No one warned us, says villager searching for her lost children

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 October, 2009, 12:00am

Victoria Tutor was beyond tears. She had just seen the body of her 16-year-old daughter, Vinaflor, and signed for the release of her remains.

That was Wednesday. Yesterday, there was still no sign of three of her other children who, like she and Vinaflor, had been swept away by rampaging waters caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana a week ago.

Her village, Bagong Silangan in Quezon City, was one of the hardest hit by the storm. Thirty-one bodies have been found, but a further 90, mostly children, are listed as missing.

Staff at Tajuna Funeral Home told Tutor they could only wrap Vinaflor's body in cloth since they had run out of coffins. She said village officials, not just the incessant rain, were to blame for the tragedy. They had received no warning. 'There was none,' she said. 'I only knew there was rain but had not heard news about a coming storm.'

Villagers were used to annual flooding brought by the rainy season, and normally just moved to higher ground when the water started flowing through, she said.

But on September 26, the floods came without warning. 'We were inside the house and suddenly there was water. We went to the highest point in the village, and then the rushing waters met and we were forced to clamber onto rooftops.'

The water rose higher than the roofs and at 11am she and her six children were swept away. Two were saved. The others - Via, 11, Biancaflor, five, and Jonren, three - have yet to be found. Tutor managed to remain afloat by holding onto a piece of wood for three hours before being pulled to safety. 'I bumped into a bridge and people on the bridge threw me a rope,' she said.

Her rescuers said Tutor was in Marikina City. Dazed and without money, she rested then started the long walk back to Bagong Silangan. Abandoned cars, buses and jeepneys jammed the roads. She arrived after an eight-hour trek in the dark.

Tutor sadly described her missing children in the desperate hope that someone would remember seeing them among the countless hordes of Manila.

Via was wearing a blouse with spaghetti straps and white pyjamas. Biancaflor was wearing a big white T-shirt, while Jonren was wearing a blue shirt and has a scar above his right eyebrow. 'Please help me find them,' she said.