Friday, October 27, 2006

A Nation Weeps circa 1996

Something I wrote over 10 years ago after the Ozone Disco fire that killed 150 youngsters...

A Nation Weeps

Of all the graphic images on TV of the grief and suffering of the Ozone tragedy, it was his image that struck me the most. This Bembol Roco-look alike, with his strong chiseled face, bald head above the hundreds of others outside the burnt disco, megaphone in hand, was pleading with anyone and everyone for information on his missing child. He was even willing to give an instant reward to anyone with useful information; "Maawa na po kayo sa isang naghihirap (?) na ama...". The camera caught him, as he turned away, with eyes closing and the look of a strong, courageous, proud but grieving father who had just lost a loved child.

Nothing affects us more as when many young people suffer a fate as those at the ill-fated Ozone disco. The nation's future, each parent's inspiration, life's meaning is best shown in the smile of youth. And when they suffer, unnecessarily, unjustly and in this case, because of incompetence, greed, graft and corruption, then it becomes a national tragedy. Like the massacre of toddlers at Dunblane, the Ozone tragedy has left us in a state of shock and grief. Yet everyday, violence to the youth occurs in many ways and in different places because of the same reasons that caused the Ozone tragedy, as well as a distorted sense of the value of human life.

Life's events are usually ironical. The disco's name was taken from the earth's gaseous layer that protects us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The disco burnt down and killed youngsters by roasting them or by suffocating them. These young people were celebrating the end of school and the future that brought (new) beginnings. The fire ended these futures abruptly and permanently. My boss says, when you criticize always suggest an alternative. But what can you give, when the alternatives were already there? Even the month was entitled "Fire Prevention Month".

We the youth, feel that life outside our homes and loved ones is an endangered one. During the Marcos regime, the enemies and the dangers seemed to have been defined and one acted accordingly. Today, the enemies and dangers seem to be everywhere and are undistinguishable. Who should be answerable for the dangers posed by safety, security, peace and order and environmental problems? What should one do? Why do tragedies such as Ormoc, Doña Paz, Gretchen, Mendiola Massacre happen in this day and age?

We give no answers but our best effort. Our hearts and sympathy go to the over 150 grieving families that are suffering now. May God Bless you as the nation weeps with you.

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