Archive for the ‘Wowowee’ Category

Wowowee, Penafrancia fiesta, & the 229 people injured in the Black Nazarene procession of Quiapo

January 9, 2009

The 13-hour religious parade snaked its way in the city drawing thousands of religious believers to walk in supplication until the revered black icon of Jesus was returned in the Quiapo Church on Friday, January 9, 2009 in Manila. I read there were 229 people who were injured during the procession. I couldn’t help recall the days when such spoiler incidents almost never happened.

As a kid who grew up in Naga City, the Traslacion, a similar feast honoring the Virgin of Penafrancia, was memorably peaceful. Lately however, like the Quiapo spectacle, the traslacion and fluvial procession in Bicol had been getting flak. People had not been as reverential and behaved as before. In September 2008, a rumble, a stone-throwing incident, and hostage-taking emergency in a bus dampened the fiesta in Naga.

Rarely were there scuffles and tramplings that put our limbs at risk in the crowd. That was in the past. Had a melee occured, our parents would have disallowed us into coming close to religious gatherings. We would have stayed at home to pay our private homage to God, in lieu of taking part in a dangerous holiday celebration.

But times have changed. The annual feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo has grown so big—almost unmanageable. The faith-based observance have lost part of its sanctity as people of plural intentions join. In spite of the Catholic clergy’s attempt to make the plebeian celebration a simple pious expression of faith, unintended incidents do happen. The open folk tradition of worship and contrition which borders to idolatry (as critics warned) has been marred by melee in a huge crowd with poor control.

People suffering from hypertensive spells and fainting due to excessive heat are getting more common. Difficulty of breathing from asthma has been reported in a number of weary processionistas. Contusions and abrasions caused by pushing and bare-foot walking have brought people rushing to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) reports of at least 23 people suspected to have suffered a heart attack. Surely, these are distractions which can be avoided. We need to act smart to prevent a full-blown mayhem.

Before the next Black Nazarene procession turns into a wholesale failure of crowd control— as hideous as the Wowowee stampede in February 2006, those who organize these events must devise a better plan. The Catholic clergy needs to modify the observance of the tradition. Nearly a thousand police officers and 300 PNRC volunteers are not enough to cope with the needs of the tight crowd.

In Wowowee, at least 74 innocent lives were lost in a recklessly planned TV extravaganza, most of them, trampled, brushed aside, and forgotten without the benefit of justice. (Photo Credits: Nesty Ocampo; Bobmani34; Nesty Ocampo) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Wowowee & the Temple Stampede in Northern India” Posted by mesiamd at 8/04/2008


Brazen thieves & their love for jewelries

November 3, 2008

Wowowee, the popular ABS-CBN TV show is most remembered for the Ultra stadium stampede which resulted to the gruesome deaths of 74 game show spectators and injured more than 800 others on February 4, 2006. I still feel a sense of great loss and sadness for the victims. With similar sadness, I read that noontime Wowowee program host Willie Revillame lost P3 million worth of personal stuff to akyat bahay thieves in a well-executed robbery in his home in Corinthian Hills Garden in Quezon City on Monday, November 3, 2008.

“Suspects gained entry through the house comfort room by destroying its back window and carted away with assorted jewelries approximately worth P3 million,” said Senior Supt. Magtanggol Gatdula, Quezon City Police District. (11/03/08, Aurelio, JM)

I can imagine the brazenness of robbers when economic crisis roils on. Revillame must be an attractive target of theft— for as a TV celebrity he must have much jewelry and expensive items to keep. He suspects the early dawn theft to be an “inside” job which is a cautionary reminder of the increasing difficulty in protecting private property. It is unclear if he will ever go far from just reporting the incident to the police.

High walls, security cameras, guards, barbed wires, watch dogs, and caretakers don’t provide perfect protection. That’s why some rich people opt not to have jewelries at all. Besides, keeping valuables entail expenses in terms of covering them with adequate insurance. (Photo Credit: C4Chaos; lightweavers) =0=

Part II: The Colgante Bridge Tragedy of 1972

September 21, 2008

Part II: The Colgante Bridge Tragedy of 1972

by Totie Mesia and Mariso Ocampo

Desiring to help, many jumped instinctively into the river. With prodding from Naga Policeman Delfin Platon who heroically calmed the frantic crowd, they fished out bodies and survivors until they got lame tired, way beyond exhaustion. Muscle cramps and fatigue overtook the shivering rescuers who got relief from ablutions of “oil of wintergreen,” a liquid balm given by nameless people in the crowd.

The injuries were as apparent as the telltale signs of drowning after the Colgante Bridge collapse. Electrical burns made victim recognition hard. Grimy detritus from river trash messed-up some victims’ bloodied faces whose fingers, in cadaveric flexion, looked as if they were in prayer. With rigor mortis, the bodies, were hastily covered by wet newspapers. Many on-lookers cried. Overwhelmed by the horrific scene, others threw up in the shadows of a black sky.

It’s the religious faith of those who perished in Colgante that sets them apart from those who died violently in car crashes, ship wrecks, fraternity hazings, or those needlessly trampled upon by the Wowowee crowd. The Colgante deaths remind the people of commercialism that has invaded the Penafrancia celebration. Business and religious faith seemed to have bonded together more closely in every fiesta raising questions whether this should be.

The Colgante tragedy which claimed the lives of about 140 people was quickly brushed aside from public attention when martial law was declared 4 days after by Ferdinand Marcos on September 21, 1972. The span where the gruesome deaths occurred should be aptly called “Faith Bridge,” in memory of those who died paying respects to the Virgin. Thirty-six years after the Colgante bridge collapse and 27 years after Ina vanished and returned, Bikol keeps a blurry recall and record of the events.

How many really died? Do we have a complete list of them who perished and suffered injuries in Colgante’s fall on September 16, 1972? Was there anyone made to answer for breach of duty? Were victims compensated at all, identified and given decent burials? Was there closure in every victim’s family?

The river deaths could have been avoided if the people didn’t crowd the bridge beyond its capacity to hold. Those in charge in the maintenance and safety could have known better. Perhaps if Colgante didn’t collapse, we wouldn’t be resigned in finding solace in “forgiving and forgetting” and invoking “God’s will.”

There could be loud merry shouts trailing “Viva la Virgen!” as the voyadores passed without thinking of the intransigent mysterious lady who rode the boat. The people could have safely stood on the bridge and prayed without fear of a great fall. And faith would still be there for God and the revered Virgin.-0-

Wowowee & the Temple Stampede in Northern India

August 3, 2008

I rushed to the spot in search of my three children who had gone to pay obeisance at the hilltop shrine…I fail to understand why God was so cruel to us,” said Jawahar Khurana. AP/ ABS-CBNNews (08/04/08.)

There’s an uncanny similarity of the Wowowee incident in Manila on February 4, 2006 and the stampede in the foothills of Himalayas on Aug 3, 2008. A least a hundred forty five (145) people died in Northern India after rumors of a landslide stirred worshippers to mad agitation. (Photo Credit: AP/Sharma,S.) Wowowee’s death toll reached 71. The panicked crowd attending a religious festival pushed and ran, trampling people as they rushed out of the mountaintop Hindu temple. Wowowee’s crowd jostled frantically for a crazy reason— to get the best spot to watch a TV extravaganza.

To date, the victims’ families are still stuck in a legal tussle with ABS-CBN Corporation on who are responsible. Those who lost loved-ones see who are accountable even if the courts still debate on the matter. Perhaps, the families of the Indian pilgrims feel this way too when there’s too much pain and blame to spread around.

In Wowowee, poor people were lured by a promise of winning a prize in a TV spectacle which neglected the dangers of massing huge crowds in a contracted arena. The promoters of the show at ABS-CBN were responsible. Yet the popular TV show continued its repertoire of entertainment and laughter like nothing happened, as if no lives were lost. Lack of money to wage legal battles and a dearth of defenders had sealed the victims’ fate. To my knowledge, nobody had been punished. There was no one to avenge the deaths of the innocents and the poor. =0=