August 18, 2009

Dial 117 for Directory Assistance

I have just arrived home from a trip to Gensan. I have to insert this post amidst my blog reconstruction.

I was with my ex-GF a while ago and were on our way home when we passed by this terrible road accident along the highway in Tupi. I had witnessed more gory road mishaps in the past but this one was terrible enough for me, if only because of the "117" experience I associate it with.

I caught a glimpse of what looked a wrecked passenger van resting snugly under the rear end of a ten-wheeler. I decided to stop and take a look especially after noticing people were still rushing towards the scene, which to me indicated that the accident had just happened. I just thought maybe I could help. The sky had just turned dark and we were in an unlighted section of the highway (most parts are anyway). It became a good thing that traffic was gathering as curious headlights actually provided lighting.

People were screaming about some people still pinned down under the wreckage. A mob had gathered around it and started pulling the van out using their own brute strength; to no avail.

Looking for my own place in the whole "rescue operation", I pulled out my cellphone and dialled 117, the only emergency number I could instinctively recall at that moment.

The first hint that made me think outright that it was the wrong number to dial was the very passive reception of the person at the other end of the line. I was expecting I would be systematically guided into providing all the necessary information (about the emergency at hand) that needed to be relayed; much like 911 in the U.S. (or at least by what I see and hear about it on TV). But it was disappointingly not so.

So I was forced to describe the incident by myself, after which the worse thing happened: The operator gave me a landline number to call! I could not help but blurt out a big "ha?"; and as if the situation (117 instructing me to call a different number) was not hilariously outrageous enough, the operator even "explained" the landline was the right number to call because, in her own words, "it is the number of Emergency 117-Cotabato"!

There was not much time to argue further. I dialled the number (I had to rely on my old brain cells to make the numbers stick because there was no way to jot them down); and all I got was a busy tone.

Meanwhile, people were actually dying. And if you think this was the worst thing that can happen in an emergency, think again: Having been unable to contact the "Emergency 117 number of Cotabato", I dialled 117 once again and talked to the same operator. I demanded she herself contact all the numbers she thought would be able to respond to the emergency. She replied, "Okay," and hang up on me.

photos of the accident
(viewer discretion is advised)

The van's driver is clearly seen here pinned down on his seat

People are seen here trying to pull out
the van using a small truck and a rope.

August 11, 2009

Under reconstruction

This blog is undergoing renovation... its author retooling...

August 5, 2009

Five days of "Cory 101"

I was about to post some nice (and happy)-looking photos in Facebook the morning of Saturday when greeted by the very sad news about President Cory's passing. I admit I still had to let it sink in for a while - Cory is gone. Though the worst had been expected since terrible news began leaking out from her latest hospitalization, one cannot really prepare completely for such a moment. I had to postpone the posting of the photos.

If you are wondering where the profound grief is coming from, then I conclude that either (1) you were not around in the 1980s, (2) you were but were simply a disinterested person (3) you have not been reading your history, or (4) you have been locking yourself up inside your media-less room the last five days, or in times you were out, have been walking with ears plugged and head stooped, your eyes oblivious to the yellowed environs. The last five days saw the most comprehensive (and free) lecture series about President Cory (and the ideals she stood for) and you just missed it.

I remember exactly a week ago when a neighbor approached and asked while we (my family) were wheeling into our garage, what's with the yellow ribbons (tied to your gate and car)? We greeted him with a smile while my wife responded, it's for Cory. We did not seriously put malice on (the innocence of) his query. I just thought then, it won't be long, you will know why.

I myself would want to know more, why.

I am not a super avid fan of Cory Aquino for me to be a good source of discourse that can fully qualify the anguish of her passing and justify the adoration and honor bestowed on her. Well, I know her to be the first sitting president I saw in person. I will never forget the image of her visiting the wake of another equally consummate freedom-fighter Lean Alejandro whom I also adore but who was murdered in 1987. That image conveyed to me a lot about the sincerity of the once "grieving widow" who was now the leader of the country.

That must be the closest window I have had to knowing Cory's persona. The rest I happened to know only as it had been demonstrated in the way she courageously took up the challenge to lead the campaign against Marcos in 1985-86 and in her precarious but unwavering 6-year leadership of a country which was trying to recover from the ravages of dictatorship while continuously being besieged by extremists.

I have to admit too that I was among those who ended their romance with Cory's administration early: The unsolved double-murder of labor leader Ka Lando Olalia and Leonor Alay-ay right in the first year of Cory's reign; the massacre of farmers at Mendiola in January 1987 and its associated issue of the watered-down agrarian reform program; the retention of the American military bases; Lean's murder and the seeming baby treatment of military right-wingers. I was far less liberal; the disillusionment was overwhelming. [But I did advocate a critical YES to the 1987 Constitution; if only to show I was still hoping against hope].

Yet I was among the "early grievers" who began feeling the pain of the prospect of losing a leader whose virtues we sorely miss in these dire times, when news about her ailment came out. Yet I am among those deeply saddened by her eventual demise.

I was sure there were more things about Cory that I only knew of subconsciously which somehow made me mourn affectingly her loss. And I can only thank those who helped me confirm these through their personal testimonies given throughout the last five days - from the day she died; through her wake at La Salle and the Manila Cathedral; until her interment just a few moments ago - and broadcasted via the different media.

Yes, Cory's selflessness, her unwavering faith and purity of heart [Arevalo, 2009]. Virtues that served as the very foundation of her legacy of freedom and democracy to us Filipinos; a legacy now constantly being threatened by the continuing degradation of the very same virtues that founded it.

I can only thank Cory's family, colleagues, friends (and even foes) for sharing to us who really Cory was. The last five days was a much needed refresher, an enlightenment most wanted. I am sure our neighbor knows a lot better now. The people know a lot better now.

Good reads:

"We give her back to You, with grateful but breaking hearts" by Catalino Arevalo, SJ [video version here]

Cory Aquino and our Magical Democracy by Sheila Coronel

The Cory I Know by Paulynn P. Sicam

Presidentita vs the Brat Pack by Malou Mangahas

Who President Cory was to this martial-law baby by Veronica Uy

One Good Person by Conrado de Quiros

Our better selves - EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT by Jessica Zafra

Teddy Locsin's Eulogy for President Cory Aquino

The Day They Buried Cory Aquino by Virginia M. Moncrieff

Beyond Aquino's contradictory legacies by Herbert Docena

Celebrate what Cory truly represents by Emmanuel M. Hizon