When people are desperate enough to sleep with their children on the street, while waiting for a benefactor who may come to give them enough means to sustain them for a day or two, it shows how much a country has failed its poor. When more than 70 people die in a stampede in a crowd that came far and wide to this place where they have been invited to a chance of striking it rich, or merely to stand in line for hours to receive food packages, it speaks of a horror far more dreadful than being trampled to death by a hungry mob.

We hear a television host on the radio, apparently in tears, saying he has no idea that things would turn out this way, and that all he had been doing was try to alleviate the daily desperation by offering prizes and entertainment. We hear him slowly veering away from the tragedy of people dead and injured and speaking of how every show is carefully planned for and financed by its advertisers, and how people have flocked from all over the country just to see him and his entertainers, and insisting that the show should go on, despite the dead and the injured, because he has taken it upon himself to ease the suffering of the poor.

We wonder where was the crowd control, when the television show’s producers had seen that hundreds of people had camped out by the gates of the sports arena the night before, in the hopes of winning millions of pesos in cash and prizes? Where was the planning and organization that they spoke of that went into each and every show? Where were the police, who can be mobilized by the score in an instant whenever a rally of fifty people is staged in front of the U.S. Embassy, now ridiculously insignificant amidst a horde of 25,000? The television network claims they deployed a reasonable ratio of security to crowd. Is 215 security personnel a reasonable ratio against a crowd of twenty-five thousand?

And we read about people blaming the crowd itself, irresponsible parents they are, bringing children to camp out in the street. These people say the dead and injured deserve their fate, when they could have just stayed home and watched from their t.v. sets instead of exposing their children and themselves to the elements.

It is a sad country that we live in, when the poor consider a television host as their saviour from poverty, when television capitalists see the poor as a means to further their interests, when those in charge of police pay no mind to a horde because they are not demonstrating against the government or the U.S., when some people do not understand that a desperate parent brings his child with him to the breadlines because he wants his child to eat as soon as is humanly possible.

This is the state of our nation, and for this we should be very ashamed.

Death on a Saturday Morning

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4 thoughts on “Death on a Saturday Morning

  1. we watched wowowee many times over the course of our holiday vacation in los angeles. my parents subscribe to a few of the filipino satellite channels. it was very interesting to watch, and we couldn’t believe that these people would actually camp outside of the studio for months until they get chosen.

    it is very interesting to note that there is a ‘balikbayan section’, that actually has a long waiting list. apparently, if a ‘balikbayan’ wishes to go see the live show, they have to get their name(s) on the list weeks or months ahead of time.

    as far as i know, wowowee is mostly funded by balikbayans. my mom and her friends have donated money to the show, and the balikbayans sitting in the ‘balikbayan section’ donate cash in dollars — they wave the money around and wait for the host to gather them up from their hands.

    i’m surprised that something like this unfortunate incident didn’t happen any sooner. as i have posted in bughaw time and time again, we need to help these people ourselves (on a grassroots level) because relying on the government is futile.

    thanks for this post.

  2. I just hope that the authorities and the TV execs learn their lesson on this one. Apathy and greed results in death. Apathy from the authorities, who said it was not their responsibility to control the crowd. Greed from the tv execs. They WANT the ratings so much that they are willing to sacrifice security and safety.

    Truly a tragedy.

  3. hi milkphish. One thing that may be learned from this is that it’s not enough to want to help, but we need to know how to help as well. I appreciate the the balikbayans wanting to share the blessings they have received out of their hard work and perseverance abroad, and although giving money to a game show host to distribute to the masses seems like a good idea–well, this tells us that it’s not.

    I like what you said about having to “help these people ourselves (on a grassroots level) because relying on the government is futile”. It would be good, and it may have been done already, if a group of balikbayans or even people who choose not to go back but want to help anyway, to put up a foundation that will help specific areas of the community. For example, it would be good if there were a foundation put up to provide an alternative home to kids who are in prison, as it is obvious the Department of Social Welfare does not have enough resources (people and money) to do so.

  4. Hi taorist, congratulations on your new blog!

    I read the news yesterday on the demonstrators that had assembled at the EDSA shrine and was met by the police. There were reportedly 200-300 demonstrators, and the same number of police were deployed.

    At the ultra on that dreadful day, there were only 200+ security (pasig police, ultra and abs-cbn security alltogether) facing 25,000 people.

    Doesn’t that make you think things you really don’t want to think about . . .

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