‘Be extra careful’: Tinubdan Falls tragedy prompts warning to waterfalls, river visitors

September 27, 2021 - 7:25 PM
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Tinubdan Falls
Rescue operations for people in Tinubdan Falls. (Photos from Catmon Police via The Freeman/Iris Mascardo)

Filipinos were advised to be alert when visiting waterfalls and rivers especially during the rainy season after footage of a tragedy in the Tinubdan Falls in Catmon, Cebu gained traction on a discussion website.

Reports said that two individuals died and one went missing after a family and their relatives decided to visit the waterfalls last Sunday in Barangay Tabili.

Carlos Dolendo, who was present when the incident happened, told Cebu Daily News that about 30 persons were swimming in the area while there were around 100 people in the vicinity of the waterfalls.

At that time, it was not raining but he said that the caretaker have earlier warned tourists of the possibility of flooding when it begins to rain.

Dolendo said that they have experienced drizzles.

They continued to swim in the falls and had only scampered away when they heard someone shout to warn them that a gush of water was headed in their way.

“It was only drizzling in our area but it appears to be raining at the origin of the waterfalls. When it happened, we heard someone warn us of flooding. We noticed that the water in the area turned brown and two minutes later, it started to rain in our area. We did not anticipate the flooding coming because it was only drizzling then,” Dolendo said, as translated.

By 1 p.m., a gush of water went in their direction and left Kent Jude Monterola, 17, and Princess Alastra, 7, dead.

Monterola’s body was found on Sunday night near the spillway in Barangay Corazon while Princess’ body was found on Monday in Barangay Duyan, an adjacent barangay where the falls were located.

Her mother, Jacel, 32, has yet to be found.

Footage of the incident was uploaded on r/Philippines, a subreddit for topics concerning the country, on Monday.

The uploader called on Filipinos to be “extra careful around falls and rivers” especially since the country is in its rainy season, which is usually from June to November.

“Ito nangyari kahapon sa Catmon, Cebu. Flashflood in falls and rivers can happen IN SECONDS. Ingat po tayong lahat,” the Reddit user said.

“Nakakatakot lang ‘yung ‘di mo expected na pwede pala mangyari yung ganun… It’s sunny, ‘di man lang umuulan, you and your family just chillin’ ta’s biglang may ganyan kabilis na agos. Mas pipiliin ko pa mag-beach (kasi) alam mo may alon sa likod mo… this will definitely be always on my mind when hiking,” another Reddit user said.

“I also hike and trek everytime I visit our farm. In cases like this, I personally suggest that you: Ask locals if it has been raining, check the weather forecast each time you do trips like this, let children play or swim somewhere they can easily get out of the water,” a different Redditor wrote.

“I don’t swim on rivers and falls often, but this is a good reminder to be always alert of your environment,” commented another Reddit user.

Following the incident, the Office of the Civil Defense reminded resort owners and local government units (LGU) to be on alert especially this rainy season.

Mark Timbal, the spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said that it is the LGU and the owners’ responsibility to be vigilant of their area of the jurisdiction and make sure it is safe from threats such as natural calamities and disasters.

The Cebu Police Provincial Office has asked the Catmon Municipal Government to temporarily declare Tinubdan Falls off-limits to tourists.

Police Colonel Engelbert Soriano said that they will put up signage prohibiting swimming activities in the area especially amid the rainy season.

Weather forecasters said that the La Niña season will likely begin in October. This would last until the first quarter of next year.

This season brings rainfalls in the country that are above normal conditions.