It was indeed a very traumatic Holy Week for Ehra Madrigal and husband Tom Yeung when tragedy struck their getaway in Antique, and the speedboat taking them to touristy Mararison Island capsized in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They were left stranded in the open water for three hours.
In The Know visited Ehra and Tom in their home a week after the tragedy, and grateful that despite the trauma, the couple chose to share their story with us exclusively.
Ehra was still shaking, crying as she recalled what happened: “Nung nag-sink yung boat, parang everything happened so fast. Tapos nakita ko na pumasok na lahat nung water sa boat, parang it went on its side na lulubog.”
She continued, trying to make sense of her flashbacks, “Parang tumingin pa ako… may life vest na nakatali pa dun sa isang side. But it seemed it’s too late na that you couldn’t get it, kasi parang almost half way na lumubog yung boat.”
Ehra admitted she hardly knows how to swim. “Pero you will do whatever [you can]to survive.”
For what seemed like eternity, they kept trying to swim and holding on to the boat which by then had been so slippery and unstable.
The ordeal left her with pneumonia and an asthma attack, which she hadn’t had in a very long time.
“I drank a lot of seawater and inhaled a lot of gasoline doon sa speedboat,” she explained.
Ehra and her husband are still under medication now to get them back to health after their near death experience. They also submitted to an anxiety and psychological debriefing to help them cope with the emotional trauma they further endured.
According to Ehra, there were 10 people in the tiny speedboat, built presumably for a maximum of six passengers. She and Tom were in Antique on the invitation of her best friend Bianca Manalo, whose boyfriend Jonathan Tan is a town mayor, and all four of them were en route to Mararison Island with the latter’s companions.
Through those treacherous three hours, Ehra said she knew in her heart they would make it to shore no matter how long it took, but she remembers the very moment she almost gave up and cave in to the panic.
“It was when I saw the mayor’s cousin and bodyguard die beside me while Tom was holding him,” she related. “Mag-katabi kami. Tapos parang sumisigaw na siya na, ‘Woooo, hindi ko na ‘to kaya, hindi ko na kaya!’
“Sabi ko, ‘Hindi, Kuya, kaya ‘yan.’ And then parang lumalabo na yung paningin ko and I got scared. Bigla kong na-visualize my dad in the hospital bed, lifeless, and then biglang may mamamatay ulit.”
Ehra’s father died on March 5 this year.
She continued, “Natakot talaga ako. I had to calm myself down, kasi hindi ako dapat pangunahan ng takot, eh.”
That was wehn Ehra called her on her husband to help the body guard.
“Sabi ko, ‘Love, love, si Kuya, si Kuya…’ So, kinuha niya si Kuya at inilagay niya dito [cradling her arms], tapos biglang hinimatay na si Kuya.
“So, si Tom, medyo nag-panic na rin. Sabi niya, ‘Anong gagawin ko dito, anong gagawin ko sa kanya.’ And then, kasi may kasama kaming dalawang kids, yung anak ng friend ko. Sabi nung eldest daughter niya, ‘Tito Tom, try to slap him, try to wake him up.’ He was tried but hinawakan siya nung bodyguard and bumula na yung bibig.”
Ehra there was much that could have been done to ensure everyone’s safety before they went on the boat but at the end of the day no one is to blame.
“We can’t blame anyone naman, kasi wala namang may gusto na maaksidente. But if ngayon—kung iisipin mo talaga, siguro ngayon—if things could have been different or mas maiiwasan yung ganito… Kung mado-double check lahat—yung weight namin, yung weather—or kung merong may radyo dun sa mga naiwan, pero wala kaming radio…” she trailed off, tearing up again.
“Kasi OK naman eh, sobrang maaraw, “ Ehra added shaking her head.
At the end of the interview, the newlyweds said that the tragedy really shook them and that they know it will take a while before they can leave it behind and move on.
In the Know wishes Ehra, Tom and the rest of those who survived well and hope they can get over the unfortunate experience very soon.