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Firemen need better fire fighting equipment.

I was in Manila last weekend when late Friday evening, my Facebook friends reported that there was smoke emitting out of the Metro Ayala Department Store. The next few days the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) was combatting this fire for the entire weekend. BFP-7 Director Samuel Tadeo only declared under control by 12:45 p.m. on Sunday. Many people questioned why it took the BFP too long to fight this conflagration. But basically, I would say that the Fire Department seriously lacks breathing equipment so firefighters could enter a smoke-filled building.

We returned to Cebu by 5 p.m. Sunday afternoon and passed by the burnt hulk of the Metro Ayala Department Store, which was no longer burning nor any black smoke coming out of the burnt building. This means that the BFP-7 can now proceed to investigate where the fire started and why was the sprinkler systems not enough to douse the fire?

Unfortunately because of a series of fires at the Gaisano stores in the 1970s they became an urban legend that these fires were done intentionally. However, I can vouch for the Metro Retail Stores Group (MRSGI) owned by Dr. Edward and Jack Gaisano that they are the most professional retailers that I have ever known. Kudos to many Cebuanos who helped feed the firefighters in the two days they fought the fire. As for the MRSGI, they already assured their employees that they would be taken cared of. We will give you more information on this as soon as it is available.

It was the first weekend of 2018, but I did not expect to spend it in Manila... well not exactly in Manila, but specifically in the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa so I could be at the internment rites for Richard Joseph, the 4th child of my dear friend, Consul Robert 'Bobby' Joseph who passed away at a very young age of 28 years old in Seattle, Washington. It was a tragedy beyond our comprehension. Thanks to my good friend, hotelier Sir Arthur Lopez, he billeted my wife and me and my daughter at the fabulous Bellevue Hotel as the internment rites was at the St. James Church inside the Ayala Alabang Village.

Since I had my cataract operation three weeks ago, I had to seek permission from my eye doctor if I could travel (because I'm not supposed to lift heavy stuff) and he allowed me to travel. Actually, Richard passed on to eternal life last Dec. 21, but since it takes some time for the Americans to process the release papers for the deceased, so his ashes only arrived last Jan. 3 and the wake was held at the St. James Church. I didn't write about Richard because I knew that the Joseph family wanted their privacy.

Richard's final funeral mass was officiated by Msgr. Jerry Santos (He baptized Richard) and gave one of the most comforting homilies that I have heard to soothe our hearts especially the parents of Richard, Bobby and his wife Ida. Indeed it was devastating news to hear about the death of Richard, especially to his father Bobby who has been fighting his cancer for the last 10 years. But then God had other plans. In the Book of Life, some people have many volumes, but in the case of the life of Richard, it was a short book.

Listening to the eulogies of his brothers Robbie and River and sisters Rhea and Riza, including his fiancee, one can discern that Richard was a good and obedient boy. In high school (he studied at the La Salle University) he was enamored by the Gawad Kalinga Project. Now how many young kids would talk to their parents about building homes for the homeless? Often, the family driver would tell his parents that Richard would use his allowance to buy foodstuff from Jollibee and give it to the street children.

I last met Richard last Nov. 17 during the 17th Grand Wine Experience when he came home to surprise his Dad... and he really pulled that surprise. He was already preparing to get married this year... and to come home and study medicine. But then as I already pointed out, God had other plans for him... and those that God loves the most, he takes them to himself! According to Bobby, Richard was a most obedient son and a very caring boy. As the internment rites were done, I told my friends that next time someone tells you that only the good die young... do not forget Richard Joseph for he died at so young an age.

It was a mournful end for the Year 2017 as the last week of December also saw the passing of five of my good friends, Hernan Streegan, Ricky Rama Poca (my talk show host and main host of the weekly 888 News Forum), Mrs. Carmel de Pio and Demetrio Cortes Jr. and Andrew Si. Now that it is the New Year 2018, last Sunday on Epiphany Sunday, another dear friend, Prof. Mario 'Mayo' Lopez of the Asian Institute of Management passed on to eternal life after a bout with cancer. Indeed, death has hounded me for the last week of the Year 2017; I just hope that the passing of Prof. Mayo Lopez won't start another trend for this year.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 9, 2018
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