by: Cris Joceryl Plantas
February 18, 2004. All my bags were packed, I was sitting in our motorela when I decided to go back home and I don’t know why I got the bottle of cologne from the cabinet.
“Hoy, why did you get that? You have your cologne in your bag, and that is not a cologne, that bottle is filled with holy water!” My elder sister shouted. But I did not return the bottle. I included it in my baggage. My original coach, Miss Maricel Cero, accompanied me. My mother was also with me until the seaport in Cagayan de Oro.
I told her, “Ma, I forgot my rosary beads.”
She replied, ” I had put my small rosary beads in your key holder.”
So I transferred my key holder and I attached it to my ID sling. I can’t forget my mother’s words before I went to the passenger’s station: “Kring, that is your treasure. Wherever you go, bring that always. Your key for your baggage, ID AND your rosary for protection are all there. Don’t forget to pray always!”
In Laguna, we were reunited with our friends from Jasaan because we were together in the quarter. Our friendship started during the Division and Regional Press Conferences. I have done my best in the national contest but I didn’t make it. Well, money can’t buy the memorable experiences, the adventures, the acquaintances I have made.
It has been all my first time. My first time to bring honor to my school, being the first national qualifier in the contest. My first time to travel to Manila. My first time to board on an airplane, (after what had happened to the Superferry 14). And my first time to experience moments between life and death.
February 26, 2004. The head of Region 10 delegation had informed us to prepare ourselves for our trip way back home. It was not the original schedule in our itinerary. Because of the changes, my coach and I went to Sta. Rosa, Laguna where my uncle Rev. Fr Ruben Dagala was assigned as parish priest. We attended the mass and then he gave us blessing for our trip going home.
Upon our arrival in the pier, we immediately brought our things in Superferry 14 at about 5:00pm. We presented our ticket with the green code, meaning we are supposed to be near the cabin. But there was a man who blocked our way and brought us to the orange deck. However, my coach had already decided, ” Let just stay here Kring, I believe we are in good area”. We rested for a while and we heard a voice announcing that the voyage will be at 11:00 pm instead of 10:00 pm.
So, we went to DV Soria and painted the town red. We enjoyed shopping for our pasalubong because we haven’t made it in Laguna due to the instant change of our schedule. There were some DepEd officials left in Laguna to get whatever prizes at state for the Region 10 delegation.
We were all tired when we boarded the ship. Others have gone to a very sound sleep. We went to our respective places, but our friends from Jasaan invited us to join them in the cabin because there were many vacant cots. I didn’t feel like sleeping. What I did, I charged my cellphone including Maam Ypyen’s cellphone while reading a pocketbook.
At about 12:05 am, I felt like going to the comfort room. I have made five steps from my cot, when I heard my cellphone ringing. I went back to answer, I have read the name of the caller when suddenly, I felt like the ship was shaking. Moments later, the ship had shaken violently, then I heard a thundering explosion. I had laid my face in my pillow when I saw a staff bathed his own blood from where I was supposed to go. There was a binding flash, the lights went out, shrouding in blackness. I started to tremble and I called Maam Yoyen. I sent a message to my mother at about 12:49 saying: Ma, pray muna kau dyan, may pumutok sa ship. Shout and cries were heard everywhere. The darkness had echoed with the cracks of shattering concrete collapsed. The ship was filled with thunderous rumble. My coach called out. “Take a hold of my hand, whatever happens let us not separate ways!”
We tried to go back to help our friends from Jasaan and also our deck mates, but we can’t find a way. Everything was in darkness. We are gasping for breath, the black smoke was like a poison that made us weak. We could feel that others collapsed and we even had stepped on them while we are consciously looking for a way out. We ran to the other part of the ship but the fire had blown from the top. We went down towards the bodega but a crew blocked us because it was more dangerous there.
It was about 3:00 am, now we can find our way because we are lighted by the blaze of fire but we can’t stand the intense heat. It was like an inferno at the sea. It was about three hours of struggle in order for us to escape until we heard the ship’s captain announcement: “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” And where shall we go? We are not safe if we jump into the big sea. We have not even seen a blink of a fisherman’s lighted boat. I cried. I almost collapsed. I’m tired of running and I can’t stand the pain any longer. I was very hot there. But I still managed to call up my mother because I just wanted to calm her down.
We are now in the life jackets. We have seen fishing boats and rescuers coming over the ship. We have seen children with no life jackets, so we spared ours. It was my turn to jump and I only got hold of a rope going to the Navy boat. I got nervous. I can’t imagine myself if what will happen. Whether I fall into the sea or I can successfully land in the rescue boat?
“Kring, save yourself, you’re still young, don’t worry about me. Anyway, I had enjoyed life and remember I have a cancer, may taning na buhay ko.” Maam Yoyen said. I embraced her tightly; I don’t want to leave her because we promised each other that whatever happens we will not separate ways. I held her arms but she pushed me through the rescue boat. I cried again and shouted so hard calling her to jump. Later on, Maam Yoyen jumped over after she had helped older people and children.
In the rescue boats, we helped dying people who had wounds. We didn’t stop chilling because it was already raining and the sky was very dark. I can’t imagine if we can survive from it at all, it was already 10:00 am when we were rescued and brought to the hotel.
Parents, friends, press people were on the airport in the next morning. I wanted to rest but the press keep on following us asking about our companions from Misamis Oriental, because no one was able to return home.
We were on the bus going home when my mother noticed my ID. Kring, how come that you still have your ID?” she asked.
“Ma, gisiguro ko lang ang ID, di ba ingon ka ako ning treasure? In case I fell to the sea, I will be easily identified and I still have the rosary beads which is my constant companion, ” I replied.
The following day, I went to school though I was still in trauma, I was afraid to hear the bell ringing. I’m afraid to see the water, the fire in the kitchen and everything that would remind me of the incident. Those were the seasons why my mother brought me to the psychiatrist. My stay in the hospital made me lost the chance to be in the better state of mind. I didn’t avail even half scholarship in College.
When the summer came, we went to Cagayan de Oro City to take the DOST scholarship. It was May 1 when my mother met Fr. Soldevilla informing her that he read my name in the newspaper as one of the DOST scholar.
Now, I;m presently enrolled in MPSC taking Electrical Engineering. Prayers determination, family support and strong faith in God made my life full of hope despite of the struggles of saving my life and other lives.
This is my life story. I can still felt the pain remembering my friends whose bodies, until now, have not been found. I need your help. I need your prayers. That the souls of the victim of the ill-fated Superferry 14 will rest in peace with the Lord.