“Every time nga na makakakita ako ng naka-tarpaulin [ng] naka-sablay, nalulungkot ako eh. Hindi ko na makikita anak ko’ng ganon,” said Orlan T. Salera, father of deceased College of Veterinary Medicine student, Uriel Fabella Salera.
“Nagso-solo ‘yan, nag-iisang anak, nag-iisang pamangkin, nag-iisang apo, lahat ng pangarap namin naka-angkla sa kanya,” Mr. Salera described further in an interview with the UPLB Perspective. Uriel, 18-year-old sophomore, died of cardio-respiratory arrest on the early morning of Saturday, August 20.
Thoughtful and loving
Mr. Salera depicts Uriel as respectful, thoughtful, loving, affectionate, and a kid with a good sense of humor. Uriel is known to his family as someone who stands against abuse, especially against women.
He also recalled that road trips with his son serve as their bonding activity. “Yun ‘yung panahon na nakakapag-usap kami ng medyo masinsinan, nag-re-range ‘yan from politics, science, to philosophy to religion.” Mr. Salera works in Lipa City, Batangas, and only gets to bond with his son on weekends.
Dr. Leila T. Salera, pathologist and Uriel’s aunt, shared with the UPLB Perspective his nephew’s profound love for his grandmother. “Mahal na mahal niya yung lola niya, ‘Awayin mo na lahat huwag lang lola ko.’”
“As a friend, sobrang genuine,” Eliza Yana Malapaya, a batch 15 VetMed student and a friend of Uriel said in a separate interview. She then added, “Lagi siyang nandyan pag kailangan mo sya, masayahin. Mahilig mangumusta.”
How the day transpired
According to Dr. Salera, on the night of Thursday, August 18, Uriel asked for permission to go to the campus early Friday morning, August 19, for a scheduled jogging. “Ayaw siyang paalisin ng lola niya kasi sobrang aga ng alis, sabi sa kanya, mga 4:15 umalis,” she said.
UPRC King Rancher Aliana Cotejo confirmed to the UPLB Perspective that their applicants were scheduled for training on that early Friday morning.
They scheduled the jogging at 5am. It is part of the applicants’ training process. “Halos lahat sila ay nagsasabing pagod na sila kaya naging walking na lang sila ng isang ikot sa Freedom Park,” said Cotejo. She said that the only medical concerns laid to them by Uriel were his mild scoliosis and dust allergy.
Given the nature of the organization, practicing the Rodeo sport, a strenuous physical activity, Cotejo admitted that there are no medical professionals assisting in the duration of the process.
Two of Uriel’s friends confirmed that he had difficulty walking after the jogging activity.
Malapaya recalled, “Last conversation namin ay nung Friday ng 7am, umaga. Pumasok sya na pa-ika-ika ang lakad. Na-sprain daw sya habang nagjo-jogging. Nagkwento tungkol sa jogging at kung gaano kasakit ang ankle niya.”
Malapaya stated that Thursday, August 11 was the start of the process, however Uriel had his interview with the organization on Tuesday, August 16. This is because he was staying in his home in Calamba, and cannot stay late in the campus.
She then added that on Thursday, August 18, Uriel asked for permission if he could stay in La Ville to rest after the jogging the following day.
Meanwhile, a friend who spoke to the UPLB Perspective under the condition of anonymity, recalled: “Around 8:30 pm, kita across yung Goldilocks, hirap sya [Uriel] maglakad pasakay ng jeep.”
The aunt narrated, “Nung umuwi sya nung Friday ng gabi, ang kinomplain lang niya is masakit yung likod niya. Nagtanong siya nandyan pa yung parang electric massager ko, nung pumunta sa kwarto. Kasi sabi nya okay na sya. Tapos nung bago sila natulog nagbibiruan pa sila and then that night, narinig ko na lang…”
“Gasp. Malakas,” the father continued.
On late Friday night, before the clock struck 12, Uriel’s relatives heard two gasps.
According to the family, Uriel was unconscious and unresponsive. At around quarter to 12, his aunt facilitated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for around 10 minutes. Uriel was later rushed to the hospital but still was not resuscitated.
Dr. Salera recalled telling Uriel that if a person is being revived for more than 10 minutes, that person’s health would already have been compromised. “Yun na lang iniisip ko kaya sumama na rin siya. Hangang doon thoughtful pa rin si Urie.”
According to the death certificate read by the family to the UPLB Perspective, Uriel died due to cardiorespiratory arrest. Furthermore, Mr. Salera said that he decided not to call for an autopsy so as to honor the body of his son.
Uriel’s wake lasted for three days at St. Peter Chapel and his body was laid to rest on August 24.
The Rodeo Club learned of Salera’s death at around 8am, August 20, Saturday. “Minessage at tinawagan namin ang family; first na nakausap namin ay ‘yung father. Somehow, we are good terms with the family. Since grieving, di namin sila masisisi.”
Because of the incident, the organization laid the application process on-hold. “May mga hindi na kayang magprocess kasi may mga members na ‘di na kaya makapagpa-report. Kapag kaya na [lang ulit] naming mag-process, kapag ‘di na affected ang members at ang batchmates niya.”
“Namamatay [si Uriel], nandito sa [hita ko], kalong kalong ko. Napaka-indescribable ‘yung sorrow na mararamdaman mo. ‘Yung anak mo naroon sa ganto mo na nakikita mong namamatay, pero wala kang magawa,” Mr. Salera recalled.
“Tapos lahat ng nalalaman ko bilang doktor nabalewala nung nawala ‘yung pamangkin ko,” Dr. Salera added.
Admitting the family is still in grief, the father said, “Medyo masakit para sa akin – hindi, talagang napakasakit na, napakabata pa inagaw sa akin.”
Wake up call
Dr. Salera has doubts on what really transpired that Friday morning.
“‘Yung sinabi niya sa akin kagabihan eh ‘jogging’. So ang tingin ko, jogging. Magja-jogging lang kayo somewhere. Tapos nung gabi na nung nalaman ko na meron pa palang push up na ginawa. Tapos eto naririnig ko yung mga balita na sa oval pinatakbo sila so parang hindi yata jogging yung ginawa ng pamangkin ko kasi pinatakbo ka ng isang oras,” she said firmly.
UPRC’s Cotejo denied that there was a push-up activity on that Friday morning.
The family recognizes that while it is possible that the organization involved has no direct relation to the death of Uriel, the activities that transpired on Friday morning might have been contributory to the sudden departure of the 18 year-old.
“Kung hindi sila ang direktang naging cause, pwedeng naka-contribute sila. Maging aware lang sila, aware whatever happens sa mga future initiates nila, maging careful,” Dr. Salera said.
“Sino ba ang nawalan? Bigyan man lang nila kami ng kahit kaunting closure at courtesy,” Uriel’s aunt added.
Mr. Salera shared his sentiments, saying, “Hindi maiaalis sakin na nanggigigil ako sa kanila [UPRC]. Pero in retrospect, gawa nga ng anak ko rin ang gustong sumali saka sila naman ay socio-civic organization, nauunawaan ko na rin.”
The father lamented the young age of the members of the organization who attended the wake of his son. He also pointed out the lack of supervision during that particular activity.
“Ang problema ko lang talaga ayun siguro kung merong supervision, baka naiwasan. Baka. Tsaka ambabata pa! Susmaryosep! Napakababata pa nung nakita ko [sa burol]. May kumausap pa nga sa akin na alumni pero napakabata pa rin!”
Dr. Salera pointed out the possibility that the applicants were told to quit when they are not able to accomplish something during the process. “Baka kasi alam mo yung thinking na ‘Kaya mo pa? Mag-quit ka na kung di mo na kaya!’ Yung pamangkin ko kasi, pag nacha-challenge, pinipilit talaga niya gawin. Malay ba ng pamangkin ko ‘yung mangyayari sa kanya. Kung meron sanang nagsu-supervise.”
The family also emphasized that all they want is for all student organizations in the University to be aware that their process for the applicants may lead to deaths, just like Uriel’s case. However, they still have a message for UPRC.
“Kung meron man kayong direct connection sa nangyari sa pamangkin ko or wala, that happened before my nephew died. Kayo yung unang-unang mga naging circumstances bago nangyari kasi dati hindi naman nag ganyan ang pamangkin ko. Ang dami nang dinaanang sakit ng pamangkin ko pero hindi umabot sa ganyan. Napagod na rin yan, hindi umabot sa ganyan. Ngayon lang talaga nung gabing iyon.”
The family decided to not pursue cases against the members of the organization as of press time.
Explanation from org
“It all boils down to them, not making an attempt to explain to us,” Mr. Salera emphasized.
The family disclosed that they are only waiting for UPRC to communicate with them and explain their side. They prefer to talk to the members of the organization together with their adviser.
“After ng libing, makikipag-usap sana talaga kami [kaso] tinatantiya namin kung kaya na makipag-usap ng pamilya pero parang hindi pa,” UPRC’s Cotejo said. She acknowledged that no communication with the family has been made so far after the funeral. Also, she confirmed the unavailability of their adviser but decisively claimed that nothing holds them back from reaching out to Salera’s family. “Nahihirapan din kami; hindi lang kami nawalan ng aplikante, nawalan din kami ng kaibigan, namatayan din kami.”
The UPLB Perspective has confirmed that Mr. Orlan Salera, father of Uriel Salera has sent a letter to the Office of Student Affairs. He is requesting Dr. Nina Cadiz to conduct an investigation regarding the death of his son.
When sought for a brief statement on Uriel’s death, the UPLB University Student Council (USC) expressed their deepest condolences to Salera’s family and friends. “Mahirap at nakakalungkot talaga ang pangyayari, and the least we can do for now is to get the details of the whole picture, avoid any hasty generalizations and sympathize for his loved ones and family,” the USC added.
Admin to UPRC: Don’t say anything
Cotejo disclosed to the UPLB Perspective that they talked with the Student Organizations and Activities Division of the Office of Student Affairs (SOAD-OSA), Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs (OVCCA), Office of the Public Relations (OPR), and Los Banos Municipal Police.
“Kinausap na kami ng OSA-SOAD, OVCCA, OPR, LB PNP pero sabi nila, ‘wag na muna magsalita – ayaw nila kaming magsalita kasi mauungkat lang daw. Bakit pa kami lalapit sa kanila [OSA] kung gusto lang din naman nilang maging passive na lang kami about this?” Cotejo said.
“Actually, their main concern is, ‘Sino yung nagkakalat ng issue?’ Kaya di kami makakilos nang maayos – we’re expecting na sila mismo yung mag-guide samin, maglalabas ng statement, pero tinanong lang nila kung anong nangyari at kung kailangan daw namin ng counselling. Wala na rin sila planong gawin. Kung mismong SOAD walang comment, di na namin maco-control yung safety at image ng UPLB,” added Cotejo during their dialogue with the admin.
Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Dr. Serlie Barroga-Jamias and SOAD Head Prof. Jickerson P. Lado declined to comment as of press time. [P]
The UPLB Perspective remains open to the side of the OSA-SOAD, OVCCA, and OPR.