Heart-wrenching cries and lamentations filled the air when parents and relatives claimed the remains of the students who died in a bus accident on Monday on their way to a training camp in Tanay, Rizal.
When the bus smashed into an electric post killing a dozen students on the spot, it also crushed the dreams of young people who were just starting to enjoy life as an adult.
May Villar, 36, the older sister of Eman Gel Garinto, 18, one of the 15 students who died, said that her younger brother wanted to join his father in Saudi Arabia once he finished his studies.
“Dapat kukunin siya ng tatay [namin]para magtrabaho bilang encoder sa Saudi (Our father was supposed to get him to work as encoder there),” Villar told The Manila Times.
She said Eman had so many dreams, especially when he started college. Like most of the victims, Eman was taking Bachelor of Science in Information Technology at BestLink College of the Philippines.
“He had so many dreams in life,” Villar said, adding that their mother was so grief-stricken that she refused to talk to members of media.
The families of those who died claimed the students’ bodies on Tuesday. The remains of the victims were taken to the Majar Funeral Homes in Novaliches.
In front of the funeral parlor, students of BestLink with black ribbons pinned on their uniforms gathered to light candles to show their sympathies with the bereaved families.
A neighbor of the Garintos accompanied the family in claiming Eman’s body. For her, the young man was like a brother because she practically lived with the Garinto family in their house in Payatas, Quezon City.
Another victim, Lovely Seringan, 29, used to work abroad but she came home to finish her studies.
Lovely’s brother, Superintendent Nixon Seringan, 45, said that used to be an overseas worker.
Seringan, who flew all the way from Zamboanga, shared that Lovely returned to the Philippines because she wanted to pursue her studies.
“Malaki din ang pangarap niya sa buhay eh. Makapagtapos ng pag-aaral, ‘yun lang (She had big dreams, and one is to finish her schooling),” he said.
Seringan lamented that the school should also coordinate with the other grief-stricken families. He said his family has been coordinating with the school administration of BestLink for the transfer of his sister’s remains to their home town in Isabela province.
BestLink student Aiza Bagnog, 19, said she has been with one of the victims, Jonahfay Cerezo, since high school.
Cerezo was a freshman.
“Kahit hindi kami close, parang malaki pa rin ang nawala sa akin eh. High school pa lang po nakikita ko na siya. Pero kahit na ba, kawalan pa rin siya sa akin, (Even though we were not so close, it’s a big loss to me. I’ve been seeing her since our high school days.”
About 50 BestLink students were on a field trip for a National Service Training Program subject when they met the accident.
BestLink Novaliches Coordinator for Special Activities Zanny Samsona said the students were not compelled to join the excursion.
“We gave them an option to either do an alternative project,” Samsona said, denying that the students were asked to do a thesis if they opted not to join the field trip.
The Department of Labor and Employment(DOLE) on Tuesday dispatched a team of inspectors to conduct a thorough probe into the grisly accident.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said that investigators will determine if the company that owned the bus complied or violated the General Labor Standards (GLS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS).
Under existing regulations, bus firms are required to ensure the safety of commuters and train their drivers and conductors on the handling and maintenance of a bus.
Bello also directed the Employees Compensation Commission to provide the necessary assistance and rightful benefits to the family of the driver of the bus who was also killed in the accident.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL