Muelmar Magallanes: A Hero mourned

“Being a hero is about the shortest-lived profession on earth.” That's what Will Rogers--an American entertainer, famous for his pithy and homespun humour--once was quoted.

One 18-year-old teenager from the Phillipines, Muelmar Magallanes, proved with his death how true the above saying is. He swam to save more than 30 people & lost his life as he rescued a six-month-old baby girl.

Maria Luz, his mother described his departed son as "incredibly brave". Muelmar Magallanes is truly a hero.

How many of us--regardless of our age--can make such a strong claim that we have done the best we could to make this world a better place? I can't.

Teenager Muelmar Magallanes braved rampaging floods to save more than 30 people, but ended up sacrificing his life in a last trip to rescue a baby girl who was being swept away on a styrofoam box.

Yesterday, family members and the people saved by the 18-year-old construction worker hailed him as a hero, as his body lay in a coffin at a makeshift evacuation centre near their destroyed Manila riverside village.

'I am going to be forever grateful to Muelmar. He gave his life for my baby. I will never forget his sacrifice,' said Ms Menchie Penalosa, the mother of the six-month-old girl he carried to safety before being swept away himself.

Magallanes was at home last Saturday with his family when tropical storm Ketsana unleashed the heaviest rain in more than 40 years on the Philippine capital and surrounding areas.

At first the family, long used to heavy rain, paid little attention to the storm.

But Magallanes and his father decided to evacuate the family once they realised the river 800m away had burst its banks.

With the help of an older brother, Magallanes tied a string around his waist and attached it one-by-one to his three younger siblings, whom he took to higher ground. Then he came back for his parents.

But Magallanes, a strong swimmer, decided to go back for his neighbours, who where trapped on rooftops.

He ended up making many trips, and eventually saved more than 30 people from drowning, witnesses and survivors said.

Tired and shivering, Magallanes was back on higher ground with his family when he heard Ms Penalosa screaming as she and her baby were being swept away on the polystyrene box they were using in an attempt to cross the swift currents.

He dived back in after the mother and daughter, who were already a few metres away and bobbing precariously among the debris floating on the brown water.

'I didn't know that the current was so strong. In an instant, I was under water. We were going to die,' said Ms Penalosa, her eyes welling with tears and voice choking with emotion.

'Then this man came from nowhere and grabbed us. He took us to where the other neighbours were, and then he was gone,' said Ms Penalosa.

She and other witnesses said an exhausted Magallanes was simply washed away amid the torrent of water.

Neighbours found his body on Sunday, along with those of 28 others who perished in Manila's worst flooding in decades.

Standing next to his coffin, Magallanes' parents paid tribute to their son.

'He always had a good heart,' said his father, Samuel.

'We had already been saved. But he decided to go back one last time for the girl.'

His mother, Maria Luz, wept as she described her son as incredibly brave.

'He saved so many people, but ended up not being able to save himself.'

From Asiaone, "He gave up own life to save so many".

Read also:
- Daily Mail, "Philippines floods: Hero teenager saves more than 30 lives before he is swept away". (A lot of photos)
- The Independent, "'He saved us, and then he was gone'".


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