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.