KUNDASANG: The St Pius X Catholic church in Kg Bundu Tuhan at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu was filled to the brim with friends and family of fallen mountain guide Valerian Joannes who came to pay their last respects.
The quaint church was packed with mourners consoling each other with Catholic hymns in Kadazundusun, Bahasa Malaysia and English in the background.
Valerian's family members, including members of the Lubak clan, were all dressed in purple and seated at the front pews.
His 25-year-old fiance Jessica Sikta, a nurse, was in white. They were engaged in December last year.
Valerian, 28, was given a hero's send-off with two Rela officers placing a Malaysian flag on his casket after the service ended yesterday evening.
Holding bouquets of flowers, Jessica and Valerian's close family members walked in a procession with the hearse to the village burial ground.
Jessica was calm and composed throughout and delivered a heartfelt eulogy.
"We have known each other since 2003. He was mature and very kind, not just to humans, but also to plants and animals.
"He always put others ahead of himself," she said.
Jessica described Valerian as sensitive and always careful not to hurt the feelings of others, especially his parents.
According to her, Valerian had always been grateful for the three years he worked as an employee for Mountain Torq.
His last wish was for her to teach him first aid so that he could respond effectively during an emergency.
Valerian's colleagues said he had done his best to try and rescue climbers from falling rocks and boulders when the mountain shook.
He was reportedly on the rope with Singapore students at the Via Ferrata trail.
He grabbed the harness of the students and tried to shield them from the falling rocks but the rope snapped.
All of them were believed to have fallen together with the piles of rocks and boulders.
A funeral service was also held for fellow mountain guide Tom Ricky Raymond Masarin in Kundasang yesterday.