remembering the kabayan who never came back: the Christchurch 11


[ Note : the video above is a memorial service for the Christchurch earthquake victims of February 22 2011, during which the names of the victims were read out for around 12+ minutes.  If you listen carefully, the names of our 11 kabayan are read with care, if not with 100% accuracy.  Thanks to youtube poster celphoneconz and mabuhay New Zealand! ]

SENDING OFF a kabayan OFW, whether as a friend, loved one, or family member, is always a poignantly bittersweet exercise.  You are sending him / her off to the job of her dreams, after years and years of education and preparation, not to mention investment and financial support, so that the grand plan of building lives can begin in earnest.

But behind all those bright beginnings and lofty dreams is the vague fear of the unknown.  The destination, after all, is a place far far beyond the shores of our homeland, where a culture vastly different from ours requires every bright-eyed OFW  to make adjustments that can make our head spin.  There is also the danger that the uncertainty of long-distance travel, and the randomness of accidents can befall anyone, especially someone in an unfamiliar land.  No matter how auspicious the start, there is always a chance that the worst may happen.

This fear was a nightmare that came true for the families of 11 kabayan who perished three years ago today in Christchurch, New Zealand on what Prime Minister John Key called New Zealand’s darkest day.  Most, if not all of them were Pinoy nurses who in every sense of the word died in the service of their nation, for after all aren’t our OFW the heroes that contribute mightily to our fledgling economy?

Some of them had just arrived in town to start a language and competency course that would ease them into the New Zealand nursing profession, with all the quirks and nuances specific to its culture.  In fact, some of our kabayan hadn’t even unpacked and the policemen who released their belongings to relatives found luggage, cash and valuables of the deceased still sitting on the bed.   Tragic indeed.

If we can remember the sacrifices they made and the bright hopes and dreams they represented and continue to represent, then certainly our Christchurch 11 would not have died in vain.  Three years on, we salute each of them below , proudly call them our very own, and enshrine them forever in our hall of OFW heroes:

Lalaine Collado AGATEP, 38 years old; Mary Louise Ann Bantillo AMANTILLO, 23 years old; Emabelle Cabahug ANOBA, 26 years old; Valquin Descalsota BENSURTO, 23 years old; Ivy Jane CABUNILAS, 33 years old; John Kristoffer Villegas CHUA, 24 years old; Jewel Jose FRANCISCO, 26 years old; Ezra Mae Sabayton MEDALLE, 24 years old, Erica Avir Reyes NORA, 20 years old, Jessie Lloyd REDOBLE, 30 years old; Rhea Mae SUMALPONG, 30 years old.

Mabuhay po kayong lahat!

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