Surviving the Resorts World Manila Attack

The Resorts World Manila Attack

The Resorts World Manila Attack started at around midnight on June 2, 2017 when a lone gunman by the name of Jesse Javier Carlos entered the second floor of the Resorts World Manila casino area. In the CCTV footage released, he started setting fire to the gaming tables, slot machines, and chairs but did not shoot anyone. He entered a storage room and started filling a backpack with casino chips. When it seemed like he had lost all hope, the gunman hid in Room 510 of Maxim’s Hotel and set the room on fire before shooting himself in the head.

At least 37 people died due to suffocation, their last moments were spent hiding in the bathroom or storage rooms. Among the 35 confirmed dead, 22 were guests while 13 were Resorts World Manila employees. Over 70 people were also confirmed to have suffered minor injuries during the stampede to escape. Some even broke the windows from the second floor and jumped to safety.

Read more about the attack here.

My experience

My mom, Edd and I had just finished Wonder Woman and started to get hungry. We decided to eat inside the casino at Victoria Harbour Cafe in the first floor since it was around midnight and most of the restaurants in Newport Mall were already closed.

Once we gave our orders, we started hearing a commotion from the gaming area. I looked over my shoulder to see people running. At first I thought that people were running towards someone who hit the jackpot. It took me around two seconds to figure out they were actually running away.

My mom, Edd, and I rushed to the cashier area at the back where we gathered with other guests. At that point, everyone was already making speculations. Some whispered about hooded figures carrying guns while some guessed that ISIS was in the vicinity. I told my mom to stay low and everyone else followed suit. Edd remained with the staff at the wings, trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on.

People were stampeding towards the exits. Some were even pushing each other down the escalator and stairs. And then an eerie silence descended. The people left in the ground floor were hiding underneath tables and hiding behind slot machines. No one had a clue how many shooters were in the building and where they were.

“May exit sa kusina. Pwede tayo lumabas doon,” we heard a staff member say.
(There’s an exit in the kitchen. We can get out there.)

Slowly and carefully, people started gathering their courage and stood up. We stepped out to the gaming area and ran towards the kitchen. People were starting to shove and I could hear the staff telling people to be careful. Suddenly I found myself speaking the same instructions to the people I was rushing with. Some were already pleading for the people behind us to stop shoving. I had lost sight of Edd but I could see my mom not too far from me.

Once out of the kitchen we found ourselves in a hallway leading towards the exit. And then we heard gunshots from the other side. Panic induced, people started running back where we came from. In that cramped hallway, I saw my mom rush into the room where all the fuses and generators were. I think Edd caught sight of us and followed us inside.

Four other people joined us in the room, one included a Korean who had a hard time understanding what was going on. Kuya Jason was one of the men who joined us. He broke a mop and opted to use the shaft as a weapon. He handed the other end to Edd who was already looking like he was ready to fight should the need arise.

We stayed in that room for a long time. The sound of gunshots echoing around us.

“Delikado tayo dito. Mamamatay tayo dito (We’re in danger here. We’re going to die here),” Kuya Jason would whisper every now and then. We stayed there for an hour. I said a prayer for each of the people with us. When smoke started to enter and cover the room I had to instruct the people to wet their clothes and breathe through them just to keep them from suffocating. I had already started messaging my closest friends telling them that I love them. If I was going to die, I wanted them to hear about love and nothing else.

Fortunately some of them were awake and keeping me updated about what was happening outside. They told us to stay low, by the vents, and keep calm because the police were already outside. It was just a matter of surviving until they found us. But the gunshots kept coming and the smoke was getting thicker. We had to make a choice: die inside waiting or die outside trying.

When things were quiet, Kuya Jason made a run for it followed by one of the ladies and the Korean who accidentally shut the door on the rest of us. Unfortunately, only a keycard from an employee could open the door. Edd had left his mop-weapon and was busy trying to figure out how to open the door. Adrenaline rush got to him and he managed to muscle the door open so we could enter the kitchen again.

The smoke was a bit thicker inside the kitchen. When we entered the gaming area again, Resorts World Manila employees found us and signaled for us to run towards the farthest exit. I let my mom rush ahead and had to keep looking back for Edd who was assisting the lola in the room with us.

Most of the employees were gathered near the exit, looking out for friends that weren’t with them. All of us were then rushed outside to Remington Hotel where all the injured were being taken care of. We didn’t stay there long for fear of the situation getting worse. We took a cab and just got out of the area as quickly as possible.

My thoughts

The Resorts World Manila Attack was traumatizing but I was surprisingly at peace as everything unfolded. I found comfort in knowing that God is always in control. In the room, I could think about nothing else but praying for the people around me. I was scared, obviously. My hands were shaking even as I held people’s hands. I prayed for courage amidst the chaos and I prayed for peace whatever the outcome. I was already with my family and they know I love them so I also messaged my friends expressing the same love. If I were to die then and there, I wouldn’t have any regrets.

I did worry about the aftermath of our deaths though. How would our friends and teammates grieve? Would they blame us for being there? How would those who knew what happened explain this to the others?

It was a terrible night but it could been worse. Normally, only Edd and I would be watching the movie and my mom would be waiting for us inside the casino. Imagine if this all happened and we weren’t together? I thanked the Lord so much for covering us and protecting us.

The next day I started to feel survivor’s remorse. Could we have done more to save those who were trapped? My heart broke after finding out that they died of suffocation. No one had saved them in time.

I questioned God. Where was He while all this was happening? Why did people die?

But I was reminded that He was there with us. He is always there for everyone. He is gracious and He is sovereign. Even in those last moments, I believe He was with them. Why? Because He loves us.

I don’t always understand God’s plans. He works in ways that are unusual and beyond our comprehension.
But it’s in times like these that we should lift everything up to Him saying, “I trust You with this.”

My prayer

If you have lost someone in the attack, I pray you find comfort in the Lord. It is a painful loss and you are not alone in your grief. I stand with you. For the survivors, I pray we do not take our second chance at life lightly. May we be more intentional in our words and actions and seek excellence in all aspects of our lives.

For the government and the authorities, may we learn a lot from this tragedy. It’s true that this attack could have been prevented but I would like to believe that you did your best given the circumstances. For the netizens, I know you have the best interests at heart. I pray you use your voice to speak the truth but speak the truth with love. Be responsible in what you post and be sensitive to those who are suffering.

Above all, I pray that you do not give up hope. The Resorts World Manila Attack was a wake up call for all of us. In a world filled with so much hate and prejudice, be the light. Do not give up on each other and do not stop loving each other. I pray that God’s perfect love fills all of you and I pray that it drives away the fear and hate in your heart. We cannot be passive anymore.

Love should win. Love always wins.
As Sofie told me, “His love can drown out fear. We just have to let it.”

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