Life in the Fast Lane


Looking Back

By 8:48 AM , , , , ,

I don't get it.

I don't get how such a seemingly ordinary day turned out to have a bloody ending.

I don't get how nonchalant I was at first, thinking that "a bus hostage situation" was just another empty threat.

I don't get how tourists, who only wanted to see the beauty of Manila, came to loathe it and consider it the place of their worst nightmares.

I don't get how Rolando Mendoza suddenly shifted from not wanting to harm anyone to using them as human shields and then firing.

I don't get how, in the first place, he even thought of taking a bus hostage. Such an act is so contrary to what he used to do as a policeman: protecting and serving citizens.

I don't get why the media downplayed everything and showed the incidents live, as they played out. I don't get why they didn't understand the repercussions of broadcasting everything live and even sensationalizing the events; maybe if Rolando Mendoza didn't see his brother being maltreated on national television, he could have been coaxed into releasing all the passengers.

I don't get why the PNP and SWAT bombed their operations. From the way they negotiated, to the way in which they broke into the bus, to the length of time that it took to bring Mendoza down.

I don't get why, when all this was happening, President Aquino wasn't in contact with the Hong Kong government when he should have been the one talking them through the whole ordeal.

But I also don't get why I was feeling the way I did.

Last Monday, as all these events transpired, I condemned. I mocked. I criticized. My brother was right when he wrote that he was likewise guilty. I, too, was just as guilty as the media was for expressing my every thought on cyberspace. Rolando Mendoza could have, in theory, found out what was happening outside the bus if he had stumbled across my tweets or Facebook updates.

One day later, after the ordeal was over, I felt shame. I realized that, really, all I could do was condemn, mock and criticize. I was helpless from my corner of the metropolis. It was easier to think negatively instead of pray as the ordeal transpired. There was even a brief moment when I thought of how the other countries viewed us instead of mourning for the lives that were lost. How could I have lost sight of that?

It was just so much easier to judge when I wasn't one of the hostages, negotiators or SWAT team.

It was so much easier to dismiss the Philippines as "third world", "backwards" or "incompetent".

But maybe that's because I didn't care enough to prevent things like these from happening. I do my part as a citizen when the occasion calls for it. When Ondoy and Pepeng disarmed us, I was there -- updating people about relief centers and their needs, distributing goods and donating, and even designing a T-shirt whose proceeds would go to flood victims. All these things awoke in me a sense of unity and nationalism that had long been dormant; maybe the last time I had truly felt a sense of oneness with the nation were those days of EDSA II and EDSA III.

Yet how quickly we forget to be one with our motherland; especially when things are fine and dandy. We laud the likes of Lea Salonga, Charice Pempengco, Manny Pacquiao and Efren PeƱaflorida for bringing pride to the Philippines in their own fields of excellence. But do we stop at just that?

What I do get now is that maybe this hostage situation really serves to be yet another eye-opener for us all. To challenge us to love our country more and to pray for its people. To implore those in power to equip our PNP and SWAT teams with the skills and equipment that they need to do their jobs better. To let the media examine the way they broadcast information to the general public. To nudge President Aquino and our government into taking action more swiftly.

I may not get how and why things transpired the way they did.

I may not get the extent of the damage brought about by this incident to the morale of our people as well as our international relations. I cannot apologize enough to the people of Hong Kong for what happened. I love Hong Kong and I have nothing but wonderful memories of my trips there with family and friends. Really, if only these tourists could have had as pleasant an experience as the ones I had over there.

I may never get the weight of the grief and sorrow that the hostages and their families carry with them today.

But what I do get is that I can do something about the way I feel, think and act.

I can be a better person.

I can be a better Christian.

I can be a better Filipino.

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  1. How do we balance humanity, inhumanity, and insanity in the world? Why do some events bring out more of the worst than the better in people? Why is guilt always after the fact? Why do so many fall hard and take innocents with them? Questions with no answers but is there a path to understanding?

  2. Talk about late reply! Sorry about that. You're right; it sucks that there are more questions than there are answers. But I guess all we can do, really, is to keep on finding out what they are.


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