MANILA, Philippines—Now she’s beginning to understand the unusual conversation she had with her husband the day before the accident, Jocelyn Santiago said.
Florentino Santiago, 44, a truck driver, was among the 23 people killed in a tanker explosion in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday.
According to Jocelyn, her husband called her twice on Wednesday, “which he seldom did.”
“He called at least twice a week but he rarely called twice on the same day,” Jocelyn said.
“His first call was around noon and he asked me to shop for the kids. His last words were ‘I love you,’ which I found unusual because he was more expressive when we exchange text messages,” she said between sobs in a phone interview.
“His last call was around midnight. He was quite surprised that I was still awake. I told him I had just finished preparing the flowers and the food that we would bring to the cemetery the next day.
“He asked about our children (Shaina May, 16, and Renz Joseph, 4). I told him they were already asleep. I asked him if he wanted me to wake them up so he could talk to them, but he said no. He told me, ‘Go to sleep now, take a rest. Take care of the kids, especially Renz, because he’s still too young,’” Jocelyn recalled.
“He did not usually say that to me. We usually just end every conversation with a simple ‘take care.’ That’s it. But it was different when we last talked. And now I know why,” she said.
So many plans
Jocelyn said her husband was planning on a trip home next March for the high school graduation of Shaina May.
“He had so many plans for us so it’s really painful to accept that everything’s gone in a snap. I still can’t believe he’s gone, he’s too young,” she said.
From their hometown in Pandi, Bulacan, a sister of Florentino said the family was appealing to President Aquino to help expedite the visa processing of their brother who has been tasked to go to Riyadh to fetch his remains.
“Our appeal now is for President Aquino to help in the release of the visa of our brother who works in Qatar, so he can travel to Riyadh and work on the repatriation of the body of our brother,” said Gregoria Santiago-Fajardo.
She said their youngest brother, Jovenal, a civil engineer working in Qatar, had volunteered to fetch Florentino’s remains and bring them home to Barangay Malibung Matanda in Pandi.
Fajardo said the family learned about the accident at noon on Thursday while they were gathered around their father’s tomb.
“I still have to accept that my brother is dead. We were all at the cemetery for our departed father, and that was the news that met us there,” she said.
She said the news was relayed to them by her husband, Marcial Fajardo Jr., who also works in Riyadh. She said her husband also informed them that a brother-in-law, Godofredo Gonzales, who was with Florentino when the accident happened, suffered minor injuries.
Fajardo’s neighbors received the news about the accident at the cemetery about the same time as the family, as many of their relatives work for the same company that Florentino was working for in Riyadh.
Carmelita Dimzon, the administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), said she would work to speed up the repatriation of Florentino’s remains.
“We don’t have the date yet, but we expect the repatriation to be soon because the cause of death has already been determined,” Dimzon said.
She also said the family of the victim would receive P220,00 in burial and death benefits from the Owwa.
Aside from the financial benefits, Dimzon said, the Owwa would also be providing livelihood assistance to Florentino’s widow and a scholarship for one child.
Dimzon added that the Owwa would also be extending assistance to the other injured OFWs who are still in Riyadh. With a report from Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon