A Letter of Apology from a Filipino teenager about the hostage tragedy…

By now most of the world has heard about the very tragic incident that happened in Manila on the fateful day of August 23, 2010 when a busload of Hong Kong tourist was hijacked by a former Police Officer by the name of Rolando Mendoza. The 11 hour hostage tragedy claimed the lives of 8 persons including the gunman himself.

Emotions have been high since Monday and social networks like Facebook and Twitter are abuzz with posts and comments from various regions of the world giving prayers and message of sympathy as well as condemnation of the incident. Sadly, there were harsh comments like Filipinos being tagged as Monkeys which is unfair and totally uncalled for as well as the Government and Police force as inefficient, incompetent sitting ducks.

Many had already been said. I would also like to share my piece about this tragic event….

Personally I condemn the violence and feel very sorry for the loss of lives as well as the trauma brought about by the incident to the survivors and I understand the high emotions. Like many, I also do not approve of how the incident was handled by authorities . It could have been better and no innocent lives lost. The media should also be more responsible in their news reporting.

The ruthless act of 1 person doesn’t mean the whole country is rotten. Filipinos are generally loving and God-fearing. Many Filipinos working abroad have helped and continuously helping a lot of people, companies and organizations in many ways. We are also helping our families.  I really hope this single unfortunate incident will not wipe out all the good things we’ve done in the past and striving to do in the present and that no harsh repercussions to any Overseas Filipino Workers because of the incidents. These fellows are just trying to earn a decent living and has nothing to do with the ruthless act of the gunman as well as inequities of some authorities.

I would like to share in my blog a letter from a Filipino teenager by the name Reigno Jose Dilao making an apology for what has happened. Some people actually do not approve of his letter because they say there is no reason to apologize. But being a compassionate Christian, I also feel we should be sorry for the loss of lives.

As the bodies of the people who died are now flown to Hong Kong and most of the survivors have gone home as well, it is time to show affection and compassion to the families who are grieving and together with it, a prayer that the said incident will not happen again in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world.

Full text of Reigno’s letter here.

Manila Hostage Crisis

Many of us has seen in the news or YouTube the very tense and tiring hostage crisis of a busload of Hong Kong Tourists in Manila today. The real life drama took 11 hours and several lives including innocent tourists and the hostage-taker, former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.

According to GMA news website, the 55 year old Mendoza was one of the five officers charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats after they allegedly accused a chef of the Manila Hotel of using drugs to extort money in 2008.

He was armed with an M16 rifle during the hostage-taking.

The Hong Tai Bus is reportedly carrying about 25 persons mostly Hong Kong Tourists when he seized it around 9:30 am local time. He demanded to be reinstated from his job.

The authorities tried negotiating with the hostage taker and the brother, SPO2 Gregorio Mendoza has been talking to Rolando and relaying his demands to the negotiators. The hostage-taker also tried writing his demands in paper and posting it on the bus’ windows.

However, the situation escalated when the gunman opened fire to tourists inside the bus. Some people claimed that it is because Rolando saw in TV about the “forced” arrest of his brother Gregorio as an alleged accessory to the crime while the hostage drama is taking place.

Latest news said 8 people died including Rolando.

I have seen the video footage and the incident is quite alarming. On a supposedly busy early morning, wherein the city is just starting to have life, a tourist bus was hijacked. Innocent tourists’ life including children were at stake.

We’ve seen news before about a man entering a school in China and killing several children or a man taking control of a building in America killing more than a dozen people. The world is no longer safe.

What is more disturbing is the fact that what happened in Manila today is isolated but has created a very big impact.  I can’t blame the man for trying to let the authorities hear his voice. But the way it was done is certainly not acceptable. I’ve never heard of such incident wherein the gunmen deliberately target a lot of innocent tourists. I’ve read in Facebook about comments like “Desperate times would make you do desperate actions”. Still not a good enough reason to take someone else’s life in our own hands as what has been inculcated in our minds since we were young if we really value our Christian beliefs.

The Philippines has been struggling to lure tourists to the country what with numerous reports of kidnapping of foreign missionaries or abduction of wealthy businessmen. We people working in the travel industry really work hard to bring tourists to the country. Tourism brings jobs and wealth to a country’s economy. However, tourism is always the first to be affected whenever security or safety is compromised.

The Security Bureau of Hong Kong has blacklisted the Philippines and declared a total travel ban to the country following the incident. We definitely cannot blame them especially since several of their citizens were killed.

This is a very challenging time for the Government. There must really be a drastic move to eliminate corruption, red tape and abuse of power in all Government agencies especially in the police or military ranks as they swore to serve and protect the country and the people.

It is just saddening the way Rolando Mendoza’s (a former awardee of Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines) life and several others ended.

I join the people of Hong Kong as well as fellow Filipinos in praying for the eternal peace and salvation of those who died and also praying for full recovery and healing of memories of those who survived this tragic incident. We fervently pray for God’s grace and protection so that this dark moment will never happen again.

Remembering July 16, 1990 Killer Earthquake

Exactly 20 years ago, a 7.8 magnitude Earthquake struck the island of Luzon, Philippines at around 1626H, local time. Luzon, being the main island of the Philippines where Manila is located and a densely populated region survived the calamity but with extensive destruction in properties and claiming approximately 1,600 lives.

Personally, I will never forget that day as long as I lived. The harrowing experience is still vivid in my memories. As a grade school boy, I can’t imagine myself experiencing it far away from my family as what other students experienced. I just finished doing my homework and about to get ready to play outside. My youngest sister who was in primary school then was in their room at that time because she had some tantrums. I can’t remember the cause of her tantrums but I believe it was her first earthquake experience and surely she didn’t know that time what is happening. There was a violent shaking of the ground and as my dad realized it was an earthquake, he told everyone of us to get out of the house to go in front in an open area for safety reasons. We had a bit of hard time opening the door of my sister’s room to take her out cos the house was shaking. We eventually managed to go out safely.

My parents, 2 of my sisters and me hugged each other as the ground is literally rumbling and violently shaking. There was a huge water tank nearby our house which the noise of it’s shaking was quite frightening and imagining if it will fall, what will happen to the residents nearby…my sisters are crying because they thought the earthquake will not stop. It lasted quite long (about 45 secs.). We were quite fortunate that we were already home from school at that time. I heard some children who were in the afternoon session in school panicked when the earthquake strike, many of them cried out of fear.

My 2 brothers were not at home that time. My eldest brother who was already in college that time visited a friend in the UST hospital in Manila with some friends. They said the earthquake was also felt strongly in Manila. Because of the event, everyone had to hurry back home and at the end, my brother and friends had to walk from Espana, Manila to Marikina (approx 21 kms. away) just to reach home. My other brother was staying in my Aunt’s house that time.

There were several aftershocks during the course of the night and extending through the week. There were some days that while doing nothing, I felt dizzy and it seems that the earth is still shaking then. Electricity was cut, schools and offices were closed for several days and the building inspectors had to check schools, offices and public buildings for safety before they allowed entry.

In the news, we saw the massive destruction of the quake most notably of which is in Baguio City and Cabanatuan City. The Hyatt Terraces Hotel, a 5 Star Hotel in Baguio collapsed killing at least 80 people including guests and employees. Many other buildings in Baguio, a popular tourist destination due to its cool climate, pine trees and American inspired architecture collapsed.

In Cabanatuan City, a big school- –  Christian College of the Philippines collapsed killing at least 15o people, mostly students. It was such a horrific experience seeing in TV or newspapers video or pictures of children who died in the rubble.

I remembered seeing in the news that Akiko Thompson, a pretty and popular swimmer was stranded in Baguio and finding ways how to go back to Manila. There were other prominent personalities that were affected by the calamity.

There were some survivors in the ruins as well. Some of them survived up to two weeks without eating or drinking. Some claimed that they had to drink their own urine just to survive.

If there is one positive thing that happened in this tragedy, it’s the Filipinos’ nature of “Bayanihan” or helping those in need. Donations and pledges of any kind keep pouring on government agencies and Television Stations. Eye to Eye, a popular public affairs program was the leading and most reliable source of donation during calamities.

Many people preferred sending their donations to this hit TV Programme because the host, Inday Badiday and her crew really go to the affected areas and personally distribute the goods. They also flash on screen the pledges or donations. Some stars volunteered to answer phone calls in their hotline.

As I write this post to remember the frightening yet historical event in our country, please join me in a silent prayer to God asking to spare our country from similar calamities in the future. It is really an experience that one can never forget…

To Manila and Back…

08 May 2009- My flight back to Manila from Bangkok was supposedly around 12 noon. I went to the airport with 2 of my friends who generously gave their time to send me off to the airport..not sure if it is because they’ll miss me or it’s because they are soo happy to see me leaving so they can have all their ice monsters, kare-kare, mango float and the like (without me of course)..hahaha. I arrived in the airport  before 10 am. We were wondering why when we checked the flight information board, my flight indicated 2145H as the flight time. I just thought it was not updated. Anyway, we proceeded to the check-in counter of Kuwait Airways. At the check-in counter, again surprises of all surprises–there is no single staff to serve checking-in passengers. There was a short queue and all the same, they are wondering what’s happening.

Finally at around 1030H, several employees of the airline arrived in the counter and informed us that the flight was delayed. Our flight indeed will resume at 2145H since it has not reached Kuwait from Manila and again it had to go back to Manila that night.

Under these circumstances, I would have complained a lot how come no one tried to contact us prior. Apparently, they tried to contact us but at the last minute. Fortunately, they provided a room in a hotel near the airport (Miracle Hometel) with Lunch and Dinner included. Surprisingly, I never thought the hotel have very nice room. Considering it is only a Standard Room, my room is quite spacious and have a jacuzzi even! Food was good as well..I liked the Tom Yum Gung a lot even if it’s a  bit spicy for me.

We were sent back to the airport around 7:30. Upon reaching the check-in counter, we were informed the flight will be delayed–AGAIN! This time, our flight time would be 2330H. I was thinking what I would do if they announce before 2330H that the flight will be delayed again. I’ve wasted 1 full day from my very short vacation because of their flight delay! Well at least we arrived home safe.

One thing I was so worried about is my cough and cold which is getting worse. While waiting for my flight, I can feel I will be having flu because of my cough and cold (attributed to the change of weather and maybe lack of sleep due to excitement). I tried to consume as many pineapple juice, water and vitamin c tablets as I can. I was afraid that when I arrived at the airport and I passed by the thermal scanner and they found out I had fever, they might associate it with the H1N1 virus and I’ll be quarantined! I want to be popular someday but I don’t wanna be popular that way…

Luckily, I didn’t have fever and I passed by the thermal scanner successfully without any hindrances! Ha ha ha!

Finally, my family was there to fetch me. I am truly happy to see them after almost 1 year of being away. I know they missed me a lot. First meal I had in Manila was of course my favorite longanisa and daing na bangus with hot brewed coffee before we head back home. The next days up until today, I was quite busy as I had to attend to several personal engagements and 1 week training.

My holiday is short so I have to maximize my time.

At any rate, it is truly great to be back home. Nothing much has changed since a year ago which made me feel as if I did not leave home at all…

If I were Manny Pacquiao…

Disclaimer: The list you are about to see is a hypothetical and wild (but I believe is sensible) idea how I can spend PHP 576 million I just won if I were Manny Pacquiao:

If I were Manny Pacquiao….

1.) I will donate money to build a big airport in Manila. Infrastructure is the most essential tool to a country’s development. Our International airport is dilapidated and definitely cannot compete with most airports in Asia like Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok, Changi in Singapore, Chep Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong. It desperately need a face lift or a total make over. Tourism and other industries will benefit and will generate millions of Pesos in receipts. Does Manny Pacquiao International Airport or maybe Jinky Pacquiao International Airport sound appealing to you? Lol.

2.) I will donate money to build a subway train in Metro Manila. Metro Manila is too populated, streets are jammed, mass transport is packed even during supposedly lax hour. What we need is a ultra modern, state of the art subway train system to address the ever growing need for mass transport of the Metro. Why a subway, we already have the MRT and LRT anyway? All major cities of the world have subway trains. They built subway not sky trains because they can maximize the space or roads where the subway line passes by. Of course it would build humongous traffic jam during the construction but we can all see the positive effect once it’s completed.

3.) I will help Build a large Stadium (similar or even better than the Bird’s Nest in Beijing) and a Centre for Sports Development focusing on various sports discipline (not only Boxing and Basketball!). Manny is a sportsman and will always be a sportsman. Building a large sporting facility would not only give credibility and recognition to Philippines as a major sporting destination (as we can host a big sporting event) but having a Centre for Sports Development would ensure we can build a nation of world-class athletes. It would mean our youth will have sports as a hobby and not think of drugs, alcohol, sex and other vices as their past time.

4.) I will donate money to help preserve our country’s Natural attractions
such as the Banaue Rice Terraces, Chocolate Hills, Mt. Apo- these natural wonders may not be seen by our children and their children’s children if we don’t do anything to preserve it. Preserving it need some financial assistance which unfortunately, our Government cannot fully give and would need private institutions to sustain the conservation projects.

5.) I will buy big lands to turn into rice fields, animal farms, fruit plantations and sell it in the market at highly subsidized price
– Not only will converting idle lands into these highly productive areas bring thousands of jobs to Filipino people, but by doing so it will help eradicate food shortage in our country. We will be a self-sustaining nation and can bring more income to the country’s coffers if we export these products once our production is over the demand.

You may say why most of the above suggestions are about donating or helping to support various activities considering Manny Pacquiao is a private individual, not a Politician even. But as a public figure idolized by millions, I think Manny has a social responsibility to fulfill. He doesn’t have to be a politician to fulfill these social obligations but by being the same humble but highly disciplined athlete that he is, he can help make our country a better Philippines..

On a separate note, as a normal human being– I have material desires as well….so if I were Manny Pacquiao, I will buy my own private jet to take me and my family to the best places in the world during my training break.