Fallen forest guard’s kid graduates at the top of her class

It’s reason enough for singing on rooftops, for buttonholing people to share them the good news.

It’s reason enough to believe security guard Andres Realina is smiling from up there in the great pine forest in the sky. After all, his orphaned daughter, Cherry Anne, 19, has just graduated in  information technology, with the distinction of receiving the second highest honor of  magna cum laude, after having to financially struggle for an education years after her dad died in a freak accident at the Busol watershed here.

Andres, then a security guard for the Baguio Water District, was killed when he was pinned down by a mature pine tree that was uprooted and fell on a makeshift guardhouse and artesian well at Busol while the city was bracing itself for the brunt of Typhoon Juan’s fury on October 18, 2010.

That left his wife, Marianne, to raise their two children – Mary Ann, then 12, and Michael Angelo, then 10.Their third child, Donald Allan, who was afflicted with Down’s Syndrome, died when he was two.

Driven out of their house after Andres’ death, the family rented a room at Aurora Hill for P2,500 a month.  Right there and then, Marianne used the room as a mini-store and roasted barbecue to be able to send her kids to school.

After  Mary Ann finished high school, she enrolled, with the help of friends,  in information technology at the Data Center College along Bonifacio St. here.  Those who supported her mother’s effort to give her an education were elated when told that she was graduating last month at the top of her class.

She showed promise in her academic pursuit after graduating among the top 10 at the Dona Aurora National High School, her determination to finish a course propelled by her mother’s daily grind of preparing barbecue.

As guard of Interlink Security, her father was assigned to secure the Busol watershed as one of the top sources of Baguio’s water, servicing Session Rd. up to Pacdal barangay.

Seeing the need for volunteers, he went beyond his duty and for years, served as guide of children in their exploration of Busol and in their tree planting and tending activities under the city’s Eco-walk program that the United Nations recognized as an outstanding environmental awareness program for kids.

During his duty at the watershed,  the diminutive forest guard would supervise and monitor the work of youth assigned to tree-tending and fire lane establishment within the watershed under the Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) under the city and the Department of Labor and Employment.

Before he died, Realina led members of the City Disaster Coordinating Council in their replanting of precipitous areas of the watershed which were destroyed by fires.

Andy enlisted as a security guard or Interlink in 1996, two years after he finished his course as general radio communications operator at the then Baguio Colleges Foundation.

“I met him at the Export Processing Zone  in Loakan where I was working in a company and he was assigned as guard,” Marianne said. Andy served under two security agencies before transferring to Interlink, security provider for the city hall and the Baguio Water District.

The shift proved practical as he was assigned to  Busol, then a walking distance from his former home. The forest assignment provided therapy, aside from a greater sense of purpose in teaching kids to plant and care for trees.

“We were with him in some of those tree planting sessions,” his wife recalled.

By Ramon Dacawi

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