The elephant in the room

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok January 08,2018 - 10:51 PM

Malou Apalisok

Now that fire investigators are looking into the cause of the blaze that hit the Metro Ayala late Friday evening, will probers also examine the arson angle as suggested by some quarters?

Speculation to this effect had been going around whenever a Gaisano-owned store is hit by fire, but this is a mysterious angle in the sense that it appears or considered taboo in mainstream media. I heard broadcaster Leo Lastimosa talk about this issue yesterday in the context of the “elephant in the room” and he couldn’t be more correct.

In last week’s fire that gutted the Metro Ayala, fire investigators are bent on looking into factors such as fire safety devices and testimonies of witnesses, but they seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room. This time around, the elephant, owing to its obvious size may yet get its long overdue attention thanks to persistent rumors fueled by comments of social media users.

As we all know, Metro Ayala is owned by the Gaisanos, one of Cebu’s oldest and wealthiest families who operate a string of department stores and malls in different parts of Cebu and other sections of the Visayas.

The suspicions of netizens are mainly based on conjectures, which cannot be described as outrageous because in their estimation, the Gaisano stores seem to be getting more than their fair share of accidental fires.

For example, the fire that gutted down the original White Gold House in Osmeña Boulevard many years ago. The area where the landmark department store once stood is now a parking lot. White Gold House was later moved to the North Reclamation area but the department store also got burned. The burned structure still remains and sometimes is a venue for some social functions but it has not regained its past glory. Then there’s the Gaisano South mall which was also razed to the ground in December 23, 2011. This particular conflagration took firefighters almost a week to put out.

In July last year, the Gaisano Capital in Ormoc City, Leyte was also burned down.

This string of fires should have prompted mall owners to be more extra careful in putting effective if not state of the art fire-fighting devices and measures to avoid similar tragedies. But initial reports from the Metro Ayala fire seem to point to the contrary; sprinklers that did not activate when smoke was detected from the storage room of the Metro Ayala’s 3rd floor.

Damage to this latest Gaisano mall fire is estimated at P100 million, based on property losses owned by Metro Ayala. In truth, the damage can go even higher since many business locators are poised to suffer huge business losses owing to the closure of the Ayala mall for many days.

* * *

Congratulations are in order for my good friend, Guadalupe “Luping” Cabahug Latonio whose family owns and administers the Sotero Cabahug FORUM for Literacy. This humble school which carries the name of the revered statesman, the late Sotero Cabahug of Mandaue City has been chosen by the Yale University in New Haven to participate in this year’s Yale Model United Nations YMUN conference slated on January 18 – 22, 2018.

The Yale Model United Nations, according to the YMUN website, “is a four-day international relations simulation for high school students held annually in Yale University’s campus in New Haven. At YMUN, delegates from all over the world interact with one another through debate and diplomacy to solve complex challenges facing the world today. Students take on the role of UN representatives and members of other international bodies and national cabinets and learn about the workings of international politics and problem solving.”

Some eleven students from the Cebu-based school will interface with fellow high school students from other parts of the world in a once-in-a-lifetime program under an Ivy League environment. How exciting is that? What an honor for Cebu, the Philippines and most of all the students and teachers of the Sotero Cabahug FORUM for Literacy.


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