News Line


Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Cevsar: volunteers to the rescue
By Leticia Suarez-Orendain
Community Force

For all the flak that the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 7 gets, it has shining moments too, and has even given birth to a baby.

BFP Supt. Aderson Comar, as chief of BFP’s Special Rescue Unit, created a civilian, volunteer counterpart of BFD. He founded the Central Visayas Search and Rescue Group (Cevsar), a non-government organization (NGO). It gained Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approval in 1998.

Recruitment is ongoing, and they train any group in the Central Visayas. To join, one may call 256-0553. For example, they have been to Dumaguete to train students in the various aspects of search and rescue, and thus the NGO is spreading slowy but surely.

Unfortunately, the team cannot be in all emergencies, which is why there are years they may not be very visible.

Cevsar is composed of students, professionals and out-of-school youth who support the BFP during emergencies such as fires. FO1 Romeo Birao said, “When it’s general alarm, they are called to help. Kon first alarm, ang BFP ra.”

Very visible were they in the early hours of Aug. 7, 1999, Cevsar fulfilled its mission: “to save lives and property.” It was their biggest, most dramatic effort so far. But Villa San Pedro Apartment, the unfinished building that claimed 14 lives when it collapsed, has long been stored in our memory.

This year Cevsar was in Santa Catalina, Negros, for the Halad sa Katawhan in honor of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s visit. It was an activity that had to be attended by all government sectors, and the BFP was there, of course. And could Cevsar be far behind?

Then news reached them that there was a flash flood in the mountain area.

Four people were missing out of the 12 that had been affected by the calamity. The team rushed to the area, but what awaited them was tragedy since what was to be a rescue effort became a retrieval operation.

More recently, Cevsar got activated in rescue efforts in the fire that hit Sambag 2 in August. Then there was the Rogelio bus which fell in Tan-awan, Carcar. Their Carcar team, still to be accredited, and other rescue groups helped rescue 60 passengers. Their timely intervention was crucial to loss of lives and property.

Comar could not help mentioning a training drill in 1998 in Cantabaco Coal Cave, Toledo city. A firefighter accidentally fell into a 20-foot drop. The trainees had their baptism of fire on the spot. The firefighter survived.

What guides the team is Comar’s long experience in firefighting, and rescue and retrieval effort. He is the regional action officer of the Disaster Coordinating Council, provincial fire marshal of Siquijor, regional forest fire specialist, and action officer of Patrol 117.

Quick thinking helped the team when they rescued 30 students from Cebu Bible Baptist Church after their bus overshot a curve in Media 11, Lutopan.

Just last year, they got a call too late. The accident happened at 9 a.m. but they were called at 3 p.m. Two miners of a small-scale mine operation went down a 60-foot tunnel. Since water was pooled in the tunnel, they siphoned it out, using a generator. Soon gas filled the place and they became dizzy. One miner got out. When his boss heard that the second miner was still down there, he rushed to the rescue. He never resurfaced.

By the time Cevsar arrived, the two men had been long dead. To avoid getting killed themselves, Comar decided to use an electric fan as an exhaust fan to clear the air so his team could retrieve the bodies.

“Sometimes in rescue effort you have to use whatever material is available,” he said.

Cevsar was also there in 2000 when the MV South-Asia Korea sunk off between Bantayan Island and Iloilo. Comar said that his team was able to use their underwater savvy in the rescue effort.

Among some members are scuba divers, and the rest get training in underwater skills.

They conducted a search and rescue operation with other organizations. For their part, they felt sad that more than 50 lives were lost. And to think the NGO started as a dream.

It was first named the Bureau of Fire Protection/Search and Rescue Auxiliary Group (BFP/Srag) since members were not from the BFP.

The idea sprang after his training in 1994 sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). It included tours to places that had good firefighting and rescue units.

“They have a children’s brigade and child rescuers. On my part I observed that we have a lot of courses in the Philippines nga dili magamit. I thought:

what if I build a junior fire or child rescuers unit? In Cebu I saw many students nga vacant ang period. For example, Saturdays and Sundays are used only for outings or adventure.”

In 1997 he was invited to speak at the University of the Visayas (UV) in a rappel exhibition sponsored by the Club Under d’ Sambag Tree Mountaineers, which was nurturing the new Club UV Mountaineers (now the UV Mountaineers).

Comar, then senior inspector, offered to train them in search and rescue. Eventually BFP/Srag was created. In 1998 they decided to change the name, expand its scope and have it SEC registered.

Even today, training is rigid. Among the 20 courses is mountaineering for mountain search and rescue. This helped members respond to crisis. Cevsar joined the Mt. Manunggal Trek in 1998.

“The service vehicle of the local government of Balamban overshot a cliff. Nine people were rescued. Slight ra ang injuries.”

Other courses include urban search and rescue (high angle rescue) from buildings, firefighting, jungle survival, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), water rescue and survival, and forest firefighting.

“Our courses are broad, all-weather, from mountain to sea. I got the idea from Japan.”

Since majority of the members, now counting 40, are students, trainings are held on weekends.

Aside from the BFP, the NGO is accredited with: Patrol 117, the Department of Interior and Local Government office, Cebu City Local Government Unit, Talisay City local government, Consolacion and Balamban.

Cebu Daily News / News
Doctor falls to his death
By Nilda Gallo, Marsante G. Alison
Cebu Daily News
Posted date: December 02, 2007
BALAMBAN – He so loved the outdoors he gave up his medical profession to explore caves and mountains full time.
Dr. Adolf “Doc” Espina, an optometrist, met his death in the dark chasm of a cave in barangay Gaas, Balamban town in
west Cebu about 6 p.m. Friday.
Mountain rescuers yesterday carried out the remains of the doctor, who fell to his death in a caving accident.
Espina, a mountain climber and spelunker with over 10 years experience, was pulled out of the cave about 11:40 a.m. after
a 17-hour search and rescue operation.
Five of his companions, including an American, were rescued after they were trapped inside the cave.
The six-man team was on a three-day mapping and exploration of the cave to determine if the cave was the deepest in the
Philippines, said Merks Certifico, one of the cave explorers.
Each team member carried a 400-meter rope and was down to 150 meters in the cave when the accident happened,
Certifico said.
“It was equipment failure,” said Certifico, a Manila-based caver, who recovered the doctor’s locking carabine of the rappel,
harness and rope.
The 36-year-old Espina fell 56 meters down and got stuck on a ledge.
A bachelor, Espina was a former teacher of the Southwestern University (SWU) at the Optometry Department. He
discontinued his practice a few years ago to devote time to his passion for mountain climbing and spelunking.
The other rescued cavers were identified as team leader Dondon Dimpas, Jolina Asis and Khublai Espina, a distant
relative of Adolf Espina.
The six spelunkers went inside the cave shortly before 9 a.m. Friday to measure the depth. It was the second time for the
team to explore the cave after an earlier trip three months ago, when they were limited by their gear and a 150-meter-long
Certifico, a 33-year-old development worker, said the locking carabine of the rappel rack, which was connected to Espina’s
seat harness, somehow got loosened.
It eventually detached Doc from the common rope.
Certifiko said they would examine Espina’s equipment more closely to determine what happened
Randy Su, former president of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, said the locking carabine can sometimes
loosen if it is constantly rubbed against by a protruding stone.
“They were qualified cavers. Their expertise cannot be questioned. Basically, mountaineering and caving accidents are
caused by failure of equipment 90 percent of the time,” Su said.
Doctor falls to his death - 12/02/07 Page 1 of 2 12/3/2007
The recovery operation was hindered by howling winds, thick fog and rain.
It took about 17 hours to locate and carry out the lifeless body of Espina, who was 5 feet six inches tall and weighed 240
The rescue teams were made up of members of the University of San Carlos Mountaineers, Central Visayas Search and
Rescue (Cevsar) and the Cebu City Fire Department. Members of the Philippine Air Force were also there to assist. Radio
communication was provided by the Federation of Cebu Radio Clubs.
The Inter-Mountaineering Society of Cebu, of which Espina was a member, also provided ground support.
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©Copyright 2001-2007, An Inquirer Company
Doctor falls to his death - 12/02/07 Page 2 of 2 12/3/2007

3 Responses so far.

  1. This is really good that young people and students are actively participating for some good cause. We need younger people to come out and be a part of these NGOs. These people are energetic and daring to help others.

  2. CEVSAR says:

    yeah your right, but here in Philippines our main proble is the equipment and the support of some influential group.

  3. jenjen says:

    Hi Sir,

    I would just like to inquire on how can I be part of the Volunteering team? I want to volunteer for CEVSAR.
    for respond please contact me on my e-mail.

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