‘We are here to help’
Divers share why they temporarily left their jobs, risk their lives to find Mayor Gisela
Complete with rash guards, masks, fins, dive computers and regulators, five men took a deep breath and jumped to the turquoise waters of Lapu-Lapu City.
They are known dive masters and instructors on Olango Island. But that time, they were not diving with their students or with tourists.
They were on a mission significant to a family and to a town waiting for justice. They were on a mission to search and retrieve the body of slain Bien Unido Mayor Gisela Boniel.
The traces of sunburns on their faces are not even enough proof of how much time they have offered for this mission.
It was Day 20 of the Task Force Boniel’s diving operation, and the divers were already on their 48th dive. Though no body or any evidence retrieved from their search, the divers all held their heads up high.
“We will continue this mission until we find the mayor’s body,” said the divers in Cebuano with a smile after their last dive for the day.
Mokie Tatoy, the head diver on Friday, said he did not hesitate for a second when he was asked to join the search and retrieval operation.
He had to temporarily leave his own diving center on Olango Island to extend his time and skills to Task Force Boniel.
“Since I was 14, I already started diving. So now that my help is needed, I am gladly giving it because I also want to help solve this crime,” he said in Cebuano while drying up his hair.
Now at 42, he vows to continue using his diving skills for a greater purpose.
“Kun asa pwede ko maka-contribute sa akong nakamahoan, adto ko (Wherever I can contribute what I have learned, I would go there),” Mokie said.
Another diver, Adolfo Igot, expressed the same thoughts.
“Kabubut-on ni nako nga mo-volunteer ani. Kanindot anang makatabang ka sa lain di ba? (It is my own will to volunteer for this. Isn’t it great to be able to help others?)” Adolfo said.
The Task Force Boniel is his first “serious” diving experience.
“Kanang naa gyud kay gipangita nga seryoso ug importante (That I am looking for something important and serious),” he said, noting that the experience has taught him more about diving.
Adolfo’s brother, Joseph, was also part of the team. He is a boat captain and a diving instructor since 2007. He, too, had to leave his job for to take part on the search operation.
“Kun mohunong mi ani, kinsa naman lang ang mopadayon og pangita sa iyang lawas (If we stop this, who will continue to search for her body?)” he said.
Cristanto Cuaton and Wilmar Bacalla, the youngest members of the team, also believed that their contribution in searching for Mayor Gisela’s remains is a big help to bring justice to her family and to the town of Bien Unido.
“Mao ni among tabang sa iyang pamilya, sa mga pulis. Serbisyo lang gyud (This is our help to her family, to the police. We just want to serve),” Cuaton and Bacalla said before making a high-five.
Mayor Gisela was allegedly killed by her husband, Bohol Provincial Board Member Niño Rey Boniel, on June 7. Her dead body was thrown in the waters of Lapu-Lapu City.
The five divers searched around 2 to 3 kilometers of the waters near Caubian Island. They dove three times on Friday, searching about 18 meters below sea level in each dive.
As experts on this field, they all know that the job can be dangerous and fatal.
They face various physical and health risks each time they jump to the sea. They may experience decompression sickness or oxygen toxicity. They may also get into trouble when their equipment malfunctions.
Doing exercises and eating the right amount of food before diving are also essential to keep them alive and safe.
“Kun tan-aw sa uban murag sayon ra ang diving, dili gyud. Daghan mi og angay bantayan aron safe ming makabalik (If others think that diving is easy, it really isn’t. We have to consider a lot of things so we can come back safe),” said Adolfo.
But all of them added that they won’t mind taking the risk just to find Mayor Gisela.
There is no concrete plan yet if these dive volunteers will be compensated after the mission, as admitted by Chief Insp. Junnel Caadlawon, Lapu-Lapu police head of operations.
But Caadlawon said the willingness of the divers to be part of the task force for free symbolizes goodness in humanity.
“Mapasalamaton gyud kaayo ta sa tanan nga niapil ani nga (We are grateful to all those who joined in this) operation. We know that they have done their best. We all have done our best,” he said.
Task Force Boniel is set to continue the search and retrieval operation this week. And even with the vastness of the sea and the depth of the area they still need to search, Caadlawon and all the divers agreed, “makit-an gyud na nato si mayor” (we will find the mayor’s body)’.
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