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The Luneta as a hospital?

Twinkling with Ninfa R. Leonardia

Yesterday was a day of sad memories for a lot of families in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City. It was the 41st anniversary of the tragic sinking of the plush vessel, Don Juan,  that sank on its way back to Bacolod, with more than 200 on board, some with their entire families, others with a member or two. It was a very shocking accident that cast a gloom not only in Bacolod City, but also in the entire province where some of the passengers were bound for. There were even some from Iloilo, because the Negros Navigation vessels usually carried passengers from both islands.

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Time has now eased the sorrow and longing of the bereaved, but, of course, they will not be forgotten. It was the worse sea tragedy in post-war years. At the start of World War II, another sea tragedy, involving the vessel named “Corregidor” also occurred. I can’t remember, being then too small, what had caused it, but most of those who died were college students studying in Manila, whose parents had wanted them home before the hostilities worsened. But we had a report on this in yesterday’s issue and another today, so our readers will have an idea of what had occurred.

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The one blessing that came to us after that was that the Holy Father, then Pope John Paul II, came for a papal visit to Manila, and with the urgent request from then Bishop Antonio Fortich, was able to come to Bacolod, and even visited the marker set up within the Bacolod Cathedral, and prayed for the victims. Just imagine. That happened 41 years ago, but I believe the bereaved ones they left behind, still remember them and mourn for them.

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Among the survivors was a fellow journalist, Beneldez Familiaran, who was able to jump to a rubber boat with a few others and were later rescued. But Belding, as he was known, had a heart condition, and as their lifeboat heaved up and down with the waves, he felt an attack coming on, and told his fellow survivors about it. I think they prayed for him, because the symptoms passed and they reached land safely. Later, when he narrated his experience, I kidded him with the Spanish joke “Hierba mala nunca muere” (Bad grass never dies), and he had a good laugh over it. His heart that survived the Don Juan continued to beat for several more years with him still writing for local media.

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But let us go on to other topics, more hopeful ones that show how our people can respond during dire times. Now we hear of people willingly donating or contributing to causes that could help the poor and those stricken by this pandemic that modern science still has to conquer. We now hear of some who willingly donate funds or assistance to the needy, and groups organizing into fund or distribution organizations to give aid in the form of food or cash to the impoverished, or those stricken by this pandemic. It is true, indeed that a “Charity Boom” is taking place in our country now. And may this go on and on.

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Now the main concern of our people and our leaders is to be able to secure the necessary amount of vaccines to administer to our people. An item aired over TV said that U.S. President Joe Biden has announced that they are willing to share their vaccines with other countries once their supply is sufficient. Well, we are ready and willing to wait for the leftovers. Beggars can’t be choosers, you and I know. Let’s just hope they finish their mission of vaccination, and that there will be enough “leftover” for us.

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But is it true that there is a plan to convert the Luneta into a hospital camp? Now, Luneta is the very famous park of Manila that has been the site of many historical as well as amusing incidents. Remember, our National Hero, Jose Rizal, was shot there by the Spanish conquerors who did not like what he had been writing about the atrocities and the sufferings of his countrymen under the Spanish rule. So it is both a show place for Manila that also has historical value. Well, I hope they will just build tents to house the COVID patients, with no permanent changes to its existing beauty.

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Now that the policeman who had choked to death the black man George Floyd has been tried, the American police is said to be initiating more trainings for their cops to update them on their duties, responsibilities and limitations. Okay, one horse has ran away, but it is all right to lock the stable so the others may not follow. But if the re-training brings out more professional, sympathetic and policemen with consciences, a lot of good can come out of it, which police agencies all over the world should follow.*

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