Where are the souls of Millennium Park? Were it not for a men-at-work scene on the strand, the place would be a complete desolation. Screwballs can shit here anytime and not worry of a disruption. And they do.
I have put up with the stench of the park today just to pass time; snap a few Street Photography. I have two hours to waste pre-flight.
Where airport taxis fear to tread, I grabbed a habal-habal to get here. With a cutthroat fee of 40 pesos. My coachman even offered his number, in case the situation requires an “extraction.”
No need to worry I said. I am safe as a vault.
Overhead looms Marcelo B. Fernan bridge. Humming silently. Its columns now covered with murals. Tasteless jurassic artworks. Underneath, the men-at-work taking a breather. The amihan putting them into slumber.
Elmer Nev Valenzuela was here. That was four years ago and for the same purpose. Biding time. Seeking creativity. What grabbed me today was news photography: somebody jumped off Marcelo Fernan bridge.
Mary Grace Palomares, 41, threw herself off the bridge.
If I had not blinked, my lens would have caught her in midair. Nose-dived from the center span and into Mactan Channel. Plunged without a sound.
For the first time, Millennium Park rose into frenzy. A crowd turned up in a flash, calling out in distress.
Now wide-eyed on the watercourse, I switch from Manual mode to Video to Manual.
Where is she?
Mary Grace reappeared. With the current overwhelming her into Magellan bay. She is smoothing along. Resigned to the inevitable.
In a short while she’ll be in open waters — perhaps lifeless.
Minutes have gone by.
Dios mio she is slipping away.
How much time do we have left? Still no action from the seawall. We are slowly losing sight of her.
Up ahead an empty baloto floats idly by while a man springs from the stilt houses and swiftly into the channel — in his “maong” pants. How can one swim in denim jeans?
“Asa man?” he cried in innate Cebuano asking for Mary Grace’s exact spot. The crowd hollered pointing their fingers. He’s got a long way to go. Haven’t seen anybody so unflinching today.
Only those who grew up by the Mactan Channel can take on the Mactan Channel.
I looked at our flank and see a half-hearted horde. It’s a shame to be watching helplessly from where we are.
I am just a simple office worker and I can’t cross channels.
I remember getting caught up in another ugly scene. And my (WARNING: the following image contains violent depictions) photo which drew a lengthy discussion on facebook as to photographer/photojournalist’s moral responsibility in critical circumstances: would you risk your life for someone else’s? Or would you rather take the picture?
Though I stand by the former, here I am — again — in the face of a similar situation minding my own life, my camera, and my underwear.
The baloto wasnt empty after all. I don’t remember seeing somebody on it but it clinged into action. Arched its way to Marcy Grace and finally a line was thrown. She hanged on to her only hope. She must have had a change of mind on the way down.
Farther behind, the ‘Man in Maong’ catches up. The guy is unbelievable. Technically the first responder. He is joined by a bunch of equally selfless individuals in carrying her to safety: construction workers, usiseros, along with others. The whole caboodle! The Soul of Millenium Park.
The boatman — an unheralded hero, a do-gooder in cold blood — went forth like nothing happened. Such an ordinary day in Mactan Channel for him.
It’s an exceptional blessing to be surrounded by strangers who care. In effect, a miracle.
Mary Grace is somebody’s mother.
People are waiting for her back home.
Sickly looking, what is the story behind the skin and bones?
And what led her to the edge of the bridge nobody knows. Her name is all she could whisper.
What matters now is she sure is glad to be alive. Good thing man has this instinctive tendency as to life-preservation; good thing people are programmed to save OTHER people’s lives. They say humans have a biological urge to help each other.
It is our sense of duty and our “love thy neighbor” character and how we value life which separates us from the beasts and the busabos.
Our saving grace amid society’s deteriorating values and disintegrating respect for human life.
My plane to CDO took off on time. Something for a change. I’ve got good food and good hotel waiting for me. Once in a while, everything feels so right.
Tomorrow, there’ll be bad times. Soon there’ll be better times. Treats and troubles abound. We have rainbows of challenges. But then, see how insignificant our worries are.
I mean, look at us from 30,000 feet.