Thursday, 22 October 2009

2 teeners cited for heroism

Yolanda Sotelo
Inquirer Northern Luzon

SAN JACINTO, Pangasinan—When flooding hit this central Pangasinan town last week, two young men using an air mattress helped rescue scores of residents in danger of drowning.

For their efforts, the Philippine National Police handed out recognition awards on Monday to Rhubert Venerayon, 17, and his brother Rhuniel, 16.

Insp. Ryan Manongdo, officer in charge of the town police, also was conferred the Medalya ng Kadakilaan.

All told, more than 130 residents were rescued in three flooded barangays (villages) of San Jacinto.

Rhubert and his brother had just arrived from school in Dagupan City on Oct. 8 when their mother Linda told them a friend had texted her for help.

It was past 3 p.m. on the day the San Roque Dam started to open its gates, spilling water that overflowed rivers and widened flooding from Tropical Storm “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma).

When the brothers reached their mother’s friend in Magsaysay village, less than a kilometer away, the water was already waist-deep.

“It was good that Ate Gigi had an air mattress which we used to transport her, a 6-month-old baby and a 63-year-old grandmother, to our house,” Rhuniel said.

Others marooned helped

The brothers—sons of a worker in Saudi Arabia—then went on to help other marooned residents.

A police team, led by Manongdo, who was also using his own air mattress, saw the teenagers and asked his men to guide them in the grim task that went on until 1 a.m.

“Our mother was very much worried and continuously called us on our mobile phones, but we thought we could help more people. We just turned off our phones so she could not text or call us,” Rhubert said.

“We did not have dinner that time, we just picked guava fruits along the way,” Manongdo said.

Heroism of others

Four other young men also helped in the rescue, Manongdo said.

Archival Bautista, 20, his brother Arnel, 18, and their friends Arnel Bandong, 19, and Jonathan Cayabyab, 18, used a small inflatable boat to transport residents of Barangay Pag-asa to the evacuation centers.

“The boat got deflated after every trip, so the friends needed to inflate it again using an air pump. They did that several times until late in the night,” Manongdo said.

Their heroism, however, went unmentioned in the official police reports.

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