CEBU CITY -- Bodies of seven Filipinos were reportedly retrieved from the rubble of the Canterbury Television (CTV) building in Christchurch, New Zealand, but were not identified.
An aunt of one of the six Cebuanos trapped in the same building said she received this information at 5:22 p.m. Thursday.
Dr. Ethel Uy, aunt of Rhea Mae Sumalpong, said a representative of the family was not allowed to see the bodies.
Three days after the earthquake, Mario Ruel Sumalpong has yet to hear from the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand about his daughter, 25-year-old Rhea Mae, who was among the Filipinos trapped inside the collapsed CTV.
Addressing Cebu reporters through a video conference from Australia Thursday, Sumalpong burst into tears as he expressed his “diminishing hopes” for his daughter to be alive.
Sumalpong, a hotel worker, lives in Australia with his wife Marlene, a nurse, and another daughter, who is studying nursing there. They used to live in Tuyan, Naga.
Uy said her niece was scheduled to take the nursing board exam in New Zealand on March 13, and planned to work in Australia later this year.
Rhea Mae went to New Zealand last October 29 and worked as a caregiver at a hospital.
In an interview in her clinic in Naga City Thursday, Uy said she was disappointed with the way the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is handling the situation.
At 5:22 p.m. Thursday, Uy received a report that the bodies of seven Filipinos were retrieved from the CTV building, but these were not identified.
She said Ariel Amado Caballero, who lives with Rhea Mae and whom they authorized to represent them, was not allowed to see the bodies.
Uy said she went to the DFA Cebu office last Wednesday and wrote a narrative report appealing to the agency to change its earlier statement that no Filipino was harmed during the earthquake.
“We in the family got mad. It’s because of the statements from the DFA and in the news that there were no Filipino casualties or fatalities. We were hurt because how could we ask our Philippine government for any help if they had made that declaration?” she said.
Sumalpong said they wanted to go to Christchurch to check on Rhea Mae’s condition but were advised against it because the place remains unsafe.
“Once we receive news, good or bad, we will go there,” he said.
He said the last time he talked with Rhea Mae was Saturday night and his wife last talked to their daughter Monday night.
Uy said Rhea Mae texted her mother 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, saying she and others were trapped. After that, their calls went directly to her voice mail.
Rhea Mae, whom Sumalpong described as a good daughter, graduated from Southwestern University in 2007.
Another Filipina whose condition remains unknown is Emmabelle Anoba, who had worked with Rhea Mae at the South General Hospital in Tuyan, Naga.
Emmabelle, like Rhea Mae and four other Cebuanos, was in the CTV building attending English review classes for the nursing licensure exam when the earthquake happened.
Her last text to her relatives in Cebu came at 1 a.m. Tuesday after the earthquake.
Also trapped in the CTV were John Christopher Chua from Lapu-Lapu City, Ezra May Medalle, Cecil Redoble and Jewel Francisco.
Emmabelle left Cebu for New Zealand only last February 19. She called up her mother Annabella the next day to say that she had arrived safe.
Annabella Anoba runs a vegetable stall at the Minglanilla Public Market. She begged off from being interviewed and assigned her sister, Jerusalem Clemeña, to answer questions from reporters.
Clemeña, holding a rosary, said the family is worried because the rescue work has been stopped and they have not heard about Emmabelle yet.
They had expected the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand to give them an update of the condition of those trapped in the CTV but had received none.
Clemeña said Rhea Mae and Emmabelle’s groupmates in New Zealand, Robelyn and Ruby Dacares, also received text messages from Anoba’s group asking for help while buried underneath.
“Tabangi kami Rob, kay nia mi ilawom. Makaginhawa pa man hinuon mi” was Rhea Mae’s text to Robelyn.
They could still be alive, Clemeña said.
Clemeña said the Anoba family plans to see their congressman, Representative Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, first district), to ask for help.
Emmabelle’s three sisters are nurses and she has a brother who is a civil engineer. Her father Emmanuel works at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.
Emmabelle took up nursing at the University of Cebu and graduated in 2005. (RSB/OCP/Sun.Star Cebu)
Reposted From Sun.Star