Death on Charter Day

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By Nef Luczon


Monday, June 16, 2014

IT would have been a fine morning. It could be, and who doesn’t especially the city marked its 46th year when Cagayan de Oro became a city. But not last Sunday.

Aizza Balbin, a 26-year-old registered nurse was found dead in Cagayan de Oro River Sunday, three days she went missing after the inflatable raft she was riding with three other companions and a river guide capsized.

Balbin, like her companions, wanted to try the famous white water rafting in the city since this can be the only tourist attraction so far the city can claim as its own (you can’t claim Dahilayan, it’s in Bukidnon), and for years the city has already been known to it.


Her death must not go in vain and it should serve as a reminder to all concerned not just in the tourism industry. And her death is already a statement that at some point, we might already be standing between the thin lines of standard and lack of training. Time is against us.

Let us not lose the white water rafting adventure as one of Cagayan de Oro’s identity to the world. That is why it is prudent for Mayor Oscar Moreno to temporarily suspend all outdoor activities in the river for two obvious reasons: 1. In respect to Balbin’s unexpected demise, and 2. Retraining of all concerned white water rafting personnel and its industry and even all others that are tasked to do rescuing.

What happened to Balbin can be already out of hand since it was the way of the nature and the divine, but it could have lessen the days for her body to be found by the rescuers.

A credible source working for Office of the Civil Defense Region 10 told me that the agency has long suggested to the Department of Tourism regarding the training on river guides to a technique called “Swift Water Rescue” which is specifically designed in white water sports in rivers. The agency also has suggested that the DOT should start accrediting and certifying rafters or river guides. All, for safety reasons.

Some might say that this is an isolated case, or “what gives? It is just one death?” But one life lost should be more than enough for everybody to be aware of the things that we should be aware. At least with Balbin’s death, a new door of possibilities has opened in coming up more non-compromising safety standards in this kind of industry.

Sure, we’ve seen locals use bamboo rafts with no safety gears but then again we are reminded that most tourists never had the experience of living in riverbanks before. Simply this time is not the time to be complacent on things that we will be tagged as a slacker.


The same day Balbin’s body was found, Mayor Moreno gave his annual report on the things that public servants should do in the city – telling the people what he has done for his first year in office and what he intends to do in the future.

His time is yet to shine, but he should be very careful like riding the rafts – safety first.


Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 16, 2014.


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