Saturday, August 28, 2010

Overdue Reactions


Last week, I learned about the hostage taking of HK tourists in Manila. I was on my way to work and a colleague and I were talking about it. I heard about it, but I thought hostage dramas are very much common so I didn't bother to know the details. My colleague, who knew more about it, told me that it had been going on for more than 8 hours. Well I know that isn't good. And when I arrived at work, some of the associates in Cincinnati were asking me about it. I didn't want them to panic and go overboard and since I don't know the exact details, I just told them, "It happens in every country."

I went home, did my research and found funny to enraged reactions from friends in Facebook. Hostage crisis happens anytime and in any country, but I never thought how embarrassing the situation was for us until I saw some clips and read some intelligent reports.

Background: Ex-cop hijacks a tourist bus full of HK tourists. He kept them captive, occasionally scaring them off, just because he wants his job in the police force back. He was charged with a crime he did not do. While taking the bus hostage, he just had his rifle, no bombs and no other technological device. He didn't have an assistant but he has access to television. It took some time to negotiate while the police didn't know how to attack and end the drama. People got confused, tired and when the criminal watched on TV that his brother was taken into custody by the police, he got mad and went crazy. He fired his warning shots. The Philippine Police Force moved too slow with less equipment until some people in the bus got killed defending themselves. Until a sniper-shooter ended the criminal's life in more than 10 hours of siege.

Naturally, I felt anger and hatred for the criminal. What was he doing? Losing his job did not warrant him to hostage bus of innocent tourists. If he had problems with his life and career, he should take it to court. Media always loves good stories, he should've taken it there. Now he died without achieving anything and we had to clean up his mess.

But I don't blame HK nationals for being angry. The hostage-taker really did it this time, which was to piss off the Chinese community. I know we have to be accountable for that, but Chinese people should also understand that Filipinos did not want this to happen. He is an isolated, irrational case. However, I feel more anger towards our very own SWAT, which stands for so many ridiculous meanings right now. Yes, it's true that kidnappings, murders and hostage taking happen in every country. Somewhere in one's territory, there will always be some uncontrollable freaks who would love to keep people's lives in danger. But I think it would've made a big difference if our own Police Force, who is supposed to answer to these kinds of threats, should know what to do and do their job well.

I know the criminal has is own deluded reason to do it. He is immoral and unjust. But surely he can be contained efficiently, which was something that did not happen and that is what we should be accountable for.

I hope the government views this as a lesson. I hope this straightens and strengthens the police force. If we cannot rely on them, who else would we turn to? If it happens in every country in any time, we should all be prepared for it.

As a Filipino I'm embarrassed. I'm sorry and I lament.


I was in one of my colleagues apartment while we watched Ms. Universe. It's been at least a decade since I watch these kinds of shows. I think the last major pageant I watched was when Charlene Gonzales was included in the finalist. High tide or Low Tide. So technically I didn't know who Venus Raj was.

Surprisingly, while watching the show and the first time Ms. Philippines was called as one of the top 15 finalists, I was jumping up and down like I've been into this forever. Probably it's because of the immense pride that I am from the Philippines and this is a major global competition after all. For a small but beautiful 3rd world country to beat out most of the bets of the powerful countries in the world is such an ego-boosting experience.

Ms. Venus Raj throughout the pageant had a chance. Her scores were relatively high. We knew she could take the crown until of course the infamous, mind-boggling question of Mr. William Baldwin. "What is your biggest in mistake in your life and how were you able to solve it."

Damn. It's a question with gray areas. It's not a question that could be answered by a yes or no. It's not a preferential question. It's a relative and personal one. And a quick flashback happens before your eyes in a sea of famous people while being watched on national tv, doesn't help you pick out the perfect answer. If ever there was a mistake, would I be confident enough to share it? Why would I tell that in the first place?

In my perspective, she could've turned the question around. "In my 22 years of existence, I have encountered different types of hardships in my life. But to be honest, there is no single biggest mistake I made that I could think of because I only see mistakes as blessings to learn from and a means to pave the way to become a better person."

Something flowery to that extent. But that is just me answering in pajamas, eating chips in someone else's apartment.

The pressure must have been nerve-wracking and I don't blame her for stuttering and plugging her happiness instead of actually answering the question. Let's admit it, it is a difficult question. In fact, it's harder than taking a stance on death penalty.

I'm still happy she got included in the finalists. Sayang, but what could we do? Let's just be happy with her achieved success. And maybe in the future, if she will be asked of what is her most profound mistake in life, she could refer to what happened in Ms. Universe or my answer as options. :)

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