Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Hostage Situation

DAVAO--As I write this post, there's a situation brewing near Manila City Hall. Though I'm in faraway Davao, I'm catching the whole shebang via AM radio. What's happened so far: a day care teacher and companions took an entire schoolbus with 26 preschool tots hostage. The ringleader has issued various demands, including one to meet with Senator Bong Revilla.

The whole affair is being captured live from the bus, complete with conversations, negotiations, threats, assurances, and asides, and supplemented with interviews from relatives and the authorities.

I tell you: it's the funniest, most entertaining thing I've ever heard on radio.

Please don't think that I'm callous. I just can't help being amused. In the background, you can hear the children laughing and playing, oblivious to the comings-and-goings around them.

While waiting for the good senator to arrive, you could tell that the fellow, a senior citizen, was already at wits' end. On the other end, you could hear radio announcer Ted Failon in panic, asking him to calm down. "Huminahon ka, konting pasensya na lang! (Calm down, a little more patience!)"

What do you know? Revilla did make an appearance. Against all common sense and crisis protocols, he went inside the bus to talk with the hostage-taker. At the height of the drama, he was saying: "Mahal kita, pare! (I love you, friend!)" Well, not quite what I expected from an action star, but forgivable under the circumstances. (Oh, I forgot he does mostly comedies now...on top of his duties as senator.)

So the story starts unfolding: the old fellow has a heart condition, he wants to see a doctor, the family is poor, etc. etc.

Once a radio or a camera is trained on the average Filipino, he turns into a drama queen. It's an instinctive, irresistible reaction, this urge to ham it up. We're well primed to play the against-all-odds underdog.

Revilla handed the hostage-taker his cellphone with a patch to national radio so he could air his demands. He starts off in self-conscious fits and stammers, but once he caught his groove, he was really rolling. He launched into a tirade against corruption, against politicians, against poverty. He called for the Filipino people to unite behind Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And his demand: free education up to the college level for all his hostages.

The man is clearly deranged.

Then, we hear more background information about the fellow, peppered with interviews from his family and neighbors. This, apparently, is not his first hostage-taking incident. Previously, he had taken his parish priest hostage over a small-claims dispute.

Segue to interview with the ringleader's son:

Interviewer: "Sa tingin mo ba, may pagka-violente ang tatay mo? (Is your father a violent man?)"

Son: "Hindi naman. (Not particularly.)"

Interviewer: "Pero dati niyang hinostage ang pari gamit ang granada! (But he took your parish priest hostage with a grenade!)"

Son: "Peke naman iyong granada! (But the grenade was fake!)"

Segue to another interview, this time with a neighbor whose son is among the hostages in the bus.

Interviewer: "Kinakabahan ba kayo para sa anak ninyo? (Are you worried for your son?)"

Neighbor: "Hindi naman. (Not particularly.)"

Interview: "Bakit naman? (Why not?)"

Neighbor: "Kilalala namin siya. Mabait siyang tao. Matulungin. (Not really. We know him (the hostage-taker). He's a nice man. Very helpful.)"

So it goes on. There's method to the ringleader's madness: they have enough food on the bus to hold out for two days. Police generals and security advisers have started to mobilize. They've closed off Lawton. Revilla has bought ice cream for everyone on the bus. I can just imagine the crowds of kibitzers forming around the scene. The whole thing is turning into a circus.

When did we become such a madhouse?

*Photos from


  1. i've also been monitoring through online news updates (and occasional peeks at the office tv), kanina nga ang istorya mga holdaper daw na hinahabol ng pulis yung hostage-takers. as the story develops, you really wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry or shake your head at the madness of it all.

    food's ok, but we're wondering at the bathroom breaks (or is it one of those tourist buses with built-in restroom?). poor kids. maybe if it gets too smelly the hostage-taker will give up.

  2. Oh, I've had no such dilemmas: from the very first moment, I've been laughing. I finally asked my ninang, our cashier, to switch stations because I couldn't stop.

    Probably the only way this will end badly is if the SWAT, in their excess of machismo, decide to storm the bus.

  3. Hi Dom.

    Thanks for the tidbits from the radio broadcast.

  4. Most welcome, Amee. The Inquirer website also has running coverage of the situation, but it just doesn't beat the comedy of the live broadcast.

    For your enjoyment, some more inanities, by way of Inquirer:

    Ducat said he was willing to accept punishment for what he did. At the same time, he warned the public not to put their trust in politicians whom he accused of using the poor for their own ends.

    Ducat himself is running for councilor in the third district of Tondo.

    Like, huh?

    In a live radio interview earlier in the day, Ducat said he wanted an assurance from police that they would not attack the bus and warned that he would not be responsible for the consequences.

    "I love these kids; that's why I am here," Ducat said. “We have a field trip. I invited the children for a field trip.”

    Wala na akong masabi.

  5. This guy is nuts. He deserves to be locked in jail the rest of his life. If not jail, a mental institution. He doesn't understand the severity of what he is doing.

    Akala niya Parang TV show lang.

  6. The moment I first caught this headline in Yahoo, a single thought went through my mind: "Somebody, somewhere, somehow, is eventually going to blame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for all this."

  7. Sean: Ah, that's where you're wrong! He's actually calling for support for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

    As Jon said, he's nuts.

    Nyuk! nyuk! nyuk!

  8. So he's the owner of the day care center? And he took hostage the students and their teachers? Talk about a hostile work environment... :)

  9. "Peke naman yung granada" - Hahaha! Thanks for the transcript. Made me laugh out loud. Looks like the son's reasoning takes after the father. Oh no!

  10. Chaz: coming soon, franchises for Musmos Daycare Center. Wanna open one in Oz?

    Leah: glad you had a good laugh. I actually took some liberties in splicing some of the conversations together, but the gist is intact.


  11. Heh what I just realized as I read your post is that it's all about personalities now, i.e. we have politics of personality and now we have hostage-taking by personality.

    I mean, where else can we see a family's victim reassured by the hostage-taker because they know the person and, to quote, "di naman daw nya sasaktan".


    And oh yes, I had my own experience but it was more pathetic: I was teeth-gritting mad because I was on my way to work in Manila and I was stuck in traffic for two hours. Gah.

  12. Ah, there you go...we have an excess of personality.

  13. omg.. really? this happened??

    we are really drama kings and queens.

    the japan times had an article about the "gaudy soap opera" of filipino politics.

    we really are the world capital of soap opera. omg... i dnt knw whether id feel insulted or just laugh about it...

  14. Oh, yeah, Drama Queen country we are. (There are no Drama Kings, only Drama Queens.) You have a copy of that article? Would love to see it.