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Philippines: 12-hour hostage drama plays out on TV

Gunman and 7 tourists killed in violent end to drama that captivated nation.

The hostage drama captivated – and angered – many Filipinos, with many of them blaming the media coverage for the way it played out. “Do not let this shit in Luneta trend on Twitter,” wrote Carlos Celdran, a popular tourist guide, on Twitter and Facebook four hours after the drama began. “This f****r wants publicity. Let’s not give it to him.”

Eight hours later, Celdran’s fear came true: four of Twitter’s “trending topics” were about the hostage-taking, not counting the two on “Philippines” and “Filipinos.”

Many Filipinos like Celdran were worried about the impact the drama would have on the Philippines, a country that counts tourism as one of its top earners. While some were offended by such attitude – “worrying about the country's international image is kinda like fussing over a blood stain on your shirt when you're bleeding internally,” went one tweet — it wasn’t entirely misplaced.

Barely hours after the crisis, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau issued a “severe threat” alert, advising all its citizens to “avoid all travel” to the Philippines. It may have been just prudent action on the part of Hong Kong, as the president framed it, but it was a blow nonetheless.

Other Filipinos dismissed the whole thing with their usual sense of humor.

“Hostage over. Miss Universe 2010 tomorrow. Good night,” James Andrian, a culinary student, said on Facebook.

If only Monday’s terror were that simple to set aside.