2 Ilongga nurses trapped in NZ

Posted on February 28, 2011

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By Boboi Costas, Contributor

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Two nurses from Iloilo City who recently arrived here were confirmed to be among those trapped and feared killed in the collapsed Caterbury Television (CTV) building, which collapsed on Feb. 22.

The Filipino flatmates of Maria Louise Amantillo and Valquin Bensurto said they received mobile phone calls for help from the two who were buried in the rubble, but they could not do anything but wait for their rescue.

“Hindi ko na kaya (I can't bear it anymore).”

These words from Amantillo were one of the last phone conversations she had with her flat mates hours after the 6.3-quake struck.

A graduate of the St. Paul University Iloilo, Louise is the second of four siblings of Linda and Alexander Amantillo. She left for New Zealand on Feb. 10, just 12 days before the tragedy, hoping to find work as a nurse.

Filipino nurses Amelodin Disalongan, 24 and Joan Bunda, 24, said Amantillo had made more than 10 mobile phone calls to them between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. after the quake.

“After the quake, April Adit (a flatmate) called Amantillo because she remembered her to be in the CTV building, Disalongan said.

“Humingi si Louise ng tulong, (She was asking for help),” she said.

Based on their last conversations with the Ilongga nurse, she was trapped in the rubble with a flatmate, Valquin Bensurto, also from Iloilo.

Louise told her friends she was pinned down in the rubble and that Bensurto was beside her but he didn't seem to be breathing.

Amantillo and Bensurto, both from Iloilo province, arrived in New Zealand just two weeks earlier.

Bensurto’s elder sister, Ronisa Bensurto-Agraviador, also appealed to both the Philippine and New Zealand governments to fast-track the search for the missing victims and allow them to go there.

"We feel that he is still alive and we have not stopped praying, Agraviador said.

The quake damage in the CTV Building was so extensive that officials said it was too risky to continue sending teams to search for survivors in the ruins.

Amantillo was studying an English language review course at King’s Education Ltd., the same school where six nurses from Cebu were attending, on the third floor of the CTV building.

The review class was in preparation for the English language exam which is a requirement for the Competency Assessment Program (CAP).

Filipino nurses who come to New Zealand are required to undergo and pass the CAP (not a New Zealand Nursing Licensure Exam as previously reported) to obtain a New Zealand nursing registration.

Disalongan, Bunda and Adit shared a rented flat with Amantillo and Bensurto.

After the last call made at 5 p.m., the friends immediately went to the CTV building site to report to the police. They were told to stay back because the area was deemed unsafe. Shortly before 6 p.m., the flatmates went home after the area was cordoned off by the police.

Amantillo also told her mother Linda that she was pinned down and hurt. She even texted her location before the messages ended at 3:32 p.m.

"It has been six days already and we have not heard from her after those text messages. But I still feel that she is alive and waiting for us to help her," Linda told the INQUIRER in a telephone interview on Sunday from their home in Balasan town, Iloilo.

Linda lamented that the Philippine government has not been doing enough and as fast to help them and the families of other missing Filipinos in the earthquake.

"We feel no support. We're the ones who are in distress already. Why do they make it harder for us? We are all ready to go if they allow us," Linda in between sobs.

She also appealed to the New Zealand embassy to clear the travel of the families of the missing victims and to continue the search for her daughter.

"Please don't delay. Time is important. Please don't stop looking for her," she said.

Linda said it was painful for them to read her daughter's messages but could do nothing to help her. She said they will leave it to the power of prayers and God. /WITH INQUIRER

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