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By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Nestle L. Semilla December 21,2016 - 11:06 PM

OVERWHELMED. Suspected food poisoning victims from Barangay Sirao overcrowd the Guba Community Hospital since Tuesday night due to severe diarrhea and vomiting after they ate packed meals distributed during a thanksgiving lunch hosted by a businessman-couple.  (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO).

OVERWHELMED. Suspected food poisoning victims from Barangay Sirao overcrowd the Guba Community Hospital since Tuesday night due to severe diarrhea and vomiting after they ate packed meals distributed during a thanksgiving lunch hosted by a businessman-couple.

What’s supposed to be a happy gift-giving moment in one of the mountain barangay in Cebu City turned out to be a misfortune for nearly two hundred residents who were rushed to different hospitals in the city due to alleged food poisoning.
At least 232 residents in Barangay Sirao received treatment from health personnel after they complained of stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea after eating the packed lunch served in a Christmas and Thanksgiving party organized by the owners of the famous Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam.

Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) head Nagiel Bañacia said that on Monday, Alfredo and Maria Elena Chua, a couple known for their benevolence, held a community party for their neighbors in Sirao, offering food they bought from a still unnamed caterer.

“Ni-offer sila, out of benevolence, og food. Gihatagan nilag party ang community. But pagkagabii kadtong nakakaon sa packed lunch started to complain of abdominal pain, suka ug kalibang. Alas diyes sa buntag na sa Tuesday didto na nagsugod abot sa Guba Community Hospital ang mga pasyente kay mas duol man ni,” Bañacia said.

(Out of benevolence, the Chua family offered food to the residents. They organized a party for them. But in the evening the residents started to complain of abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. At 10 a.m. of Tuesday, they started to flock to the Guba Community Hospital since it’s closer to Sirao.)

There were 300 to 400 packed lunches consisting of rice, spaghetti and chicken that were distributed to the residents.

Cebu Daily News tried to reach the Chua couple for their comment through their phone but to no avail.

But in an interview with Balitang Bisdak of GMA-7 Cebu, Maria Elena Chua, the Sirao farm’s developer-owner, said she was saddened by the outcome of supposed to be a happy moment.

“It was in good faith (giving them foods). Mao na pwerte g’yud nako…it was very sad. I feel so sad because I really tried my best para gyud sa mga tawo ba (it was for them). But it turned out like this,” Chua said while crying.

She said that since her business, the Sirao Garden, did well this year, she decided to organize a Christmas and Thanksgiving party for the residents.

Some of the victims, on the other hand, said they did not blame the Chuas for the incident since they knew the food was catered.

They said the couple had also been preoccupied with attending to the needs of the patients and had been visiting the hospitals where they victims were brought to.

Code Red

Bañacia said that as of Wednesday afternoon, 197 patients were admitted to the Guba Community Hospital, 16 of whom were referred and admitted to Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) and other private hospitals in Cebu City due to severe dehydration; and 35 others were given treatment at home by personnel from CCMC and the City Health Department (CHD).

As of 8 p.m. yesterday, 111 of those admitted to the Guba Community Hospital had been discharged, according to Bañacia.

Earlier yesterday, the Guba Community Hospital was placed under Code Red since the 25-bed hospital was already in distress and overwhelmed by the number of patients, even as two patients were already asked to share a bed.

When Cebu Daily News visited the community hospital yesterday morning, most of the patients were just sitting on chairs and holding their own intravenous fluids (IV fluids).

Bañacia said that the hospital staff of not more than 10 nurses and doctors were overworked because many of the patients came in groups on Tuesday night.

“I received a distress call gikan sa Guba kay gikapoy na ang nurses ug doctors, morag overworked na because there were already 88 patients admitted (I received a distress call from Guba because the nurses and doctors were already stressed and overworked because there were already 88 patients admitted),” Bañacia said.

Nagiel Banacia (2nd from left), head of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO)

Nagiel Banacia (2nd from left), head of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO)

When the hospital began to run out of supply of I.V. fluids, he said the CCMC and CCDRRMO sent additional stocks of IV fluids.
By yesterday afternoon, 80 folding beds were brought to Guba by the CCDRRMO to be used by the patients, Bañacia added.

House calls

Bañacia said some of the victims opted for self medication, the reason why the CCDRRMO, along with personnel from CCMC and CHD, decided to go house to house, particularly in Sitios Santol and Tawagan, to check on the patients and bring to hospitals those who need to be hospitalized.

All of the victims suffered from dehydration and needed IV fluid to rehydrate.

On Tuesday night, eight paramedics from Quick Response Team (QRT) were able to attend to about 20 patients who were not able to go to hospital due to severe dehydration and stomach ache in Sitio Tawagan.

On Wednesday morning, the team from CCMC and CHD attended to 15 Sitio Santol residents during house calls.


Analyn Mabini, 28, said her daughter Mary Rose, 9, suffered from high fever and diarrhea soon after she ate the packed lunch.

Another resident, Lucricio Englis, 49, said his wife Teresita needed to be transferred to Chong Hua Hospital because she was suffering from severe dehydration.

He said that all of them in their family ate the food that were distributed, but it was only his wife who suffered from food poisoning.

“Siya raman gyud ang naunsa. Pero dako gyud akong pagtuo nga nahilo gyud ni sila sa spaghetti. Wala nami laing gidudahan kana ra g’yud (My wife was the only one affected in our family. I personally believed that she was poisoned by the spaghetti that she ate),” Englis said.



Engis and Mabini said the residents were not blaming the Chua family because they knew and believed that the incident was not their fault.

Aside from the food packs, the residents were also given rice and canned goods as Christmas gifts by the Chuas.

“Dili man sila ang nag-andam ato. Kahibaw man mi cater to gikan. Maayo man g’yud to ilahang paghatag namo. Bati lang kay niresulta og ing-ani (We know they were not the ones who prepared the foods. We also knew that it was catered. We believed that they give us food in good faith. But it’s just unfortunate that it resulted into this),” Englis said.

Patients were also thankful that the Chuas were also responsible enough and had also taken good care of them.

Mabini and Englis said the owners visited them in the hospital and gave them medicines and bottled water supply.

Finding the culprit

Dr. Alice Marie Aycordo, assistant head of CHD, said they already got samples of the food for a conclusive laboratory examination if it was food poison.

“Mag-conduct ta og test if naa ba gyoy bacteria. And check pud kadtong nagdala sa food. Giunsa nila pagstore ang food and when nila sa mga residents gikaon g’yud (We will conduct test if the food has really bacteria. And we will check those who prepared the foods. How they stored and when the residents ate the foods),” Aycordo said.

Bañacia said they city already found out that the food packs were prepared by a caterer in Sun Valley Subdivision in V. Rama Ave., Cebu City, but he said they have yet to get the exact name of the caterer.

Cebu City Councilor Alvin Arcilla, meanwhile, said that all medical expenses of the patients will be shouldered by the Cebu City government.

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TAGS: CCDRRMO, CCMC, Cebu City, Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office, Cebu City Medical Center, CHD, City Health Department, gift, Gift giving, hospital, moment, Nagiel Banacia, Quick Response Team, resident, Sirao

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