I watched a lot of cartoons and movies. I draw incessantly and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I work in animation and self-publish my books. There are monsters in the streets, don't wear red. Mad bulls and monsters hate that color. I still watch cartoons.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Shooting the Manila Peninsula siege

Caught up in the moment. On November 29 the news that a coup attempt was underway at the Manila Peninsula caught us off guard. My initial response was amusement: Of course a coup would happen during my visit. After dodging a super typhoon and a 6.0 earthquake a coup by a faction of the military couldn't be far away.

But this is serious. The Shangri-la, the hotel where we were staying, is directly across from the Peninsula (see map) and if this erupts into a full-on firefight on the streets we were right in the middle of it. Though you wouldn't know it to look at the pedestrians. Guess they've been through this sort of thing before.

Curious bystanders armed with cel phones (the country is purported to be the text capital of the world) were snapping away pics or just going about their day. Though most of them stay on the curb there were people taking pictures right on the road (traffic was blocked from entering Ayala Avenue and Makati Avenue).

The military trucks and armored vehicles were parked along the other side of the road where some journalist types were even closer to the soldiers, big cameras, note pads. Then I notice these folks on my side of the center divider were mostly press too. All I had was my world weary four-year-old Nikon Coolpix 5200, a point n' shoot that's hardly press rated.

So I followed them and behaved as they did. I marched over to the soldiers and snapped away, I swarmed along with everybody as commanders moved with troops, I took movies up close of soldiers as they prepared for the assault. Nobody seemed to mind I was there.

At some point the assault started. "I see movement," a lady journalist talks into her phone, the gaggle of photographers pushed to get a good shot. I had my camera out with theirs...then shots rang out.

I can't remember how I covered the distance to a parked news van. There were a couple of us taking cover there. People pointed to a window at the Peninsula and said something about snipers. I see the smoke of gunfire high of on the hotel windows. I made it over to other side of Makati Avenue just in time for more soldiers to run past me.

I couldn't tell you why I stayed out there. The danger was real and I had no direct stake in what happened. I walked away after we heard that a tank crashed through the doors of the Peninsula and lobbed tear gas. It was going down.

With at least seven coups since the popular uprising in 1986 that ousted Pres. Marcos the country seems to have incorporated this option into their politics--and it may be losing it's potency to mobilize the masses. Or these causes are not as universally shared. Trillanes, Gen. Lim and all those holed up in the Peninsula eventually surrendered. It took all of six hours (in 2003 Trillanes was involved in the Oakwood mutiny, that lasted 18 hours. Which was, by the way, why he was in court that day). Most people I talked to were ambivalent about what this latest coup accomplishes.

And no one is under any illusion that this was going to end here.


Links to movie clips above

1 2 3 4 5 6

Wikipedia entry on the Manila Peninsula siege here.
Link to news recap of events with a background on events leading to the siege here.

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Blogger Randy Bantog said...

wow, it was brave of you to be so close to all of the action. great photos.

1:57 AM

Blogger Louie del Carmen said...

Manila has changed a lot since we left 18 years ago but sadly, some things haven't changed.... good to see you guys got out in one piece bro.

2:21 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is not good. I really enjoyed my visits to the Philippines but I never cared for the politics of the country. A good friend of mine explained the irony of the politics of the country where many of the opposing factions where actually classmates during school. Now, they are fighting each other.

I stayed at both hotels, Shangri-la and the Peninsula. The Pen has an amazing lobby and bar. The coup attempt could have easily been in Shang as they want maximum media coverage.

I am glad that you are safe and well. Things could have gotten out of hand.

Take care,


9:06 AM

Blogger Monkeyfeather said...

Wow, that is an incredible story, glad you made it out alright, and that things didn't get worse.

With the way your visits seem to go, next time you're there it will either be some sort of extra terrestrial invasion or, zombie pandemic.

10:47 AM

Blogger Gerald said...

Your photos and video clips are so unreal. The 1st clip look more like a preparation for a movie shoot. Unfortunately that was not case. Thank God you and your family made it out safely. Warm Bibinka sounds good right about...now.

11:44 AM

Blogger tercumenette said...


5:57 AM

Blogger the doodlers said...

Serious stuff. Are we not sometimes like moths to a flame, Drawn to this sort of trouble and spite the danger? It must have been an adrenal rush!

12:18 PM

Blogger Chad Kerychuk said...

Dear Ronnie:

Please don't bring trouble when you come to Banff. We are happy, peaceful folks. ;-)

Seriously though, that's a lot of major events to happen during your visit. And I totally agree that the photos and video look like a movie shoot. Amazing how close you are able to get to them.

I've sent the link to boingboing.net.

9:36 PM

Blogger Teddy Kristiansen said...

Dear Ronnie

Well you certainly know how to make your life exciting.
Suddenly my life sitting creating comics at a desk seems very lame...

Cheers for now,

2:45 AM

Blogger Silvana said...

Glad to see that you're okay! Similar events happen in El Salvador all the time unfortunately.

8:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please be careful! =). The reality of life hits me when I read your entry. -Satoshi

3:27 PM

Blogger Mall said...

Hello Kuya Ronnie,

I'm so surprised that you visit here in the Philippines. At least you're completely safe and okay! I know that Philippines is totally corrupted, it really makes me so sad. Anyway, thanks for sharing these great photos with us! Know that I'm your biggest fan! I'm also a Filipino. :) Hooray, proud to be pinoy!

P.S. I enjoyed reading your Inquirer interview, you're way too cool and great!

God bless!

9:34 PM

Blogger Kei Acedera said...

Geez, what an experience that was! I really want to go back and visit but its those kind of moments that scare me! I truly admire you for going back and sharing your knowledge with the local animators. Its really inspiring and I hope to do the same one day. Glad nothing bad happend and I wish you a happy and safe holiday!

10:30 PM

Anonymous estetik said...

thank you very best information

1:56 AM

Blogger Kutlu Sevin said...

Located in the heart of Makati, Manila's business and financial district, The Peninsula Manila is the ideal business address and a favorite hotel for visitors to Manila for over 25 years.


10:56 PM


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