Filipino rock climber volunteers on Thai cave rescue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) - Filipino rock climber Cedjie Aquino is one of the volunteers who had been working closely with the rescue operations team in the attempt to save the soccer team trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in Thailand.

Aquino, who lives and works in Thailand, first learned about the news when he was tagged on a Facebook post. With his knowledge and expertise as a climber, he was asked if he could help with the situation at hand.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, the Filipino rock climber recounted his experience as a volunteer in the ongoing Thai cave rescue- starting from when he called his friends back home to form a rescue team of their own.

"Knowing that it's a cave, the first [people] that popped in mind was like, I know cavers back home, back in the Philippines. And I know that this is basically their life. They are professional cave rescuers and professional cave divers," Aquino told Pia Hontiveros on CNN Philippines News Night at 7 pm.

"At first there was difficulty, equipment-wise. To be honest, there's a difference in terms of training but I was aware that our boys back home are experienced in this field," Aquino added of his team.

The challenges did not stop there. Once he got his group secured, Aquino recalled the hurdles they had to face in navigating the cave system.

"Most of the rescuers were focusing on the main cave entrance," Aquino noted. "At first we were called in because they wanted to check holes that were on the mountain face."

"The first two days that we were onsite, we found a couple of holes but they were all dead ends. And so we had to change strategies. So we started looking for holes that were closer to the ground."

"We got down 60 meters down, and then we hit bedrock. We were now looking at a crack that was 8 inches wide. None of the guys would fit into that. And that is why we were trying to get equipment that could break rock," Aquino narrated.

"So if we broke through that small crack, we probably would be in the main chamber. But then again, nothing's for certain because these holes could lead anywhere."

 

Seeing the good in humanity

According to reports, at least four of the 12 members of the youth soccer team were rescued on Sunday. An eye witness working with the rescue team meanwhile confirmed to CNN Monday that the rescuers had carried four more boys out of the cave. The rest of the soccer team members, including the coach, are still trapped inside the flooded system.

Per reports, the rescued members are now recovering in the hospital. Authorities have yet to reveal the identities of the freed soccer players.

While the mission is far from over, Aquino said the whole experience led him to see that there still was some 'good in humanity.' He also expressed that just the idea of him helping out and doing something, through his expertise, was worth more than any reward he could ever receive.

"People have been praising me, telling me that I was a hero," Aquino added. "It just so happened that I was there, and knowing that I could do something to make a difference? I just can't stay at home and watch news, and 'hey look at that,' they're looking for someone who can do something."

The soccer team, known as the Wild Boars, first went missing more than two weeks ago.