LEGAZPI CITY—“I will be able to help you,” Jerome Berin, 23, of Malilipot, Albay, told his father Romeo, 54, in their last phone conversation on April 28.
“I asked him ‘what?’ and he replied ‘secret,’ and just told me he had a job,” recalled Romeo, who later realized Jerome might have been talking about his job as a tour guide to save for his wedding on June 15.
“That’s how he is, always teasing,” Romeo recalled of his son, the fourth of his five children who was killed in Tuesday’s eruption of Mayon Volcano, along with four foreign climbers.
An Australian, Ewan Marshall, and his girlfriend, Michelle Abad, were among 16 climbers and local guides who were rescued. The two were reported Thursday in the Australian media to be heading to Boracay to continue their holiday.
Marshall, who was a survivor of the Bali bombing in 2002, said he and his companion were halfway to the base camp when they heard a massive explosion. “We’re lucky,” he said. “I just feel sorry for those that weren’t. Two to three hours later, we would have been in the same situation.”
Romeo Berin, a driver in Manila, last saw his son in April. He was supposed to go home on June 10 but arrived earlier “to have time to prepare” for Jerome’s wedding to his partner Ria, 24, with whom he has a 3-year-old daughter.
Jerome was one of the tour guides working for Bicol Adventure and Travel Tours, which organized the Mayon climb.
He was killed, together with three Germans and a Spaniard. (Earlier reports said all four foreigners killed were Germans.)
“It has not yet fully sunk in. This is really unexpected but we cannot do anything about it,” said Romeo, who added he did not know Jerome was working as a Mayon guide. “I only knew he worked as a merchandiser in one of the local grocery stores here.”
Ria said Jerome had been working as part-time guide for almost a year. She said she last saw Jerome on Monday. “He said he was only going to Camp 2. He never said he would go farther,” she said.
Amparo, 48, Jerome’s mother, said Jerome’s daughter had been looking for her father.
“She is always asking, ‘Where is Dada?’ Why is it taking him a long time to come home?” Amparo said. “We tell her that Dada is dead but because she is very young, she does not understand.”
Jerome’s body was airlifted from Camp 1 of the Malilipot trail to the Tactical Operations Group of the Philippine Air Force at 7:20 a.m. Thursday, nearly 24 hours after his body was found, along with the four European fatalities—Joanne Edosa, Roland Pietieze, Farah Frances and Furian Stelter.
Ban on climbing
Rescuers have accounted for all 21 Mayon climbers except for one Thai national, Boonchai Jattupornong, who was with rescuers near Camp 2 in Mayon but had yet to reach Legazpi.
Earlier on Wednesday, Thai survivors Thawiburut Udomkiat and Benjamaporn Sansuk were taken to a Legazpi hospital.
Hours after Mayon’s explosion on Tuesday, Austrian Sabine Strohberger was rescued, along with local guides Bernard Hernandez and Calixto Balunso, Kenneth Jesalva and Nicanor Mabao Jr., and Thais Nithi Ruangpisit and Tanut Ruchipiyrak.
Thai Ambassador Rooge Thammongkol arrived Thursday to look after the Thais.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the provincial government would pass an ordinance that would ban crater climbing and mountaineering on Mayon.
“To put teeth to that, no fines shall be imposed but rather jail time of at least one year,” he said in a statement on his Facebook account.