Heroes of the Typhoon Ondoy Tragedy

This is a photo of the Laguna area, roughly 60 km south of Manila. It’s not the exact location where the following events took place, but it’ll give you an idea of what the area looks like. Also, I found the sign in the image to be rather ironic, given the circumstances. Maybe putting up huge billboards describing what you’re doing isn’t such a great idea, politicians.

Typhoon Ondoy brought a lot of tragedy to the Philippines but it has also brought out the best in people in terms of risking themselves to save others.

One inspiring story is that of PFC Venacio Ancheta, who was able to save 20 civilian lives before losing his own to the floodwaters. PFC Ancheta belonged to the 2nd Infantry Division disaster response team, led by Lt. Arnel Marcos. His team was responding to affected residents of Barangay Tunhac, Famy, Laguna when he bravely lost his life.

PFC Venancio Ancheta was just one of seven Philippines Army casualties suffered during rescue operations, but his actions inspired many others to put their lives on the line to save their fellow Filipinos. A quote from the statement issued by the Philippine Army says: “His heroism [serves] as an inspiration for the whole Philippine Army and, in particular, his teammates who continued the mission and rescued another 600 civilians in Famy, Laguna”

Another inspiring story is that of CPL Adriano Regua, who lost his life while trying to save one of the militiamen on his team. The militiaman was drowning and CPL Regua risked himself to save him. Unfortunately, neither made it. This selfless act spoke highly of his dedication to his duty and his team, as well as his quality as a leader. Additionally, under his supervision his rescue team was able to save 200 residents in the area. Perhaps the most telling sign of the quality of his character was that he was putting forth his best effort to perform his duties, despite the fact that his own family was in danger in Tanay, Rizal, which was also hard hit by the storm.

On the other end of the spectrum you have something that initially looks heroic, but doesn’t stand up to reason when you really think about it.

Christina Reyes, a famous young actress in the Philippines, was stranded on top of her house with her family. That’s a situation that was faced by thousands of Filipinos, and yet her case was somehow made special because she is a celebrity. I think this is one of those times when social class and celebrity status shouldn’t make a difference. Everyone’s life is just as valuable.

Richard Gutierrez, fellow actor and co-star of an upcoming movie, somehow appropriated an Army speed boat and made his way through the wreckage of Manila to Reyes’ house to rescue her. Some sites are describing it as a real life scene from a movie that should be hailed and praised. I see it as misuse of government property, shameless self promotion (on Gutierrez’ part) and a gross mockery of the suffering Filipino flood victims are experiencing. Also, I can’t help but wonder how many victims he passed on his way to and from rescuing her.

I found a rather poorly made fan video of the incident, which is embedded below, but what really caught my eye was the sentiment of one of the commenters, included below the video embed.

A YouTube user had this comment to make about the situation:

Don525 (6 hours ago) [[As of 11:04 PM, Tuesday September 29th]]

Whats so special about this BITCH?The whole country is in chaos..hundreds already died,thousands are homeless some are hungry and missing and they are worried about a famous 2 face celeb..?VERY SAD,,very sad indeed,,who gives a shit!!there is more at stakenow help our kabayan..and dont be an asshole like our gov..blame it global warming and bad devlopment and bad dicipline…

I can’t really say that it’s Reyes’ fault, because it’s only natural for someone to appeal for help. I blame Gutierrez, for being selfish in taking an Army speedboat that could have otherwise been used for rescue operations to save just one person.

The Reyes incident aside, PFC Venacio Ancheta and CPL Adriano Regua are heroes. They’re certainly not the only ones, but they’ve become figureheads for the relief efforts in the Manila area.

I sincerely hope that a portion of tax money is used for something noble, the erection of a monument in Manila to honor the heroes and the dead in this tragedy.

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