Are we ready?

Published April 8, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal
Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal

By Atty. Gregorio Larrazabal


Social media was relatively peaceful during Holy Week until pictures of Karen Davila’s son David were shared and re-posted. As a father, I found it profoundly disturbing to see a young man’s chin and chest bloodied and crisscrossed with wounds. I could very well understand the reaction of David’s parents. It was horrifying. Scrapes and bruises I understand, but the lack of first aid and medical attention is simply inexcusable in my book.

What made it even worse was the blame that some netizens were unfairly attributing to David’s parents. Amazing how some people can turn a traumatic experience into a hate campaign and a forum for bashing. Karen Davila’s Facebook post should have served as a warning to parents and a wake-up call to local government units. Instead it bred more insensitivity to what was already a harrowing experience for the family. The good news is that the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte took immediate measures to remedy the deficiencies and ordered all LGUs in Siargao to take steps to ensure the safety of tourists in the island.

This incident reminded me of the time last year when our family went to Kalanggaman Island off Palompon, Leyte. Kalanggaman island is a fast-developing tourist attraction, and if you happen to see photos of it, you’ll understand why. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to go to. The island has a sandbar that is breathtaking as it is both pristine and picturesque.

When we arrived in the island, we walked to the sandbar but had to walk back after a few minutes because the tide was rising and the current was a bit strong. We did, however, notice a family who chose to remain and take some photos. A few minutes later, we heard desperate pleas for help. The father got caught in the current and was swept away. He was trying to stay afloat for over 20 minutes, waiting for the lifeguard to come and rescue him. There was a lifeguard post and seat in that part of the island, but to our surprise, no one was stationed there. It took the lifeguards a long time to secure a boat and pilot it to the area. They got to him about 2-3 minutes after he submerged and stopped waving and shouting for help. The lifeguards were trying to resuscitate him for about 10 minutes. We even saw two foreign divers rush to the man, bringing with them emergency apparatus. They had to transport him back to the mainland but everyone knew that it was already too late. A man’s life was lost because no one was there to save him, because no lifeguard was present to man his post. Until now I wonder how a family could have been spared the agony of losing their father, had there been a lifeguard and adequate emergency equipment.

Tragedies are so commonplace that we sometimes think of death and casualty as mere numbers. But whether it is 10,100, or 1, a single death or accident is still one too many. Holidays shouldn’t turn into traumatic experiences for boys like David and our commuters should feel confident that that the car, bus or train that they are riding in is at the very least, safe.

In an ideal world, the Philippines is the dream destination and we are on our way to beating our Asian neighbors in terms of arrivals, occupancy, revenue, etc. But the real world shows us through glaring and devastating incident reports, that we are far from ready to fully take care of our tourists. By “our” tourists, I mean fellow Filipinos who chose Siargao, Coron, Boracay, Mindoro, and Bohol over the cherry blossoms of Japan.

David Sta. Ana’s experience may be the most public but it is certainly not the most tragic. Karen Davila’s post gave a voice to the many families who have lost loved ones because of the sheer negligence of those who turn a blind eye to safety while enjoying the perks of raking it in during the holidays.

You don’t need an ordinance, resolution, or executive order to maintain a well-stocked first aid kit in a fully functioning surfing resort. All it takes is a whole lot of common sense and concern for tourists and fellow Filipinos.