We read a lot of stuff in the news about “Heroes”. Often they are sports stars, or someone who is famous for being famous.

But for once, Time Magazine got it right by including Muelmar Magallanes in their “Top Ten” Heroes of the year.

Muelmar, the fourth of seven children, lived in a neighborhood in Quezon City, right outside of Manila. He dropped out of high school to work with his father as a construction worker to help feed his family.

Then came the typhoon last September 26th, and the city streets, as usual with every storm, started to flood, but not the usual flooding that blocks traffic and is gone in an hour or two, but a flood that covered much of Manila under deep, flowing water, sending hundreds of thousands to flee to shelters or to relative’s safer homes, and destroying the lives of many who were trying to flee.

From the Age (Australia):

the river 800 metres away had burst its banks.

With the help of an older brother, Mr 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 Mr Magallanes, a strong swimmer, decided to go back for neighbours trapped on rooftops.

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

The last rescue, however, took his life. A mother and child, in the current, holding onto a box to keep them afloat.

“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,” Ms Penalosa said.

Today’s Philippine Inquirer has a follow up story on the the Magallanes family. It seems that the small house that the father had built the family in 2002 was too small, and he always promised his mother to build a more comfortable dwelling.

So, after his death, others collected money to build the family a new home to replace the one badly damaged in the floods: a sturdy house of concrete.
But the home does not replace the lost son in the heart of his mother, Luz:

Still reeling from the loss of her son, Luz expressed one wish: That God give her the strength to move on.

She turned to her granddaughter Joemhaica and asked her to name the man in the framed photo, adorned by a medal that was awarded posthumously.

Joemhaica answered: “Tito (Uncle) Toto.”

Where is Tito Toto? Luz asked.

The 2-year-old replied: “Heaven.”


link to Photo of Muelmar holding his nephew.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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