By: Jennifer P. Rendon
PATRICK Perales and his wife, Eden, had it all planned out: they would build a farm for their livelihood, and will make Eden stay for good in the Philippines,
Eden was a teacher based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates while Patrick lives in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
The couple, both 37 years old, has been married for 10 years. They went steady for 15 years before tying the knot.
Along with eight other companions, mostly Eden’s colleagues at the Abu Dhabi school, they long planned a trip to Visayas and Mindanao.
But before they could complete the Visayas leg of their tour, tragedy struck.
Eden was among the more than 20 fatalities after three pump boats capsized in the Iloilo Strait afternoon of Aug. 3, 2019.
Two of their companions, Andrew Valenzuela, 39, of Bataan province, and Jaquelyn Alferez, 39, of Manila, also perished in the tragedy.
Patrick recounted that they’ve been lining up to catch a boat from Buenavista Wharf to Iloilo City.
The group arrived in Guimaras on Friday and planned to do some island hopping.
“Masama ang panahon. That’s why, we just went to Guisi lighthouse and decided to go on our next destination,” he said.
They also went to Iloilo and spent two nights in Boracay Island in Aklan. They were supposed to go to Bacolod City to complete their Visayas tour before going to Mindanao.
Because two pump boats capsized noon of Saturday, sea travel from and to Guimaras and Iloilo City were temporarily suspended.
“Biglang umaraw siya kaya nakita ko yung mga ibang pasahero, nag-uunahan sa pila ng ticket,” he said.
Patrick said he was not fully aware of what transpired but they were given priority.
“Parang inuna nila na makasakay ang mga may hahabulin pang flights at may mga byahe pa,” he assumed.
They were supposed to embark on a blue pump boat but it already left. They were given seats on the next boat – the M/B Jenny Vince.
Patrick saw a crew lowering down the boat’s side tarpaulin cover.
“It was about to rain pero wala pang alon. Makulimlim lang sya,” he said.
But just 10 minutes after leaving the wharf, a strong wind struck their boat causing it to capsize.
Patrick said he was almost thrown overboard as half of his body already out of the boat.
His first instinct was to look for his wife but he couldn’t find her.
“Matagal ako doon. We were the last ones to leave,” he said.
‘ANG ASAWA KO NAMAN’
Patrick said he helped Coast Guard personnel and rescuers retrieve passengers left inside the boat.
“Nahugot pa namin mga limang tao – ‘yung mag-asawa, ‘yung mag-ama, at si Kathy,” he said.
Patrick is plagued by the voices of passengers screaming for help inside capsized boat.
“Buhay pa sila. Kumakatok pa sila para makalabas,” he said.
A Coast Guard officer allegedly used an axe and mallet to destroy the hull but these were not enough to punch a big hole where the trapped passengers could pass through.
“Takot rin kaming butasin kasi baka tuluyang lumubog,” he said.
Patrick said he was asking for a dive tank so he could go underneath and cut off the latch of the tarpaulin but the Coast Guard had none.
He dived underneath and scooped a woman, whom he claimed was wearing a jacket. He tried to free some more but they were kicking him.
Patrick said he was also running out of breath and even swallowed seawater.
As rescuers pulled some survivors, he told them, “Ang asawa ko naman please, ang asawa ko naman,” a teary-eyed Patrick said.
At that time, they were already told to board a rescue boat while women and elderly boarded a Coast Guard vessel.
He was brought to St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo City for treatment.
“I was still hoping that my wife made it alive,” he said.
After he was discharged, he immediately looked for his wife in hospitals hoping that she was rescued.
He was later brought to Dumangas District Hospital after 11 bodies were found inside a boat that went adrift in Dumangas town. There, he found his wife.
“Hindi na sila na rescue nang naiwan na Coast Guard. I could still hear them screaming for help. Nang-aano na tulungan sila,” he said.
While he didn’t completely blame the Coast Guard, Patrick felt some resentment.
“May kaunting tampo lang. Pero iniisip ko sana nagpaiwan ako para may mag push pa sa kanila and we could have saved others,” he said.
For now, Patrick could not think of any immediate or long-term plans.
“I just want to bring my wife back to Palawan,” Patrick said, as he begged off from the interview to process the release of Eden’s cadaver.