Grief was painted all over Tuesday afternoon at the wake of the Davao City mall fire victims in Cosmopolitan Memorial Chapel.
Some 37 employees of the United-based contact center operation, SSI (Research Now SSI), were initially believed to have suffocated in the blaze that consumed the New City Commercial Center in Davao City.
Said one mother: “Bata pa masyado ng anak ko. Mabait yan sya. Hindi ko matanggap na wala sya. Mabait anak ko. Di nila kayang ibalik ang anak ko sa akin (How can I take this? They won’t be able to bring back my good good child.).”
A father, Cero Pabelonia, chose only to remember the good things about Joyne, who died in the fire: “She was the breadwinner. So kind, she would strive to satisfy the needs of her sibling. This is so heavy and difficult to take.”
Julie Anne Vismanos, one of the survivors of the tragedy, was also at the wake for her coworkers.
She told story of her escape.
“The air conditioning ducts were spewing smoke. We scampered out right away. It was hot inside, like in an oven. The smoke was black. We could not use the stairs. I saw many others running. Somebody was shouting … ‘Lobby lobby lobby.’ … I ran, too.”
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte paid her respects at the wake.
She said that, so far, 16 of the fatalities have already been identified through personal effects, like ID cards and the content of their bags and wallets.
The mall’s management and SSI have agreed to provide assistance to the victims’ grieving kin.
President Rodrigo Duterte assured the families that the government will leave no stone unturned in looking into the incident.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate.
Authorities are still looking for one more missing NCCC employee.