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 above1 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
Labels: Makati, Manila Peninsula, Photography, Press, travel