Weeks before that fateful afternoon of February 28, 2005, would be rape suspect William Bargas, a 51 year old part-time construction worker confided to Wilfredo Parajado, 39 married of Canelar Moret on his frustrations on his failure to win over the love of 40 year-old Maria Atienza (not her real name). He boasted that Maria will soon be his, for he will rape her. He even mentioned that not only will he rape her and but will also burn her house to the ground. Although,Wilfredo did not put any serious thoughts on his perceived empty ranting, he counseled William not to do it since it will not do any good and his action will displace a lot of squatter families living in illegal dwellings made of very light materials. He told him to have pity on the squatters which included his family. He advised him to let go and move on.
Wilfredo Parajado used to work as a stevedore at the local pier. For years, he would support his family from his meager income. Late last year, his debilitating arthritis caused his frequent absences until he was forced to quit work. His wife was forced to do laundry for others to support the family. His mobility severely impaired by his painful arthritis, he stayed home to take care of household chores. On that fateful afternoon of February 28, 2005 at around 5 PM, he was sitting outside of his house when he heard a loud scream coming from the house of his neighbor. He immediately run towards the scream and heard a scuffle. He immediately barged open the door and saw William Bargas on top of a near naked Maria. He grabbed William and pushes him away! He warned him not to pursue his bad intention on her. At this juncture, William hurriedly run towards the exit and picked up what looked like a gallon on his way. Recalling his threat of arson, Wilfredo immediately thought of family and the rows of houses that will be affected by a fire. He gave chased and saw William opening the gallon. He managed to chase William and stopped him from pouring the gasoline on house. Unknowingly, in the ensuing scuffle, he was already drenched in gasoline! When William flicks his lighter, the spark ignited him. His neighbors watched in horror as they saw a burning Wilfredo. At that point in time, Wilfredo was not aware that he was in flame, he was so focused on his family safety and the destruction of his house and that of his neighbors. He continued to give chase, until a neighbor threw a wet towel on him. An also burning William managed to escape and is the subject of a police hunt.
It was only after a few minutes that he writhing in pain, his frantic wife and thankful neighbors immediately rushed him to hospital.
The next day, the news about the incident was HEADLINED in a local daily. The Tzu Chi Zamboanga phone never stopped ringing as Tzu Chi members, TIMA volunteers and concerned Zamboanga residents reported about the incident and asked if Tzu Chi can help. Although, Tzu Chi Zamboanga does not have a program for burn victims, Wilfredo selfless act warranted Tzu Chi’s immediately aid. His noble deed has prevented what could have been a big fire in the squatter area of Canelar Moret and razing down hundreds of houses and displacing hundreds of poor families. Loss of innocent lives would not have been avoided since road leading to the area is very narrow and not very accessible to fire trucks.
When Tzu Chi volunteers visited him at the hospital, he was still in severe pain. The sight and smell was just so over powering that some Tzu Chi volunteers had to leave the room. Having no money to buy the needed medicines, a lot of the prescribed medicines were not administered. Tzu Chi immediately bought the medicines and reassured the family of Tzu Chi’s continued help with the expensive and long term medical needs of Tzu Chi newest hero Wilfredo. Asked if he regretted his noble deed Wilfredo replied simply said: No! Anyone with a family and cares for neighbors will do exactly what I did!” When a Tzu Chi volunteer jokingly told him that not everyone is that brave; he added: “I never taught of myself as brave or capable of doing the things I did; at that precise moment it was pure INSTINCT! I forgot myself and had the welfare of my family and neighbors in mind!”
Wilfredo’s mother was in tears when he saw his son, while his tearful wife and children were very proud of their father’s new found status in the neighborhood. They took turns in taking care of their “hero” ring his confinement. Wilfredo has been discharged from the hospital after three weeks confinement at the ZCMC Burn Unit. Tzu Chi is very thankful to Dr. Romeo Ong, the chief of hospital of Zamboanga City Medical Center for the help and free services it extended, the resident doctors and nurses for their loving care and to the concerned citizens of Zamboanga and Tzu Chi members who responded with lots of love for this wonderful opportunity to repay a selfless deed with a flood of gratitude.