Quiapo blast victim loses leg, alone in hospital
MANILA, Philippines – The corner of Quezon Boulevard and Soler Street in Quiapo is back to business a week after the April 28 blast that international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) was quick to claim but local authorities said was just a local scuffle in one of the most notorious areas in Manila.
Except for the dismantled yellow police tape, there is hardly any trace of the pipe bomb blast that hurt 14 people. But sidewalk vendors, still jittery over the incident, have tales to tell about that night. One of their own, a young woman, is nursing a fractured foot.
It's worse for 5 of the victims who are still in the hospital a week since the blast, recovering from various injuries. Rolando Gubat, 45, lost his leg in the blast. He is intubated and relies on a mechanical ventilator to breathe. He has also been undergoing hemodialysis.
“Although he is conscious now, he is not fully awake. Hindi pa rin siya makapagsalita (He cannot speak yet). There is no verbal output because he is intubated. Humihinga pa rin siya sa tulong ng (He is breathing with the help of a) mechanical ventilator,” social worker Elizabeth Dela Cruz tells Rappler in an interview.
Worse, Gubat is going through all these alone at the surgical intensive care unit of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). No friends or relatives have come to visit him yet.
According to the police blotter report, Gubat is a resident of Quiapo, single, and a construction worker. Village officials brought him to the PGH emergency room, along with other victims.
His relatives have yet to be located. Dela Cruz says she tried to ask Gubat for more information. But unable to talk, Gubat can only nod and shake his head. Are his parents still alive? He shakes his head. Does he have siblings? He nods.
Dela Cruz gives him a clip board, a paper, and a pen. But Gubat cannot write because his fingers are swollen.
Based on the report of the social worker who first attended to Gubat when he was brought to the emergency room, he grew up in Zamboanga City but has been living in the streets of Quiapo for years.
“Nagwawalis-walis siya sa Quiapo area. Binibigyan siya ng pera pang araw-araw (He is asked to sweep the streets of Quiapo. They give him money for his daily needs),” Dela Cruz says, citing the initial report.
Dela Cruz says Gubat’s medical needs are attended to, citing funds that President Rodrigo Duterte had given the hospital to help poor patients.
He can walk again with the help of crutches, or if he’s lucky, gets access to prostethics. But that is not his doctor’s main concern for now. They’re making sure his injuries do not get infected and that his condition stabilizes.
Black smoke, the smell of fireworks
Ramon Carious, 46, is the other patient confined at PGH. The tailoring checker, who lives nearby, was watching a computer game when the blast happened, he had told his social worker Liezl Sombrio.
He can't remember what happened next. "He has limited information. Ang natandaan na lang niya may pumutok. Na-conscious lang siya nung nasa hospital na siya. Hindi niya alam sinong tumulong sa kanila (The blast was the last thing he remembered. He regained consciousness when he was already in the hospital. He doesn't know who helped them)," Sombrio tells Rappler.
The sidewalk vendors recalls how the explosion of the improvised explosive device deafened them. It was accompanied by black smoke that smelled like fireworks, they say.
Wilfredo Tumangan, 22, the pretty sidewalk vendor with a man's name, remembers running towards the Quiapo Church in panic. It was only later that she realized her right foot was painful and bleeding. She rushed back to the blast site, where her mother was looking for her.
A young boy from a nearby store carried her to the tricycle that brought her to a hospital in nearby Sampaloc. She's since been back to Quezon Boulevard to help her mother sell trinkets, flashlights, and other merchandise to feed her 6 siblings back in Bulacan.
Tumangan's mother Wilma remember seeing Gubat, Carious, and other victims sprawled on the ground. It seems that the sight of Carious scared most of the witnesses Rappler spoke to – they said they saw the skin on his buttocks peeled away by the blast.
"Biglang pumutok. Tapos paglingon ko puro na nakahandusay ang mga tao. Isa na-anuhan ng puwet. Natalupan. Isa may naputol. Hindi ko maisip hanggang ngayon (All of a sudden there was an explosion. I saw people on the ground. The bomb peeled one of the victim's buttocks. Another lost a limb. I can't believe it's real up to now)," says Wilma said.
Carious had two operations to clean his injuries in a process called debridement and has been transferred to the recovery room.
"Hindi siya makaupo at hindi makatayo. Lagi lang nakadapa. Walang sinusuot din na damit (He couldn't sit down and he couldn't stand up. He is always lying down on his belly. He couldn't wear clothes either)," Sombrio says.
Three other victims are confined at the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, based on the monitoring of the police. Ruiz Convicto Jr, 32, was amputated below his left knee. Migienne Lopez, 24, has injuries on both legs. Reynaldo Cabanilla, 28, has head injuries.
The blast happened on the day authorities were keeping a close watch over security threats because heads of states had just arrived in Manila for the ASEAN Summit. The Philippines is this year's ASEAN chairman.
But the police and the military succeeded in downplaying the incident – despite the ISIS propaganda – because of the notoriety of the place. The victims, residents of Quiapo and nearby districts, are mostly poor. (READ: Lorenzana dismisses ISIS claim on Quiapo blast)
Village officials do not believe it's ISIS either. Barangay Secretary Mario Cabrillos believes it would have been worse and more people would have died if the international terrorist group was involved.
But Cabrillos knows this is no ordinary scuffle involving one of their residents because gangs in Quiapo are not known to use pipe bombs.
The Manila Police District has created a special task force to probe the blast. ISIS or not, it's a serious matter. – Rappler.com