By REY BANCOD, With a report from Roy Mabasa
A Filipina caretaker remains missing after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake Tuesday night nearly toppled the building she’s staying, according to the Manila Economic Cultural Office (MECO).
As Taiwanese rescuers battled against time to find survivors in the dangerously leaning 12-story apartment block, relatives and friends of Melody Albano Castro were praying for her safe rescue.
MECO chief Angelito Banayo confirmed Castro’s identity, adding she works as a caretaker in an elderly nursing home in the devastated city located on the east coast of Taiwan.
Mary Jane Albano, the aunt of the 26-year-old missing Filipina, said her niece was in contact with friends through the Internet at the time of the massive quake.
“Nahihilo ako, nahuhulog na ang mga gamit,” Mary Jane quoted Melody’s friends as saying. It was the last message Melody sent to her friends.
Melody is the daughter of Nonilet and Normida Albano, both farmers in Abulug, Cagayan, about two-and-a-half-hour drive from Tuguegarao City.
A Hotel Restaurant Management graduate of the Cagayan State University, Melody was forced to work in Taiwan in 2015 after her husband, JR Castro, figured in a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed, according to Mary Jane.
They have a six-year-old daughter who has not yet been told of Melody’s situation.
Her brother, Jayson Albano, said Melody was set to return in June at the end of her three-year contract.
“Hindi pa siya nakakauwi simula noong umalis siya,” said Jayson who works for his cousin in Tuguegarao.
Jayson said Melody is being treated well by her employers who allowed her to start an online business selling goods.
Cess dela Cruz, who is set to return to Taiwan, said she last talked to Melody during the New Year.
“Tinanong lang niya ako kung kelan daw ako balik sa Taiwan, sabay bati ng Happy New Year,” said Cess who belongs to the same agency that sent Melody to Taiwan.
She describes Melody as a happy person who cares for her family.
“Masaya siyang kasama. Mabait, mapagmahal sa family,” Cess said. “Basta ang mga pinaguusapan lang po namin na madalas eh yung magkita kita kami uli lahat at mag bonding.”
Gilda Banugan, chairperson of the Taipei-based Migrante Taiwan, said they are in close contact with the rescue team.
Banugan said she had been in regular touch with Melody who lives in the seventh floor.
“Naging kaibigan po namin siya sa Facebook,” said Banugan.
As far as Migrante is concerned, Melody is the only Filipino who works in the collapsed building.
Banugan said there are other Filipinos who were treated for minor injuries in other places.
Hualien is about 231 kilometers from Taipei, according to Banugan.
Banayo said they are still hoping for the safe rescue of Melody.
He said they tried contacting Castro’s mobile phone several times but no one was answering the calls.
He also disclosed that another OFW was among the 256 people who were injured, but was unable to provide the identity.
Current data obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs showed that an estimated 150,000 Filipinos are working and living in Taiwan.