By FROILAN GALLARDO
IT was a daring rescue worthy of re-telling as many times as possible.
A Philippine Air Force Huey helicopter belonging to the 505th Search and Rescue Group plucked 15 residents from a village on Mt. Apo, North Cotabato, that was about to collapse on Sunday.
A photographer from the Philippine Information Agency, Danilo Doquiles, was aboard another Air Force chopper and was able to document the daring rescue.
“I never can imagine the bravery and skill of the pilots. They just landed their helicopter even if the ground they landed on was about to collapse,” Doquiles narrated.
Doquiles said the white helicopter airlifted 15 residents of Sitio Kapatagan, including an 82-year-old woman and three children Sunday morning.
He said the helicopter landed twice on the rocky precipice that was about to collapse.
“The pilots never lost their nerve. All they did was hover their aircraft and rescued the residents,” Doquiles said
All that time, Doquiles said he was also conscious that rocky precipice would collapse under the weight of the Huey helicopter.
“It was a scary situation but I continued to document everything with my Sony A6000 camera,” he said.
It was only after it was their turn to be picked up did he take a long breath of relief.
Doquiles said the event Saturday started when the North Cotabato Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center received word that there were residents still trapped in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Luayon in Makilala town.
He said that on Saturday, the Philippine Air Force helicopter dropped some food to the residents who ran out of food since Oct. 29.
Sitio Kapatagan nestles near the top of 2,964-meter high Mt. Apo.
“We learned that the residents have been trapped in the mountains since the Oct. 29 earthquake,” Doquiles said.
He said a team of soldiers hiked overnight to reach the village Sunday morning.
Doquiles said the two helicopters lifted off Makilala at 10 am Sunday to rescue the residents.
“We found the residents already resigned that they would die in the mountains. They have buried two of their neighbors already,” he said.
Doquiles said the rescue operation went on smoothly even if the winds started to pick up by Sunday noon.
He said all of the residents were airlifted by noon to the North Cotabato provincial capitol in Matalam, North Cotabato.