Photos provided by: Cedjie Takumi Aquino
“People have been praising me, telling me that I was a hero. It just so happened that I was there and knowing that I could do something to make a difference.” – Cedjie Aquino (on his interview with CNN Philippines)
The 12 Thai kids, and members of a school soccer team who were trapped inside the flooded cave with their coach, in Chiang Rai (northern part of Thailand), were finally rescued a few days ago. And one of the members of the rescue team, who were assigned at the Southern part of the cave was Cedjie Takumi Aquino, 38, a Filipino, who is residing in Thailand since 2001 with his family. His two siblings are also in the city.
A native from Davao City, Cedjie, a father of two kids (all girls – a six year-old and a one-and-a-half month old), shared on how he became part of the rescue team, via email interview.
“I posted something on social media pleading the Thai government to let a team of Filipino cave divers and cave rescuers in. That very same day, I received a call from the Governor’s office asking me if I could help in with cave situation. And I said yes,” he recalled.
A Marketing and Management graduate from the Ateneo de Davao University, Cedjie is an English teacher at a government high school on weekdays, and on weekends he is a climbing guide and instructor.
Where did he get his interest in mountain (rock) climbing? “I was in high school, I think. My passion for the rocks came from the cave rescuers that I was trying to get in. They were all rock climbers before transitioning into spelunking (cave explorers). They used to tag me along on their mini expeditions,” he related.
Based on his account, it took the rescuers days to save the kids because of the rain. “That hindered the operation. And the terrain was challenging and the flood waters kept rising,” Cedjie stressed. When he is not busy with school and rock climbing, he would always spend time with his daughters, or take people on climbing trips. “And when I’m alone, I find time to sleep,” he said.
Before Cedjie decided to live in Thailand, he was just a student, a skateboarder, and helped in managing a small sport bar called Slackers, owned by his two good friends (drinking buddies), that had an indoor climbing. In his interview with CNN Philippines, he said that the whole experience led him to see that there still was some “good in humanity.’