By: Nestle L. Semilla, Norman V. Mendoza March 17,2018 - 10:41 PM

Jennifer Cañedo is inconsolable when her relatives informed her on Saturday, March 17, 2018, that the charred remains (below) found among the ashes of her burned down house in Sitio New Paradise in Barangay Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City, could be those of her two young sons Yokohan, 3, and Kent Zairel, 1.

  • Charred remains believed to be those of the 2 young brothers were found in the ash debris of the Sitio New Paradise fire
  • Nearly 2,000 persons were left homeless by the fire

Jennifer Cañedo just could not stop crying.

A solo parent to five young children, Cañedo, 28, found it hard to come to terms with the loss of her two sons, ages 1 and 3, in the fire that hit her seaside community in Sitio New Paradise, Barangay Pajo, Lapu-Lapu City, on Friday afternoon.

Cañedo and her three other children were among the nearly 2,000 residents of the community who have lost their homes to the three-hour fire and are now given temporary shelters in the barangay gymnasium and two nearby public schools.

As the community grappled over the loss of homes and belongings, Cañedo grappled with her own grief, with uncontrollable sobs wracking her small frame.

“Lutaw kaayo ko karon. Wa ko nasayod unsa ang akong buhaton. Wa ko kasabot sa akong gibati (I am still in a daze. I don’t know what to do. I don’t understand what I feel),” said Cañedo in between sobs.

She lit two white candles on the spot where she and her relatives found what they believed to be the remains of her two sons — Yokohan, 3, and Kent Zairel, 1.

The supposed bodies of the victims were so badly charred that only the bones and ashes were left.

FO2 Benjie Jilig, investigator of the Lapu-Lapu City Fire Department, said they submitted the bones to the Regional Crime Laboratory for DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) test to determine whether or not they belonged to Cañedo’s two children.

Although she was still waiting for the results, Cañedo believed that the bones belonged to her two sons.

Painful experience

Choked with emotions, the grieving mother kept on blaming herself for the tragedy, which she said would forever leave deep scars in her mind and heart.

“Nakadungog pa ko sa tingog sa akong mga anak nga nagpakitabang og naghilak samtang nagsiyagit ‘Ma! Ma!’ Pero dako na gyud kaayo ang kayo. Wala gyud sila naluwas (I could still hear my sons screaming and crying for help while saying ‘Ma! Ma!’ but the flames were already too big. I failed to save them),” she said.

Cañedo said the fact that her boys were burned alive pierced her heart.

“Sakit kaayo ang gidangatan sa akong mga anak. Maayo pa lang wala nako sila biya-i sa taas sa among balay. Dili unta to mahitabo (My sons died a painful death. Had I not left them on the second floor of our house, this should not have happened),” said Cañedo, a single mother, who lived with and depended on her parents.

Last Friday, Cañedo left her two children and a four-year-old nephew near the kitchen area on the second floor of their house while she was resting inside her parents’ bedroom on the ground floor.

Based on the investigation, three-year-old Yokohan played with matches and sheets of paper while one-year-old Kent Zairel slept near the two kids.
Cañedo said she was awakened by a thick smoke from the second floor. She went out of the room and saw her four-year-old nephew who quickly went down the stairs.

She tried to save her two sons on the second floor but was prevented by the thick smoke and fire.

Cañedo’s three other children aged 4, 5 and 9 managed to save themselves.

State of calamity

The blaze in Sitio New Paradise rendered homeless around 2,000 individuals from a total of 353 households. Another 167 renters lost properties to the three-hour fire that broke out at 5:10 p.m. on Friday.

The Pajo barangay council immediately placed Sitio New Paradise under state of calamity to allow them to use their quick response fund to address the immediate needs of the affected families.

A calamity fund of at least P700,000 is set to be released as assistance to the fire victims who were being housed at the Pajo Elementary School and Pajo High School compounds.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza visited the fire victims on Friday evening and ordered the distribution of hot meals, burger and bottled water to the fire victims.

She said the city government is also set to give its own financial assistance of P10,000 to each of the affected households.

“The city council will work on that financial assistance as we usually do whenever there are fires in the city,” said Radaza in an interview.

Pajo Barangay Captain Junard Chan said the village would be taking care of the fire victims’ meals until Monday.

On Saturday, packed meals that included pancit (sauted noodles), hotdog, boiled eggs, misua, sardines and utan bisaya (Visayan vegetable soup) were served to the fire victims.

More help needed

Chan appealed to the public to donate more food, water, blankets, mats, toiletries and even construction materials to the fire victims.

“Dili lalim ang gidangatan sa atong mga kaigsonan. Kasagaran kanila wala nay mga magamit nga butang. Ako, isip amahan sa barangay, nanoktok sa inyong mga kasing-kasing ug nanghina-ut sa inyong mga tabang,” he said in his post on Facebook.

(What our brothers and sisters in New Paradise underwent was not easy. Most of them have not saved anything to use. I, as the father of the barangay, knock on your heart and hope for your help.)

“Dili ako maulaw mangayo kaninyo og panabang bisan og unsa ang inyong mahatag basta kinasing-kasing (I’m not embarrassed to ask for your help. Your donation, no matter how small, will be appreciated),” he added.

Chan said the barangay has distributed blankets, mats, and makeshift tents to the fire victims, but these were not enough for everyone.

On Saturday morning, Chan met with the fire victims and assured them that the local government would help them rebuild their homes on the spot where their dwellings used to stand.

However, he said, the affected area involved privately-owned lots, and it was still unclear who owned them.

“There are three claimants and that lot is under litigation. I believe the fire victims can rebuild their homes,” Chan said in an interview.

‘Be careful’

Based on the data of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), electrical misuse, faulty electrical wiring, and unattended open flame like lighted candles are among the top causes of fire in previous years.

Senior Fire Officer 3 Climaco Salisid, investigator of the Lapu-Lapu City Fire Department, advised residents and owners of commercial

establishments to be extra careful, and to avoid overloading of electrical outlets by using too many extension wires, resulting in “octopus connections.”

An octopus electrical connection involves plugging several devices to a wall socket. This also refers to an extension cord with multiple outlets which may cause overheating or an electrical overload.

Salisid also reminded parents to keep matches or lighters off the reach of their children.

“Let us be vigilant careful especially during summer when the weather is very hot,” he said.

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TAGS: 000 persons, FOUND, grief, mothers, Nearly 2, paradise, PROFOUND, Remains, Sitio New Paradise, young

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