Co-employees and friends of Jorge Gino Bernados, a maintenance worker at Saipan World Resort who died three weeks ago, were stunned to see during a public viewing at San Jose Church that the body in the casket was that of a different man.
They later learned that Bernados’ body had already been cremated and sent to Hawaii.
When Fr. Charlie Borja finished the Mass for 55-year-old Bernados on the ninth day of rosary last March 14, he gave instructions to open the closed casket for viewing.
Reymundo dela Cruz, 64, a maintenance worker at Saipan World Resort, immediately noticed that the body was that of a different person.
In an interview Monday, Dela Cruz said that, upon the opening of the casket, he and his other workers concluded it was not Bernados’.
One thing that tipped him off was that the body had long hair; he said Bernados was a skinhead.
He said the priest then asked them to call Borja Funeral Parlor, which reclaimed the body.
Dela Cruz said that Bernados had a tattoo mark “Palau boy” on the left shoulder, but the body that was brought to San Jose Church had none.
He said Bernados’ body was supposed to be flown to the Philippines the next day, March 15. He said they later learned that their co-worker’s body was cremated at Borja Funeral Parlor and subsequently sent to a family in Hawaii.
Apparently, the family of the man who was mistaken as Bernados asked for cremation and for the ashes to be taken to Hawaii.
Bernados had a brother on Saipan. The brother and co-workers and friends had a daily rosary at San Jose Church. The body was only sent to the church on the last day of the rosary since police were investigating the death.
Saipan Tribune learned that Bernados was still able to report for work at Saipan World Resort last Feb. 26, but he did not show up for work the following day.
Dela Cruz said he knocked on the door of Bernados’ unit at their barracks last Feb. 28 at 5:30pm to check on him, but there was no response.
Another co-worker who stays in the adjacent room came out and Dela Cruz and the co-worker checked the room and noticed that it was unlocked. They then smelled a foul odor and saw Bernados lying lifeless on the bed. That’s when they called 911.
Dela Cruz and his co-workers recalled that last Feb. 25, a day before Bernados last reported for work, Bernados was drunk and fell on the stairs in the barracks.
Saturnino “Atoy” Banting, supervisor at the Saipan World Resort maintenance department, said he heard that, based on the autopsy, no foul play was found and that Bernados had died from a stroke.
Banting confirmed that Bernados had a “Palau boy” tattoo on his left shoulder as he and Bernados used to work in Palau.
Bernados used to be the driver of the late Palau governor Roman Tmetuchl.
Bernados’ wife and four children are in Cabanautan, Nueva Ecija in the Philippines.
Co-workers said Bernados, who loved to sing and was very friendly, first went home to the Philippines in 2017 after being away for 17 years.