The tragic moment that I am talking about here is the hostage-taking that happened on Monday when a policeman, Leonardo Mendoza, 55 years old, who claimed to have been wrongfully sacked from his job hitched a ride with a bus full of tourists from Hong Kong and declared that he was taking them hostage. Mendoza wanted to be reinstated as a police officer and had hoped that by taking people hostage, authorities would actually review his case and take him back into the force. He was fired after being accused of extortion.
I was busy the whole of Monday and only got to see the latter part of the hostage taking when I switched on the TV at around 8 pm. I did not even have a clue that, in fact, the whole drama started at 10 that morning. I have seen too many hostage-taking on TV in the past here and the fact that nobody was controlling the media at that point gave me a sense of foreboding.
Once I saw a man take a child hostage in a bus terminal. I do not exactly remember his reasons for seizing the child. But police responded and the media flocked around him. The whole ordeal unfolded on live TV. There was a crowd around the man who held the child in a grip with a knife to the child's throat. So many people were talking to him--bystanders, policemen, media people. It was horrible to watch. It felt like watching something terrible happen without doing anything about it.
The whole scene was so chaotic and was made even more so by the TV crews wielding their flashy cameras around. The hostage-taker moved around holding the child in a choke-hold with his arm. The child kept crying and the crowd kept screaming at the man. All of a sudden, the man started stabbing the child in front of everyone. Only then did the police start to shoot at the hostage taker and in the process shot the boy as well. It was the most heartbreaking thing to see. My insides turned as I watched the TV.
That queasy feeling was dredged up again Monday night when I saw the police closing in on the bus (see pic above). I love my country and am a very proud Filipino but at the back of my head I had an inkling that the Manila police sent an inexperienced team. For one, they had many chances to neutralize Mendoza. They could have controlled the media first and ordered them off the scene and they could have negotiated with him to release more hostages. What happened instead was a nightmare that was broadcast all over the world--the police doing a botched up job and 9 hostages ending up dead. It was too horrible for words.
Even when it ended, it left one with a very heavy feeling. I could not take any more of it and switched the TV off. It was one of those things that one would normally wish away but could not. The images were just too raw and too vividly etched in your head.So I found it very ironic that the next day, the nation woke up excitedly to watch a beauty pageant. Somehow though I was thankful for the respite it offered from the melodramatic spectacle of the night before.
I am so proud that Miss Philippines Maria Venus Raj (see pic above) clinched a spot in the final five of the Miss Universe 2010 and showed the world the beauty, elegance and grace of a Filipina. Venus was an early favorite and back home we knew that the Miss Universe 2010 was truly an epic battle between her and Miss Mexico. Interestingly, both nations are former Spanish colonies.
When I saw Miss Mexico the first time, I predicted that she would win it not unless our beauty wiped her out with a universe-conquering answer to her final question. Alas in the end, my prediction was proven right. Venus got a tricky one and answered it in the only way she knew how. Although there has been global or dare I say it, major, major ballyhoo over her answer, I think that at 22 and being Miss Universe 2010 4th runner up, she has made a great achievement.
I particularly relish the fact the she hails from the same area where I grew up in as a child, the Bicol Region. It was a proud moment for me to see her profile on live TV that announced to the world that her home town was the Bicol Region. I believe that she is the first Bicolana to have ever made it this far in the Miss Universe and she deserves all the success, fame and fortune that this achievement should bring.
It was also of particular note to me that she looked darker than Miss Jamaica, another runner-up. I just love the fact that Maria Venus Raj has the potential to change the standard look of Filipina beauty queens. I hope to meet her one day soon so I can hug her and congratulate her for truly representing us well. I wish modeling agencies abroad would pluck her up because she is actually supermodel material. She is as tall as Naomi Campbell and as exquisitely beautiful. If not modeling, then I hope that she can actually conquer Hollywood. It is time for a Filipina of her looks to wow the world. She should be the beauty queen version of Charice! Hey Oprah and Ellen, please have Venus in your shows so doors will open for her. This impoverished lass truly deserves more in life.
Mabuhay ka Venus! Malamong gayon (you are so beautiful) and I am so proud of you!