Two fishermen from Caramoran swam for almost 15 hours to shore after their motorized banca capsized on April 1 while two others from Pandan tied themselves to their boat, floating on the rough sea for two days until they ran aground in one of the Palumbanes islands.
Two other fishermen from Caramoran went missing at the same time, with one of them found dead in the sea off Camarines Norte last Friday (April 7).
According to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), Augusto Sarmiento, 52, and Augusto Trinidad, 17, left the shore of Baybay, Caramoran in the early morning of March 31 to catch fish at an area of the Philippine Sea off Pandan town
Shortly after dawn of April 1, they encountered rough seas and their small motorized banca capsized at about 9 A.M. Determined to survive, they willed themselves by swimming for almost 15 hours towards one of the Palumbanes group of islands, where they sought assistance to be transported back to their village in Caramoran.
For Alpio Bagay, 52, and Jhunard Navarra, 38, they began preparing for their fishing trip at Libod, Pandan as early as 3 A.M.of April 1, leaving the village an hour later bound for the seawaters off barangay Hiyop in Pandan on board their white motorized banca with green and orange stripes.
They arrived at the fishing ground at 7 A.M. and immediately cast their fishing lines. Three hours later, however, the sea condition changed abruptly, with the waves becoming rougher and rougher and prompting them to decide to head for home.
At 12:30 P.M., their wooden banca capsized. They decided to tie their bodies to the waterlogged banca, on which they drifted for two days and two nights. “Nagdasal na lang kami at hinayaang magpalutang-lutang na lang ang banka,” Jhunard recalled.
On April 3, they finally floated to the shore of Tignog, Palumbanes, where they stayed for the night, gathering young coconut for food. It was on the following morning that they were rescued and brought to Pandan town proper and given medical attention at the district hospital where they were confined.
A search of the weather websites showed that the weather forecast for the morning of April 1 concerned only the northeasterly wind bringing cloudy skies with occasional, scattered to widespread rain showers and thunderstorms across Visayas and Northeastern Mindanao. In the afternoon, however, weathermen said fresh breeze to high winds of 35 to 55 kilometers per hour was expected along the seaboard of Northern Luzon, making the seas moderate to rough (with 2 to 3.5-meter waves) and risky for both small- and medium-sized sea vessels.
The moderate winds and rough seas appear to have continued in the following days, as the PDRRMO received a report of that two fishermen from Caramoran failed to return home from a fishing trip to the Kalipungawan fishing ground at the Bicol saddle of Benham Rise.on a specific date.
Local disaster officials immediately sent a flash message to concerned agencies for proper action and coordination.
Emmanuel Aguilar Anatacio, 53, and Ruel Samudio, 38, both residents of Tubli, went to sea on board their motorized banca powered by a 16-HP Briggs and Stratton engine and were expected to return home last April 3. When they failed to come back, boat owner Reymondo Abraham Alpon reported the matter to the authorities so a search could be launched for the orange-colored boat with blue and red water lines and bearing the marking “Rowena I” on side of the body and “Sabangan, Caramoran, Catanduanes” on the other.
The PDRRMO coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Catanduanes Station under LTJG. Alois Morales who directed the Pandan PCG to launch s Search and Rescue operation in coordination with MDRRMO Caramoran.
After failing to begin the search on April 4 due to the gale warning issued by PAGASA weathermen, the rescuers commenced the SAR operation on the 5th in the vicinity of Caramoan, Camarines Sur where they dropped anchor for the night.
The joint SAR team combed the area of Botanawan and then headed north for an hour turning east and then deciding to head home as the sea condition turned rough
The Coast Guard Sub-Station in Mercedes, Camarines Norte informed that MDRRMO Jude Alvin Hernandez had received a report from one of the fishermen from barangay Manguisoc that the latter had retrieved a motorized banca with its engine still intact and floating in the waters in the vicinity of Solong Bato in the Calaguas group of islands off Vinzons town in Camarines Norte. The banca, which had a damaged left outrigger and missing the right outrigger, was reportedly turned over to Manguisoc barangay chairman Eduardo Cañarejo.
Nelson Cerezo, 44, captain of the “John Joseph” motorized banca, told Coast Guard personnel that at about 5 P.M. of April 6 they sighted the bance floating in the sea off Solong Bato with no one on board. They towed the banca to shore, arriving at Manguisoc at 10 P.M.
In another report to the PCG, Joel Sarical, 48, owner and operator of fishing banca “Grace Joy” based in barangay 3, the crew of the boat sighted a floating cadaver in the vicinity of Solong Bato more or less 13 nautical miles or about 24 kilometers east southeast of sitio Biday, barangay Banocboc in the Calaguas group of islands in Vinzons town, Camarines Norte at about 4:15 P.M. of April 6 while they were fishing at the area.
The captain told Sarical that after securing their fishing nets, the “Grace Joy” crew scoured the area where they saw the cadaver but failed due to poor visibility. The crew disseminated the information to the crews of other fishing bancas n the area.
At 8:40 A.M. of April 7, the PCG and the Mercedes MDRRMO, together with the barangay chairman, launched a SAR operation from Pandawan fish port on board the “Grace Joy III” motorized banca and recovered the floating body. The Pandan Coast Guard sent a team to identify the remains if it belonged to one of the missing Caramoran fishermen.
The team eventually identified the badly decomposed body as that of Atanacio through the latter’s extra finger on his left hand. The victim was buried immediately at the cemetery of Vinzons town. There is no word yet on the fate of his companion.