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Graduating student, crew cadet among missing in sea mishap

For the families of two of the 18 missing crewmen from the sunken MV Starlite Atlantic, their only wish now is to find their relatives – dead or alive.

Dana Loraine Caneo said her 19-year-old cousin Ron Mark Hidalgo would graduate next year once he completes his one-year on-the-job training.

“Masakit para sa amin ang hindi namin alam kung nasaan siya ngayon. Masakit sa amin na ang bata-bata pa niya. Ang sa amin na lang ay ang makita siya. Patay man o buhay,” she said in an exclusive interview.

MV Starlite Atlantic sank the morning after Christmas off Tingloy, Batangas due to the onslaught of Typhoon Nina.

Fourteen of the 33 crewmen onboard the vessel were rescued by the Philippine Coast Guard while 18 others are still missing. The body of 21-year-old crew member Lyka Banaynal, was washed ashore and was discovered by residents of San Isidro, Batangas at around 6 p.m. on Monday.

However, Dana said they only learned of the incident around 6 p.m. through news reports after Starlite Ferries Inc., failed to inform the family members of the crewmen about it.

Ron is one of the 11 students from the Lyceum International Maritime Academy in Batangas who are undergoing training under Starlite Ferries Inc., since October.

Dana said Ron was able to speak to his mother in Canada on Christmas morning. He told her that he and his fellow students celebrated onboard the night before.

“Hi me, Merry Christmas po. Sa susunod na Christmas magkasama na tayo. Love you po.,” Ron’s Facebook message to his mom read.

Dana said Ron and his mother last saw each other last October when his mother went home for the wake of their aunt, and before he boarded the Starlite Atlantic.

Ron’s mother would be returning to the country tomorrow, December 31, with hopes that her son is still alive.

Michael Vincent Vargas
Meanwhile, the grandmother of 21-year-old Michael Vincent Vargas, also one of the 18 missing, said that Michael’s last conversation was with his mother when he informed her that there was something wrong with the vessel.

“Before na lumubog ang barko, nakausap niya ang mama niya, na nasiraan sila ng isang makina,” Ladel Vargas said.

“Even now we want to find out where are they (the missing crewmen) and if they are alive. Hopefully makita sila ASAP at mabigyan ng katarungan sa nangyari.”

According to Ladel, Michael dreams of boarding an international vessel just like his uncle so he can help his siblings who are still studying.

“We are hoping na makita siya as soon as possible. Buhay man o patay, tanggap namin. Malungkot pero wala kaming magawa,” she added.

Michael is a crew cadet undergoing training for six months under Starlite Ferries Inc.. (ARGYLL CYRUS B. GEDUCOS)