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In Asturias town: 2 kids die in fire

CEBU, Philippines — Siblings Manilyn and Mark France Palicte never left each other’s side up until their final moments.

Manilyn, 5, was found hugging her two-year-old brother in a frantic attempt to shield him from the flames that engulfed their little house on a hill in Barangay Manguiao, Asturias town in midwest Cebu shortly before noon yesterday.

“She was embracing her sleeping brother. She never fled,” Fire Officer 2 John Abellanosa told The FREEMAN in Cebuano over the phone.

A neighbor, Cherry Mae Jumag, told investigators that she saw Manilyn playing lighter and even burning a curtain last Wednesday. Fortunately, it was immediately averted.

Abellanosa suspected that Manilyn may have found the lighter from where her mother hid it and played with it until the house caught fire yesterday.

Jumag said the fire was already uncontrollable when she noticed it.

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Abellanosa said the two children were left alone in their house as their mother, Maria Palicte, had to work at a farm in the plains to augment the family’s income. Their father, Francisco, works as a construction worker in Cebu City, about 70 kilometers from home, and returns only once a week.

Maria could not also take her children to work out of concern that they might get wet in the rain or contact itch at the farm.

Since the farm was downhill, she also did not immediately learn that their house had been ablaze.

By the time fire, police, and barangay authorities arrived in the area, the house was already leveled to the ground since it was made of light materials, which made it easy for the fire to spread.

Winds had also fanned the flames, and to make things worse, there was no available water supply in the area as the source was located on the next hill.

Most neighbors were also not around as they were out to claim their allowances under the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

The fire had charred both children that they were no longer recognizable but Abellanosa said there were no traces of foul play.

However, he advised neighbors and relatives to keep an eye on Maria after the latter reportedly kept on blaming herself about the unfortunate fate of her two children. She even allegedly threatened to commit suicide.

Mark and Manilyn were the only children of Francisco and Maria. (FREEMAN)

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