Bulacan

Heroism the greatest love, says bishop during tribute to ill-starred Bulacan rescuers

Jairo Bolledo
Heroism the greatest love, says bishop during tribute to ill-starred Bulacan rescuers

HEROES. A tarpaulin honoring the five rescuers from Bulacan hangs in front of the Bulacan capitol gymnasium for the tribute ceremony of the fallen heroes on September 30, 2022.

Jairo Bolledo/ Rappler

'Sina Troy, George, Marby, Narciso Jr., at Jerson ay nag-alay ng kanilang buhay in the highest way possible alang-alang sa paglilingkod sa kapwa,' Malolos Bishop Dennis Villarojo says

BULACAN, Philippines – To sacrifice one’s life so that others may live is the greatest love, and this was the example given by the five fallen Bulacan rescuers.

This was how Bishop Dennis Villarojo, of the Diocese of Malolos, summed up the heroism of the rescuers who died while performing their duties amidst the fury of Typhoon Karding.

Villarojo presided over the mass during the Bulacan provincial government’s “Luksang Parangal para sa mga Bayaning Tagapagligtas (Funeral honors for the heroes) honoring George E. Agustin, Troy Justin P. Agustin, Marby B. Bartolome, Jerson L. Resurrecion, and Narciso Calayag Jr.

Ang nangyari ay limang tao ang gumanap sa kanilang gampanin at sa walang pakundangan sa kanilang sariling kapakanan ay nag-alay ng kanilang buhay upang maglingkod. Ito po ay itinuturing nating kabayanihan. At sa turo ng ating Panginoon, ito ’yung sinasabing pinakahigit na pag-ibig, the greatest love,” said Bishop Villarojo.

(What happened there was five people who fulfilled their duties without thinking about themselves and gave their life to serve. We consider this heroism. And according to our God’s teachings, this is what we call the greatest love.)

Heroism the greatest love, says bishop during tribute to ill-starred Bulacan rescuers

The bishop said the devotion for duty of the five sons of Bulacan reflected what was mentioned in John 15:13 of the New Testament.

Ang ating Panginoon ay nagsabi sa atin ‘no greater love than this: that when a man lays down his life for his friends.’ Sina Troy, George, Marby, Narciso Jr., at Jerson ay nag-alay ng kanilang buhay in the highest way possible alang-alang sa paglilingkod sa kapwa,” Bishop Villarojo said.

(Our God told us that “no greater love than this: that when a man lays down his life for his friends.” Troy, George, Marby, Narciso Jr., and Jerson gave their lives in the highest way possible to help others.)

The five rescuers died when they were swept by flash floods in San Miguel town. Their bodies were discovered after Typhoon Karding’s onslaught.

During Friday’s ceremony, the bodies of the rescuers were brought to Bulacan’s capitol gymnasium from their hometowns – except for Jerson, because his wife requested that his body remains in their home to spend more time with him for the last time.

Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando and Vice Governor Alex Castro led the event, while other officials like Senator Jinggoy Estrada and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Undersecretary Raymundo Ferrer also attended. In an advisory on Friday, the interior department said DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos was also expected to pay a visit.

All the families of the rescuers were present. To also pay their respects to their fallen comrades, rescuers from other Bulacan cities and towns, and even from other regions, attended the ceremony.

In his message, Fernando said the bells of churches under the Malolos diocese will be rang simultaneously to mourn the fallen heroes. Flags in the province were also in half-mast.

Fernando also reiterated in his speech to conserve the nature, and highlighted his recent order, Executive Order No. 21-2022, which temporarily suspended mining permits and quarrying in the province.

Nanawagan ako ngayon, tigilan natin ang sobrang paninira ng kalikasan…Kung tuluyang nasira ang Sierra Madre, malamang pumasok ng todo ang bagyo sa Bulacan (I am calling now to stop destroying our environment…If Sierra Madre was totally destroyed, the typhoon could have totally devastated Bulacan),” the governor said.

After the ceremony, a public viewing followed that will last until October 1 – the same day George, Troy, Marby, and Narciso would be laid to rest. Jerson will be buried on October 2, according to his family.

Recognitions and assistance

On Friday, Bulacan provincial board announced the passing of a resolution, which honored the five rescuers. The resolution stated that posthumous awards will be given to the rescuers and their families would be given P200,000 each from the provincial government.

Aside from these, the families were also given P300,000 worth of insurance benefits from the Bulacan PDRRMO. The NDRRMC and Central Luzon regional DRRMO also posthumously awarded Batas Parangal ng Kagitingan to the five rescuers.

Families of the rescuers also received assistance from various private organizations, local government units, and politicians. Nongovernment organization Angat Buhay led by former vice president Leni Robredo was also said to provide assistance to families.

Last goodbyes

Bulacan PDRRMO head Liz Mungcal delivered her final goodbyes to her “sons.” She said she considered the rescuers her own children.

Isang pagpupugay sa mga dakilang bayani. Inspirasyong ’di malilimutan (A tribute to our great heroes. [Your] inspiration will never be forgotten),” Mungcal said.

Representatives of each family also gave their messages to thank all those who supported them. Cesar Bartolome, Marby’s uncle, said the sacrifice of his nephew and his colleagues was meaningful because they were able to help and serve the Filipino people.

Ferdinand Calayag, brother of Narciso, said their family is still in pain because of his brother’s death. The love to serve others runs in their blood, he said, because he is a fire officer, while their other brother is a cop.

Troy’s wife, Jessa, turned emotional as she shared her feelings: “Kung puwede ko lang ibalik ’yang mga parangal na ’yan, ibabalik ko, buhayin ninyo lang po asawa ko (If I can only return all these awards in exchange of my husband’s life, I would do it).” – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.