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Boy who stared death in the face wants to be a soldier

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva November 30,2014 - 01:10 AM

MAMA’S BOY. Jason Baldado, 8 stands outside a hut where the remains of his mother, Alona, lie in state. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

MAMA’S BOY. Jason Baldado, 8 stands outside a hut where the remains of his mother, Alona, lie in state. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Right after playing a game of “bato lata” with friends, Jason Baldado made his way across the Saliring Bridge in barangay Sto. Niño, Malabuyoc town, southern Cebu, like he would do on any ordinary day yesterday.

Smiling from ear to ear, Jason waved at his elder brother, Nicol who was below the bridge and who gestured for him to come down for an interview with Cebu Daily News.

No one would expect that the 8-year-old (not seven as previously reported) just the day before had stared death up close when rains spawned by tropical depression Queenie caused the Saliring River to swell, sweeping away their  shanty including him and his mother, Alona.

Jason survived.

Mother and son tried to flee when they saw the surge coming past 6 a.m., but they were overtaken easily. Alona, gasping for breath, carried Jason on her shoulders to keep his head above the water. They had made it past the bridge when Alona’s body got snagged by a wooden bed (lantay). She ingested large amounts of water and drowned.

“I’m going to die,” Jason recalled his mother saying. By then, he said, he was already crying harder.

“Stop crying. I’m going to die. Go save yourself,” she told him.

Jason frantically tried to pull his mother, but the current was too strong.

By then, Jason’s 18-year old brother Nicol had come, a piece of rope tied around his torso, to save them.

Nicol guided Jason up a  coconut tree. But it was too late. Alona was gone.

Jason Baldado looks at her mother. (CDN PHOTO/ TONEE DESPOJO)

Jason Baldado looks at her mother. (CDN PHOTO/ TONEE DESPOJO)

“Mama” was all Jason could think of as he clung to the tree, crying in the rain, watching his mother’s lifeless body  below. Alona’s body was recovered when the water subsided in the afternoon.

The sun had beamed brightly the next day, and Jason was smiling again, playing like any normal child.

Except for a few scratches on his left arm, Jason was all right.

His father, Pedrito, said that Jason, the youngest among six siblings, is the only one going to school.

“All of them have stopped. I’ll make sure he gets a decent education,” he said.

But Pedrito, a fisherman, lost his only fishing boat to Queenie.

Alona was a laundrywoman and both of them only managed to bring home enough money to get through the day. Pedrito and Alona have been living separately for years already.

Because Alona’s home was swept away by the flood, her wake had to be held in the home of Pedrito’s brother, Nilo.

The municipal government has given rice to the family and has vowed to pay for Alona’s casket.

Pedrito hopes the municipality could increase its assistance to help him acquire a new fishing boat.

Jason, who is halfway through Grade 1 at Malabuyoc Central School, said he will go back to his classes next week.

“Someone  gave me a school bag while others gave canned food,” he said in Cebuano.

Jason said he likes Math and would want to become a soldier when he grows up.

“What is one plus one?” Cebu Daily News asked.  “Two,” he said confidently, and with one last smile, turned around and went on to play with his friends once again.

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TAGS: Cebu Daily News, children, death, environment, flood, Malabuyoc, Queenie

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