Marianne, husband Bobong and niece Jian Therese.
Ernesto and Gloria Lamoste with Kathlyn and Kiann