Sinking of the MV Doña Paz

The 2,215-ton Dona Paz collided Dec.

20 with the 629-ton oil tanker Vector off Mindoro Island. Both vessels exploded in huge fireballs.

Only 26 of the 1,775 people known to have been on board the vessels were saved, but the real death toll may never be known.

Manifests on Philippine inter-island vessels are notoriously inaccurate. They often record children as "half-passengers" or disregard them entirely. Corrupt officials frequently accept bribes to allow overloading.

In addition, many victims probably were incinerated when the vessels exploded and will never be accounted for. Rescuers found only 108 bodies, many of them charred and mutilated beyond recognition.

Sulpicio Lines, owner of the Dona Paz, has never officially acknowledged that the passenger ship carried more than the 1,583 people listed on the manifest.

Suddenly, without warning, the Victor, a Philippine tanker carrying 8,800 bbl. of petroleum products, collided with the Dona Paz. Immediately, the tanker's cargo ignited, setting the sea aflame. As the inferno engulfed both ships, dozens of passengers leaped, diving deep to avoid the burning waters. Swimming beyond the fiery oil, Eugenio Orot, 27, surfaced hundreds of feet away from the ferry. As the anguished screams of children calling "Nanay!" (mother) and "Tatay!" (father) echoed around him, he searched desperately for his two children and wife, but to no avail. Within four hours, the Dona Paz and the Victor were gone.