Philippines: 20 pilgrims killed, 24 injured in bus collision on way to Christmas mass in Agoo

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20 pilgrims on their way to Christmas mass in northern Philippines were killed in a head-on bus collision, according to the police. The victims were on their way to an ancient pilgrimage site with an icon of the Virgin Mary, which people believe can perform miracles. In a twist of fate, the collision caused one of the vehicles' engine to be dismembered and its front to be pushed towards the inside, heavily damaging the structure and causing significant injuries to the passengers.

The victims belonged to an extended family who were travelling to the dawn church service. Their bus rammed into a larger bus in Agoo, which is 200 kilometres north of Manila. 20 people on board were killed by the impact and another 24 have been injured.

The accident in La Union province happened at around 3.30 am on Monday, when the Partas bus was on its way to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. It collided with a jeepney in San Jose village of Agoo. It had 29 passengers on board, said Chief Insp. Roy Villanueva of Agoo Police, as reported by PhilStar.

"The investigation is still ongoing. We are still looking for the possible case of the accident," Villanueva told dzMM Radio. "Twenty are confirmed dead. Eighteen of the dead are in LUMC in Agoo, one is in ITRMC and then the other one is in a family hospital in Agoo," said Villanueva.

Some of the victims' families have been notified and many had arrived at the hospitals where they were taken. The police added that the families of victims and other concerned people can reach them through (+072) 607-1658 and 09989673031.

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Some of the passengers who were going to attend the mass at Our Lady of Manaoag Minor Basilica in Manaoag, Pangasinan were: Pepito Antolin; Virgie Antolin 34; Mark Jerson Cabero, 7; Cecilia Antolin; Johnny Cabradilla, 43; Chita Cabradilla; Florence Cabradilla; Vicky Antolin; Adela Antolin; jeepey driver Rolando Perez; Hanna Ramirez 10; a 5-month old baby and Claudine Cabradilla, reports PhilStar.

Based on initial investigation, it appears that the bus was on the correct lane and the jeepney had tried to overtake it, according to Aileen Lizada, spokesman for the Land Transport Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB). The police report is being awaited before any action is taken. Lizada stated that the insurance companies of the vehicles should take care of the expenses involved in the accident.

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The Philippines has been witnessing a tough time as tropical storms Kai-Tak/Urduja and Tembin/Vinta have caused significant damage to life and property in the past few days. Close to 200 people have lost their lives and thousands have fled or have been evacuated from the affected areas.

Along with natural disasters, accidents have caused even more worry, as last week at least five people were killed when an inter-island ferry sank off the Quezon province coast in southeastern Philippines.

This article was first published on December 25, 2017