Today is Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fire Razed CA Main Building

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?

Despite 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.

On 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.

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