Two pastors of a Baptist Church and three other members survived two days of being adrift in the rough seas off the Bohol Strait after their pumpboat named Rescue 911 capsized near San Fernando, southern Cebu on Friday afternoon.
A roll-on roll-off boat, LCT Sta. Filomena de Bohol of Lite Shipping Corp. traveling from Loon, Bohol to Taloot port in Argao, Cebu rescued the group made up of their leader Pastor Joval Galera and Pastor Julius Campos, and their members Joseph Benodo, Cresente Lapas, and Jun Gabito.
They were found clinging on to the capsized Rescue 911 pumpboat at late morning yesterday. The victims, who were weak but appeared well, arrived at the port at past noon on the same day.
Galera recounted to CEBU DAILY NEWS how they survived their ordeal at the Bohol Strait, which is the strait between Cebu and Bohol.
The group, who are from Carcar City, southern Cebu were on their way home from a religious activity in Inabanga, Bohol last Friday.
Galera said the sea was calm when they left Bohol. But after two hours on their pumpboat Rescue 911, they started to encounter big waves and at 4:20 p.m. the boat capsized off the seas of San Fernando town in southern Cebu.
Boy Artiaga, weather observer of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration s(Pag-asa)- Mactan, said yesterday that the heavy waves last Friday night was an effect of the tsunami caused by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake which hit Japan at past 2 p.m. that day.
The after-effect of the tsunami and the northeast monsoon in the country caused heavier waves in the Philippines, Artiaga said.
Artiaga specially noted the strong winds last Friday which also caused the the seas to be rough.
He said the coastal areas in the Philippines were affected by Japan's tsunami between five in the afternoon until nine in the evening.
He said those were the time which the coastal areas felt the abnormalities due to the tsunami effect.
However, he said the waves in the Philippines were relatively moderate since Japan was considerably far from the Philippines and the big waves had dissipated.
Galera said that as the boat capsized, he and Campos told Benodo, Lapas and Gabito to stay together and climb up to the hull of the boat so that they would remain afloat.
Galera said they couldn't contact anybody for help because all their things were all in the water.
Galera said he and Campos encouraged the group to stay calm until they rescue would come.
The rough waves brought them off the seas near Oslob town or about 70 kilometers from San Fernando town.
He said the group felt hopeless after a boat owned by a certain industrial company just passed by and didn't rescue them.
?Kita gyud ang mga crew sa barko nga nanawag na mig ug tabang. Nanaka gud sila sa bridge para mutan-aw lang namo, abi namo?g ila ming tabangan pero ila ra diay ming pasagdan (We saw the crew of the boat and we called for help. They climb on the bridge of the boat but they only looked at us and didn't helped us at all,? Galera said.
Galera said their boat, a six-seater boat, was named Rescue 911 because they would use it to rescue fishermen or passengers who encounter trouble at sea especially at the Bohol Strait.
The group couldn't believe that this time around they were the ones who needed to be rescued and the first one who could have helped them didn't help them at all.
Galera said the incident caused the group to feel hopeless and it took the pastors time to convince the members to remain strong and keep on praying.
Galera said that they did not have anything to eat or water to drink.
It was also cold during the night and extremely hot during daytime. They have been floating in between the seas of Bohol and Cebu for more than 40 hours.
Galera also said that they did not sleep at all because if they did sleep they they might fall off to the water.
He said that they helped each other to stay awake.
The waves yesterday took them near Cabilao Island west of Bohol and east of Oslob. In the morning, a tanker ship saw them crying out for help. The tanker was on their way to Ilo-Ilo City when they saw the group.
The tanker circled them and advised them to stay where they were after they kept calling for help. The crew of MV Corsecana, a tanker, was able to contact LCT Sta. Filomena de Bohol.
Capt. Antonio Castro Jr. of Lite Shipping Corp. said they immediately brought the five victims onboard. He said they had them initially examined because they were all so weak.
The medical examination showed that they were not seriously injured but they were hungry and thirsty. Castro said he offered the victims soft food and water.
Galera said that if they were not rescued during that time, all of them will not be able to last for another day. The group were met by their families when they arrived at the port in Argao.
Police was also there to get reports and advised the victims to go to the hospital for a check-up but the victims refused. They said they just want to go home and rest.
Meanwhile, Zenaida, the wife of Galera, said she was disappointed with the Bantay Dagat volunteers in Carcar City.
She said the Bantay Dagat volunteers refused to help them after they went to them when her husband and the four others failed to arrive as expected on Friday.
She said that the Bantay Dagat personnel told them that they couldn't do anything until their station chief would return from the office. They told her that the station chief was out of the office then.
Zenaida said she then approached a friend at the Police Regional Office who helped her contact authorities to conduct a search and rescue operation for the group. Fortunately, she said the group was rescued on time.
Meanwhile, Weather Observer Artiaga of Pag-asa Mactan said the continuous rough seas was due to the low pressure area east of southern Mindanao, which was expected to make landfall in the southern part of Mindanao today.
Artiaga said the low pressure area would bring scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms in the Visayas. with Reporter Candeze R. Mongaya