Family, friends pay their respects to Filipino couple killed in tornado

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Aug. 1, 2014

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Dozens of family members and friends came to Greenvile Memorial Home in Jersey City Thursday, to pay their respects to the Filipino couple — Lolibeth Ortega and Lord Balatbat, both 38-years-old –- who were killed when a tornado ripped their camp ground in Virginia last week.

Lolo Luis Balatbat, Lord’s father said, “Dahil sa pangyayaring yaan, nawala ang aking anak, pati yung sa aking manugang, yung panganay nila, anak nila, eh naka-coma.”

The couples’s two younger daughters Lhariezha Anne and Lheanna Leigh, who were injured during the tornado, are now able to attend the wake. But their eldest brother Lheandrew is still in serious condition at a Virginia hospital.

And while doctors told Lolo Luis that they would do everything to save his 13-year-old grandson, he was also told that even if Lheandrew survives, he may stay in a vegetative or comatose state.

“Ang sabi sa akin ang advise sa akin, hindi naman sa sinasabi nilang ano…pero kinakailangan makuha na nung mag-asawa, nung ina’t ama, dahil alagain pa basta ganyan,” Lolo Luis said.

“We are praying for the recovery of their eldest son,” Philippine Deputy Consul General Zaldy Patron said. ”And we are happy to note that two other children are taken home already and under the guardianship of the relative of Lolibeth and we are thankful for the members of the Filipino community who stood by them.”

Linda Rupel says the Cherrystone Camp Ground, frequented by many Filipinos in Virginia including her, may not be the safest place especially when there are hurricanes and tornadoes because it is surrounded by really tall but thin trees.

“The unfortunate incident there is that you have to sign a waiver. They are not liable to anything that happens to you,” family friend Rupel said. “So be sure when you go there you have to have insurance for the family.”

In between Lord and Lolibeth’s white caskets is a black and white photo of the couple in happier times.

Their Danforth neighbor Apring Fabian said, “Manager siya sa Walgreens, ‘pag pumunta ako sa Walgreens inaasikaso akong talaga, napakabait niya talaga, kaya ano eh, nagdaramdam din kami sa nangyari.”

Family friend Nanette Amante said, “Mabait siya kasi masayahin siya eh, pagka nagpupunta siya sa opisina, ang gulo gulo niya masaya siya.”

A funeral service will be held at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Jersey City Saturday.

Lord and Lolibeth will be entombed together in the Holy Name Mausoleum also located in Jersey City.

In lieu of lowers, the family says donations may be made to the Balatbat Children’s Fund care of Lakeland Bank in Carlstadt, New Jersey.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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