Sunday, March 14, 2010

Woman sheltered by Gordon after sea tragedy sees her hero again

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:46:00 03/14/2010

Filed Under: woman, Disasters (general), Eleksyon 2010

Original Story:

MILAOR, Camarines Sur—Thirty-nine year-old Maritess Maderal had long been waiting for that one chance to again embrace the man who brought her to his home, took care of her for several months and treated her as his own child after she lost her mother and two siblings in a sea tragedy when she was just 14.

The opportunity came 25 years later: Last Saturday night, Maderal introduced her youngest daughter Joan to Senator Richard Gordon.

Speaking in Filipino as her tears welled up, Maderal told Gordon: “Thank you very much.”

Maderal is one of the 42 survivors from the sinking of the MV Asuncion in December 1985 off Zambales. Gordon then was the mayor of Olongapo City.

Gordon brought her and another girl to his home, until Maderal’s father Jose, who also survived the accident, fetched her from Gordon’s house several months later.

That was the last time they saw each other. Maderal was still in sixth grade then.

She now has four children, the eldest of whom—17-year-old Joemel—already finished high school but could not get into college because of poverty.

Gordon went to Camarines Sur on Saturday for several activities, including the opening of a public health center put up by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the Spanish Red Cross in a remote coastal barangay in Lagonoy.

He was scheduled to immediately proceed in the evening to a gathering of regional businessmen in this city, but a local coordinator managed to convince him to drop in at the Milaor Elementary School, where PRC volunteers were holding livelihood training for some 200 mothers.

Gordon never expected he would see Maderal there.

"What a miracle!” Gordon exclaimed after seeing Maderal. “You were still very young when I last saw you!"

Maderal lived just 10 minutes away from the school. When she learned that Gordon would be gracing the training, she went to the school with her youngest daughter and other relatives, hoping that this time, after several attempts of catching him on the few occasions he reached Naga City, she would be able to at least say hello.

Maderal broke into tears as Gordon embraced her, happy that her long wait was finally over.

Maderal was with her parents and three siblings when the MV Asuncion sank off Zambales coast in December 1985. They had come from Palawan, where they stayed for a year, and were planning to finally relocate to Metro Manila.

The tragedy ended their dream: Maderal's mother Editha, her eldest brother Daniel and youngest sister Maricel were killed.

Maderal drifted on the sea for almost a day until she was rescued and brought to a hospital in Olongapo City. It was where Gordon found her.

Gordon decided to bring her and another girl, Lilibeth Acar, to his family's house. Acar lost her family while Maderal, at that time, was still clueless where her parents were and if they were still alive.

It turned out that Acar and Maderal were neighbors in Palawan. Finding refuge in Gordon's home, they grew closer and even became friends with Gordon's wife and children.

Maderal said: "They were very kind. They treated us like their own family."

Gordon wanted to adopt her, but after eight months, her father Jose arrived to fetch her. Gordon brought them to a bus station and never saw them again—until last Saturday.

Gordon said: “This is among the blessings I get in life, that these people survived.”

Maderal also asked Gordon about her friend Acar.

Acar, whom Gordon proceeded to adopt, stayed in Gordon's house. The senator sent her to school and she now works as a physical therapist.

Maderal finished high school and got married when she turned 20. She now has four children while her husband Meliton Jacob earns as a construction worker.

Maderal said: "I would always tell my children about him and how he saved me everytime I saw him on TV."

Gordon gave her his phone numbers with a promise to find a way to help her children go to school and to reconnect her with Lilibeth.

Maderal could not ascertain if she would get another chance to again meet the famous man who once brought her, an ordinary girl, into his home and treated her like his own child.

The one thing she is sure of: Gordon is getting her vote.

Original Story:

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