by: Cheryl Joy D. Dean
July 26, 2007 was supposed to be
a day of celebration. Four Justices of the
Court of Appeals, namely, Bienvenido L. Reyes, Mariano C. del
Castillo, Amelita G. Tolentino, and Sesinando E. Villon were jointly
celebrating their birthday for the month of July. All the CA Justices
stationed in Manila were invited to join the celebrators for lunch at
the Conference Room located in the fourth floor of the Main building.
Some staff, including us, were even lucky to be there. As we were
having a great time munching and savoring the palatable delicacies
and busy exchanging words with one another, a bell rang. Unmindful of
the alarm, we continued with what we were doing; eating, chattering,
joking, etc. One even uttered, “Oh, baka nasusunog na ang
Court of Appeals.” People may call it coincidence or a
product of one’s fertile imagination, but the joke that the
building might be on fire was no joke after all. What’s worse,
the chamber where the fire started is right beside the Conference
Room where a little less than three scores of people were present!
It was only when someone
screamed “fire” that we were budged from our seats. Most
people inside the conference room scampered for safety. But the funny
thing, that tragedy elicited different reactions. A few lagged behind
to finish their food (including dessert) and one was even seen
carrying his plate half-filled with food out of the Conference Room!
Others were brave enough to risk their own safety by helping a
pregnant woman jump out the window of the mezzanine. Not only that,
they also attempted to put out the fire in the burning chamber with
the use of a fire extinguisher and a fire hose… For the laugh
of it, someone also ran to the comfort room, took a bucket of water
in a valiant attempt to save what can be saved! What a heroic thing
to do! Right?
knowledge that the fourth floor was ablaze, we can still hear some
people say, “Malayo ‘yan, kasi 4th floor
naman!”. Maybe to them it was a joke. But definitely, that
fire was no laughing matter. Only a few minutes after we went out of
the Main Building, black smoke billowed from the fourth floor where
we were supposed to finish our lunch. Even the employees occupying
the 2nd floor found it difficult to leave the building as
the entire hallway and staircase was too dark and the smoke left
stinging sensations in their eyes. Even though they covered their
noses with kerchiefs, they still inhaled irritating gusts of smoke
that left them nauseated.
this note, we would like to commend the bravery of a security officer
who never left us until we were safely out of the burning building.
Also to the brave firefighters who promptly responded to the
emergency, our deepest gratitude to all of you.
Come to think of it, we should all be thankful to God that no life was
lost in that nerve-racking experience. Paper and documents can be
reproduced, but, a life once lost can never be replaced. (Unless of
course you believe in reincarnation.