Two residents drowned Thursday morning (July 24) after leaping through murky waters stagnated at a water system of an abandoned government facility in U.P Diliman.
The victims were Nilo Toledana, 35, a native of Camarines Norte and Darwin Obinia, a native of Cagayan province. The two entered annex building of the National Hydraulics Research Center (NHRC) to dive into its mothballed water circulation system. Local police say that the lure of money from selling copper pipes and other metal equipments submerged underneath motivated the two into plunging through the waters.
Carina Alpay, Toledana's mother-in-law, said that residents in the area of Brgy. Culiat and Brgy. UP Campus consider the NHRC facility a “goldmine” because of the assorted steel equipments beneath the waters. She says that male dwellers sell whatever worthy items they recover from the site to nearby junk shops. She notes that the “divers” plunge into the waters without any protections like eye goggles or oxygen devices. “Kabisado naman daw ng ibang sumisisid dyan yung lugar. Susuong sila ng nakapikit kasi malumot na't marumi yung tubig. Lalangoy sila papunta doon sa may bakal tapos lalagariin nila, (Some “divers“ claim that they have a mental map of the place because they have seen it before it became full of water. They dive the place with eyes closed because the water is really dirty. They'd swim directly to the place where the steel equipments are located then they'd use the steel to get a piece of it) “ she said.
Celso Bunag, a Barangay Peace & Security Officer of Brgy. Campus, said that the two men probably entered the facility through its back door because there are guards on duty at the NHRC's annex building entrance.
Members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) under PO3 Bremmuel Magalong conducted the retrieval operations Thursday night. They recovered Obinia's body on the same day. PCG however had to suspend the search for Toledana's body that night because they ran out of oxygen supply. They recovered it Friday morning.
One witness said that Obinia actually tried to save Toledana's life. Mario Tuando, 39, Obinia's brother-in-law, said that it was Toledana who dived into the water facility first. He said that when Toledana failed to resurface, Obinia called the attention of the neighborhood. After doing so, he decided to plunge into the waters himself. Tuando said that Obinia even managed to resurface to tell the people that he can't find Toledana's body. He dived again and he never came back this time.
Bunag added that they saw injuries in Obinia's head when the latter's body was retrieved. The Ileja Funeral Services is yet to issue an autopsy report.
Maj. Bernie Baltazar, the officer-in-charge of U.P District Police, said that personnel from the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System would go to NHRC to siphon off the stagnant water in the facility's 1600 liters/second water circulation system. Official reports indicate that the water there is 5 foot deep although residents in the area claim that it is actually 12 foot deep.
Toledana's wife, Claire, did not notice anything unusual with her husband on that fateful day. “Umalis sya ng maaga. Pupunta lang daw sya sa mga kaibigan nya dun sa may Brgy. Culiat. Hintayin daw namin sya sa pananghalian, (He left our house early. He said that he'll just visit his friends there in Brgy. Culiat. He told us to wait him for lunch)” she said.She had just given birth to their 6th children last July 10. Meanwhile, her eleven year old son Carlo had some ideas on what pushed his father into doing the fatal dive:“Gusto kasi ni Papa na may pang SM kami sa birthday ni Cielo sa Linggo, (My father probably wanted to have some money so that we can go to SM for Cielo's birthday on Sunday), he said.
For Elena Calanoga, Obinia's mother, the only unusual thing that his son did on that eventful day is that he treated his bosom buddies into a drinking spree. According to her, it is uncommon for her son to shell out so much money – even if it's his friend's birthday – since he has been jobless for the past months.
For both families, they not only lost their beloved father – they also lost their sole breadwinner. “I have six kids and I am jobless,” Mrs. Toledana lamented. Obinia also left behind an unemployed wife and four children.
The seven hectare NHRC annex compound is located at the UP Arboretum – a land area located opposite the UP Diliman campus. The Arboretum has the distinction of being the “only natural rain forest in Metro Manila”. The NHRC is a research and development center under the UP College of Engineering. Established in 1973, it was mandated to conduct research and provide technical inputs on various problems of water resource development, management and other related fields. #