[Kent Espinosa, Hannah Ramoso, and the kabayan who made the supreme sacrifice, Angelo Tuyay. Lives taken too soon. So sorry we didn’t find pics of Allan Allarde Navales and the other kabayan who drowned in Whanganui River. Thanks and acknowledgment to the families of Kent, Hannah and Angelo. ]
FOR WHATEVER REASONS and despite the Philippines being an archipelago surrounded by the seven seas, we Pinoys haven’t been that lucky in water here. Three drowning deaths in the last 12 months and one machinery-related on a cruise ship in New Zealand waters is high enough in absolute terms, but given the strict health and safety culture and relatively small numbers of Filipinos in NZ, unacceptably high.
We know the tragic deaths were accidental, because outside of one where a middle-aged kabayan selflessly gave up his life to save others, the three remaining Pinoys were all in their late 20s to early 30s, all in the pink of health and just beginning to enjoy the fruits of their hard work in both the Philippines and New Zealand.
[A fifth accident involved a Pinay unfortunate enough to be hit on a Christchurch intersection along with two other pedestrians, and succumbed to her brain injuries less than 24 hours later.]
I have a very simple way of viewing things, going by the saying when you have eliminated all of the possibilities, the one remaining, however improbable, must be the truth. In all the accidents involving Filipinos, great care had been observed, the ones we lost were all good swimmers, and the weather wasn’t that bad. We can only surmise that in the respective environments the Pinoys were in, not enough attention was paid to the risks involved in swimming in those areas.
River currents, usually manageable can suddenly turn against you and pull you all directions. Undertows or rip currents are treacherous and can make even the most experienced swimmer disappear, even in relatively shallow waters. And almost needless to say, the sudden change in weather, that New Zealand is notoriously known for is known to play a great part in adding to the dangers of swimming outdoors.
There’s not much we can do in managing nature, but we can manage the odds when it comes to safety in swimming. Put health and safety above everything else, no exceptions and 24-7. Health and safety never takes a day off, so neither should we. No matter how safe a beach or river is, there are certain areas that are to be avoided. Let’s just avoid those areas! Like driving, we should just swim to the conditions.
Then there’s also the matter of evaluating yourself before and during swimming. Do you go ahead and enter the water after a full meal? Do you swim when intoxicated? Do you swim in adverse conditions like poor weather, nighttime or in beaches known for their dangerous conditions? If you said yes to any of those questions, maybe it’s time for a shift in paradigm. Getting to New Zealand and settling down here is hard enough , let’s not waste half a lifetime of effort and dreams by carelessly spending free time in dangerous waters.
Lastly, the tool of communicating any and all safety information before we enjoy beach and river activities is literally life-saving and therefore essential. Knowing where lifeguards and the availability of emergency services might mean the difference between life and death. The Philippine Embassy in New Zealand goes further, recommending that any kabayan coordinate and seek advice of the Pinoy community wherever and whenever we swim. In this particular situation, the spirit of bayanihan will keep us all alive and well.
Thank you for reading and mabuhay po tayong lahat!