Pinoy blast survivors recount tales of horror

MANILA – Even a slight rustle near her brings Pilipinas Sulit Salvador, a Filipino domestic worker, back to the day when the catastrophic twin blasts sent devastating shockwaves across Lebanon’s capital Beirut.

Pilipinas was feeding her employer’s children when she heard a loud, clanging sound in the afternoon of August 4.

Pilipinas Sulit Salvador, a 40-year-old Filipino domestic worker who recently returned from Lebanon (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

After a second explosion, she said a web of crack slowly formed on the glass windows of their apartment building.

The next thing she witnessed was a “tsunami” of shards of broken glasses rushing in.

In a fearless and selfless act, Pilipinas shielded the two kids in her care, protecting them from the debris being blasted inside the room.

“Ang sabi ko, bahala na. That time siguro handa na akong mamatay. Talagang pinikit ko na lang ‘yong mga mata ko para maprotektahan ‘yong kambal na alaga ko. Hindi ko na inisip kung ano bang mangyari sa akin. ‘Yong mga bubog tumatama nalang sa katawan ko, hindi ko na naramdaman (I said to myself that whatever happens will happen. At that time, I probably felt I was ready to die. I just closed my eyes to protect the twins under my care, not really thinking about what would happen to me. The shattered glasses were hitting me but I no longer felt them),” she said, turning emotional as she recalled the event.

The twins she was babysitting were fine but Pilipinas took all the hit from the debris that two weeks since the tragedy, she was still limping due to her wounds.

Duguan na talaga ako noon, sobrang dugo ng katawan ko tapos binalot ko ‘yong kamay ko nung plastic ng basura kasi maselan sila (employer) – papasok ka nga naman sa kotse nila. Pero umiiyak ako noon, ang hirap, ang sakit (I was covered in blood. I had to cover my hands with a garbage bag since I would be riding the car of my employers. I was crying that time, it really hurt),” she narrated.

“Ngayon ‘pag may naririnig akong kaluskos, tatakbo talaga ako. Di ko alam, kahit saan ako magpunta, basta tatakbo ako. ‘Yon lang ‘yung masakit at ‘di ko makakalimutan sa buong buhay ko (Now every time I hear even the faintest crackle, I’d run. That’s what’s difficult. I will never forget it in my life),” she added.

Pilipinas, a single mother to four kids in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, was among the 386 Filipinos repatriated by the Philippine government from Lebanon this week.

Together with her aboard the special Qatar Airways flight was Raquel Bautista, a Filipino domestic worker who also sustained serious injuries during the blast.

Raquel, whose arms were still covered with bandages when interviewed, was at her place of work when the explosion took place.

Raquel Bautista, a 43-year old Filipino from San Fabian, Pangasinan (PNA photo by Avito Dalan)

From where she was located at that time, three explosions took place – one that sounded like fireworks, followed by two blaring blasts that immediately shattered windows and destroyed nearby structures.

“Noong pumutok, buong katawan ko po ‘yong natamaan ng mga bubog. Warak talaga ‘yong bahay. Sobrang dilim pagkatapos at sobrang usok (When the explosions happened, my whole body was hit by broken glasses. The house we were in was wrecked. It was so dark at that time and there was so much smoke),” she said.

Amid the weariness, Raquel said she was glad to be back in the Philippines.

The two, along with 18 Beirut blast survivors and other returnees who were part of the latest batch of repatriates, are being housed at a quarantine facility assigned by the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) as they wait for their coronavirus disease RT-PCR test results.

Upon arrival, all repatriates were swab tested.

In an interview, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said everything was shouldered by the government, even the returnees’ transportation from Manila to their respective provinces.

Since December 2019, the Philippine government has repatriated a total of 1,894 Filipinos from Lebanon.

A second special flight is being scheduled by the Department of Foreign Affairs, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (PNA)

By By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora