Empty seat, love song for missing ferry passenger

[This is about a brilliant high school kid who died in the SuperFerry 14 bombing last 2004. I made a big journalistic mistake with this story as I didn’t bother to check how his first name was spelled. Thus, Rodel’s name came out as “Rodil” in the Phil. Daily Inquirer’s feature on him. A thousand apologies to Rodel and his family.]

Empty seat

foto: Terry Yarrow

ILIGAN CITY — They kept an empty seat for him, laid a toga on it and, with tears in their eyes, sang the love song “Rainbow” which Rodel Filipinas loved so much. 

Aged 17, Filipinas “graduated” salutatorian of his high school class during last Wednesday’s ceremonies at the Integrated Developmental School (IDS) in Iligan City.

But Rodel wasn’t there. Nor was his English teacher, Ms Daisy Atienza.

They were among 111 people believed to have perished in the Feb. 27 explosion and fire that ravaged the SuperFerry 14 near Manila Bay.

“I’m still hoping my Rodel will come back to us alive one day,” Rodel’s mother, Dr. Cynthia Filipinas, told the Inquirer, still unable to accept her son’s fate.

Had he survived the ferry disaster, Rodel would have had a good chance to become the class valedictorian, his family and some of his classmates said.

At the graduation ceremony, officials of the IDS, the laboratory high school of the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, reserved a seat for their high achieving student and placed a big framed picture of him and a white toga on the chair, his name on it.


The battle to put out the blaze after the explosion that hit Superferry 14.

A day before, during recognition day at the school gymnasium, IDS officials, teachers, relatives and classmates took turns in paying tribute to Rodel.

In a gesture of farewell, classmates sang “Rainbow.”

Letter for Rodel

A recorded song sang by the their teacher, Atienza, was also played.

Rodel’s classmates read out a letter they had written him, telling him how he was missed, and urging his mother to accept what had happened.

“I really felt that they loved my son and missed him,” Rodel’s mother said.

The honor and the many awards Rodel brought to IDS — coming from local, regional and national schools press conference competitions — were cited during the ceremonies.

Rodel’s parents and brother, Cyril, climbed the stage to accept the plaques and the certificates of recognition.

They then placed the awards on his empty seat.

The plaques of recognition came from the IDS, the MSU-IIT Administration, the City Mayor’s Office and the Department of Education.


The IDS named Rodel its Campus Journalist of the Year and recognized him as one of its 10 best researchers for his work on the effects of sponge extracts on the fertilization process and mitotic activity of fertilized eggs of sea urchins.

Rodel had also received the International Credit Award for correspondence in the Australian mathematics competition held at the University of Canberra.

Rodel, accompanied by his coach Atienza, had gone to the National Secondary Schools’ Press Conference held in Sta. Cruz, Laguna last Feb. 23.

They were on their way home on board the Superferry 14 when tragedy struck.

On the boat — apparently before the explosion rocked it — Rodel even called his classmate to say he had won at the national conference.


Flowers into the sea

He sounded ecstatic: he had captured first place in the oral communications competition and second place in the Tagisan ng Talino.

None of them knew that was the last time they would hear his voice.

“We were shocked but we still hoped that he would still be found alive,” schoolmate Jerome Gomez said.

Classmates’ memories of Rodel were of a bright boy who always smiled and laughed.

“A happy kid” was how Rachel Daigdigan described her long-time friend.

After the graduation ceremonies, the Filipinas family heard Mass on a beach and rode on a boat.

Then they released white, red and yellow blossoms — roses and chrysanthemums — into the sea. (Rex Godinez Ortega)

= = = =

Originally Posted: 2:17 AM (Manila Time) | Apr. 04, 2004
By Rex Godinez Ortega
Inquirer News Service


About Recoy

Contrary to popular belief, he is not anti-social. Just selectively social. And he has selected to socialize with words. [Recoy is the Iligan-based journalist and blogger, Rex Godinez Ortega.]
This entry was posted in Features and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Empty seat, love song for missing ferry passenger

  1. T says:

    I remember Ma’am Daisy, and the last time I spoke with her, how I teased her about saying “hi” to Tom Cruise should she see him.

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