Home > Amiel Alcantara > ateneo community response to amiel’s tragic death : passionate, selfless and wide

ateneo community response to amiel’s tragic death : passionate, selfless and wide

it is palpable. you can cut it with a knife – that is one of the best ways to describe the ateneo community’s response to the  tragic death  of Amiel, a 10-year old member of the community.

within minutes of amiel’s death at the hospital, concerned ateneo parents, unknown and in big numbers started texting to inform other parents of amiel’s death. we do not know how they knew about it, but somehow they did and each one wanted to inform the whole community. the texting was so widespread that even non members of the community received the texts and these people in turn texted parents that they know have children at the ateneo.

not only was this done through text, yahoogroups of ateneo parents started to post in their respective yahoogroups about amiel’s death and immediately everyone asked for prayers for amiel and the parents and family members of the alcantara family.

in fact looking at postings in these yahoogroups, you can read earlier postings informing their members of the accident that occurred in campus. they must have posted that in the yahoogoups no longer than 3 hours after the accident actually happened. not only did these postings talk of the accident, they knew the name of the child and everyone quickly asked for prayers for amiel to survive the accident.

you can say that the ateneo community’s response to the amiel tragedy started within minutes of the accident and was in full throttle within minutes of amiel’s death inside the hospital.

based on the texts received and posts in the yahoogrroups, there were two common themes in those early mobilization of the ateneo community : 

  • request for  “Prayers for Amiel” was most dominant. this was a community who believed in the power of prayers and how much prayers in the thousands if not will not be able to change things, it will soothe the hurt and dieing.
  • How can we help Amiel and his family?” followed a close second. it’s a poignant question. that question points first to others then to self. a true desire to help those in need.

these are the very early hours of the aftermath  of the tragedy. most of them do not know the details of the accident, even more telling is that all of them do not know amiel nor do they know mr. and mrs. alcantara and yet the reaction of the community is on a higher plane already.

no doubt, the next day after the death of amiel when parents started pouring in into the campus to bring their kids to school, the emotions and concern must have risen a hundred fold. the spot where amiel made his last footprints was still there, barricaded and a vehicle in front of it. at that hour the ateneo community took a first visual of the tragedy and that must have been imprinted in everyone’s mind.

 from the start point of  “Prayers for Amiel“, the community’s reaction moved to a higher purpose of  “How can we help Amiel and his family?“. that solidified and became the foundation of many parents actions. this foundation grew wider and deeper as it found its expression in actions big and small.

the community brought flowers and lit candles to the spot where amiel died. nobody told them to do that, its just that their hearts wanted them to do it. to this day, even after the nine day mass was done last night, the community continue to put fresh flowers and light new candles on the spot. how long will they keep doing this? nobody knows but it will probably go on for a very long time.

members of the community went to the ateneo grade school chapel almost non stop from morning till evening. you will see parents, their children, yayas and drivers going to the chapel, lining up to view amiel.

many would just sit in the pews or kneel down and say a prayer. a large number of them did not bother to sign the guest book, nor did they seek the parents of amiel. most of them went to the chapel as unnamed members of the community single-minded on praying for the soul of the 10 year old member of their community.

during recess, lunch break and dismissal time, children of all ages and shapes also went to the chapel. looking at them line up and form a line in front of amiel’s casket is a landscape of beauty.

the children who stood there were of different heights and weight indicating students from all the grades visited. some of them were still carrying their basketballs with them, they were in all sorts of uniforms – from the colorful PE shirts,  to the required polo and different types of shoes from the black leather to rubber shoes and soccer shoes. 

during dimissal time, there will be mountains of giant school bags in front of the chapel as the kids leave their school bags outside so that they can go inside the chapel and pay homage to amiel in silence in deference to the others in prayer inside the chapel.

it is a landscape of beauty because inspite of their unevenness in form, color, height and weight, these are exactly the same things that make it beautiful. it’s meaning is where the beauty lie – it means amiel’s tragic death has touched the hearts and minds of all the grade school members of the community, in the same way it has the adult members of the ateneo community.

inside  those differences in physical form that the eyes can see reside in their  hearts the sameness in sentiments and feelings for amiel, the invisible ties.

 the school children did not receive the message “Prayers For Amiel” but that is what they did and it is in saying those prayers that they are doing the other sentiment of “How can we help Amiel and his family?“.  it is the young children’s version of helping Amiel and his family.

the adults of the ateneo community has their own version of their answers to the question ” How can we help Amiel and his family?“.  these too came in many forms, small to big gestures but size is irrelevant as their impact is the same.

like the school children, nobody told them to do anything. most often nobody asked them. the parents just did it on their own, like a second nature reaction. like it is the most natural thing to do.

parents on their own wrote petition letters, two of them published in this blog. they did not know if parents will sign them, but they did it any way.

individual parents asked for copies of the petition letters. many said they will print a lot of copies and they will distribute it other parents.

many asked for electronic copies so that they can email them to other parents. many said they want a copy so that they can ask their CPRs to distribute it among other parents. 

a parent anonymously posted 3 copies of  the “Amiel’s Footprints” petition letter on campus – one at the side of the Blue Eagle Gym beside the posting of newly accepted students to the Ateneo and two at the waiting area of the grade school parking lot near the public telephone booths. one is posted on a blackboard and the other on the bulletin board used by the security office of the school.

this anonymous parent printed the petition letter in bright apple green reflectorized paper an obvious attempt to allow it to call attention. green as everyone know is not the color of the school (and the color of a rival school). but it was very effective as you can see parents, kids, drivers and yayas reading them.

i saw this posted early this week. the parent used masking tape at the back of the paper to stick it to the bulletin board of the security office. i went to look at it again yesterday, someone used a staple gun to secure it to the bulletin board. that means another parent must have done that. another parent or someone from the security office was kind enough to use the staple gun to make sure it remains posted on the bulletin board.

an ateneo mom on her own have  been suggesting ideas to this blog. she has also done research getting the email addresses of media in an effort to get meida to publicize the petition effort. it was through her initial effort how abs cbn featured wawam.wordpress in their news cast recently.

an ateneo dad asked this ateneo mom for help in collating the suggestions in this blog on how to improve safety for kids in school. it will be used by a member of the multi-stakeholder committee tasked to improve safety in school. this ateneo mom read all the comments in this blog and copy pasted them into a word document. that word document is 52 pages long!

when we publish reactions of ateneo parents in this blog, we need to ask their permission to do so. we usually send them an email and request that they give this blog permission to publish their reactions.

all  of them agreed for us to publish it here, no exception. not only that, all their replies to our request for permission contain this message : “I’ll do anything for the good of all.” their reply is not a simple, yes i give you my permission, it felt like they needed to make a point that they will do anything for the good of the ateneo community.

that answer is the same kind of answer we get from parents we ask for help. these are parents we tap, who have not initially volunteered but when asked for their help, they say the same thing – anything for the good of the ateneo community.

there is another version – when we email them for help, they send us this reply : “Of course, I will help you!” they make you feel all you need to do is ask for help and they will help. that there should be no doubt that they will help.

another dad, patrick ferrer, wrote in this blog an idea of his – commission a  3rd party group to study and propose recommendations on how to improve safety in school. this dad on his own talked to individuals from outside the ateneo, experts in their fields, to get their help. patrick spent time thinking about it and spent time talking and convincing the people he named in the letter.

again, on his own, patrick decided to take his idea to another level, from this blog to the school authorities. he sent an email and sent a copy of the proposal to the school authorities.

nobody asked patrick to do any of that. all of it was on his own initiative. all coming from inside his heart.

before he sent his proposal to the school, he announced in this blog that he is asking for volunteers to join him on his proposal. a few volunteered and are now part of the group.

these people who formed this group are all strangers. they do not know each other. they have not met. the same is true for all the other individual parents who on their own decided they wanted to distribute the petition letters, help in the maintenance of this blog, do research and agree to publish their reactions. that is  much like the fact that they  do not know amiel and amiel’s parents. there are many other groups that have been formed all with the same purpose.

but these strangers who live in different homes and live different lives shared one thing – a real and deep reaction to the death of amiel. they elevated that reaction to a higher level by taking action on their own. it did not matter that they did not know amiel and the alcantaras, what mattered to them is that they felt something in their hearts and they allowed this to become actions.

that is the same situation for many of you who have expressed your feelings and thoughts on amiel’s death in this blog. and equally important, it is the same for those who have posted your analysis of the traffic and safety issues at the ateneo and the suggestions you have given on how to solve them.

analysis and forming suggestions take time and effort. all of your suggestions are well thought out, you took this seriously. and yet we are all strangers.

though we are all strangers, something invisible binds us that is for sure. actually i think two things bind us – first is our true desire to continue amiel’s footprints and the other our love and commitment to the ateneo community. we knew by instinct that this community is formed by individuals with like purposes and like dreams.  and those we need to demonstrate. we are a community of individuals who act on their own, who does things on their own initiative.

we are all strangers by name, but  by heart and mind, we are all brothers and sisters from one family.

what has happened to us and how we responded to it, i think is one of the best ways to define the word “community”.

  1. george alcantara
    March 6, 2009 at 11:31 am

    ateneo community: “we are all strangers by name, but by heart and mind, we are all brothers and sisters from one family.”

    very well said. i couldn’t agree more. let us move to prevent this from happening again!

  2. ateneo mom
    March 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    First of all I’d like to say that the passion and the selflessness resonated widely indeed as an aftermath of the tragedy that befell Amiel. I just hope and pray that it continues to serve as a genuine learning point for all the parents and drivers who enter the Ateneo campus.

    I pick up my son everyday at the AGS, and i was actually disappointed that no matter how much has been said about being careful and driving with extreme caution while inside the campus, I have seen parents, drivers just this past few days who still drive as if they are in a no speed limit zone. And there was even a mother who had her baby on her lap while at the wheel waiting to move her vehicle forward in that multi-lane pick-up/drop-off point. I could see her from my rearview mirror as she was just behind me. She doesn’t realize that the child on her lap could distract her and another accident could happen.

    It now has dawned upon me that yes, Ateneo should implement measures to keep vehicles away from the children, but we as parents & employers of drivers should reflect and instill discipline among ourselves and our drivers. Looking back at what happened to Amiel, we cannot merely blame the school for failing to improve the traffic system inside Ateneo. Let’s also look at ourselves, our driving habits because we cannot deny that we also lack discipline and foresight to anticipate that our actions may hurt those around us, though unintentional it may be. Just something to ponder upon, dear parents.

    • Patrick Ferrer
      March 6, 2009 at 11:35 pm

      I agree with you ateneo mom. Your points are a very real and critical part of the eventual solution. The best systems in the world are compromised by the failure in the human factors. Driver education and discipline needs to be internalized by all behind that wheel. And, the systems in place must promote and enhance this discipline. This is how we can bring the risks down to zero. This is one reason I mention in a previous post that the parents and students are part of the solution in ensuring that unsafe drivers and practices are immediately sanctioned before they propagate.

      A typical example is this thing that happened to me last Friday even when I attended the mass for Amiel at the grade school chapel. I parked by vehicle in the space near the football field. I crossed from there on a pedestrian bump that traverses the curb towards the Blue Eagle gym. As I crossed midway on the pedestrian bump, I saw a tricycle approaching. Since pedestrians have priority once they step into the lane, I continued. The tricycle sped up and went over the bump with just a foot between me and driver. As I looked at him pass, he turned his head at me and laughs. Wasn’t Amiels death enough to drive home the point to this driver? His attitude and reaction cheapens the lost life. Drivers in Ateneo forget that they are entrusted with a responsibility. In fact, drivers of utility vehicles forget that they are rendering a professional service that implies a professional responsibility.

      And, as you said ateneo mom, discpline and may I add attitude need a corresponding RADICAL revamp in parallel with the facilities and systems.

      Thanks for contributing those important points.

  3. Patrick Ferrer
    March 6, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Let us now think of how else we can compel Ateneo to listen and start organizing so that planning and the action to put the correct measures in place can commence.

    The letter I wrote Fr. Nebres was kindly handed to Fr. Kit Bautista by an ateneo dad when he had the opportunity during a meeting last Monday. I was contacted to come for a meeting to discuss the ideas I presented in the letter. Our meeting was scheduled last Wednesday at 1:30pm. Unfortunately, it was cancelled when I received a call from Fr. Kit’s office the same morning of the meeting date. I have not yet received another invitation so far.

    I certainly hope we all will receive very soon the information we crave: the answer to “What is Ateneo going to do to prevent another accident?”.

    With a balance of 2 weeks left on the school calendar, I can understand that AGS is busy mopping up the school year. It would be ideal if Ateneo can take the lead with the stakeholders (i.e. parents, students, teachers, authorities, etc.) to develop, design, and finalize the plans for the improved safety and scheme. Summer break would be the ideal period for the Ateneo to undertake the necessary construction and rectification of the site. Come June, it is reasonable to expect that the newer and safer scheme is in place, tested, and commissioned to operate.

    I ask all, “What are we waiting for”?

    It would certainly be a tragedy and failure if by the time the 2009-2010 school year opens we see the same old unsafe traffic jam dishonoring the memory of Amiel Alcantara. What is it going to take?

    Are we going to allow the dice to continue to roll?

  4. Patrick Ferrer
    March 6, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I did talk with some Ateneo dads who were in my son’s Father and Son night last weekend. The consensus I gathered was that Ateneo has to RADICALLY revise its grounds and system in order for safer system to be in place.

    We have no illusions that this is going to be a walk in the park but as I read and hear the words of fellow stakeholders. It is the RIGHT thing to do. Let’s not let this opportunity pass as it presents itself very seldom starkly in its true form.

    • xyz1two3
      March 7, 2009 at 7:04 pm

      i agree it really needs a radical change. it needs to be revolutionary so to speak and not just evolutionary. taking baby steps on this one is not enough. we should not let that happen.

  5. ruben c. domingo
    March 7, 2009 at 10:58 am

    so what’s happening with our community? it’s meant to be a community of love where no one – specially the young should be hurt/injured/or die. brings me back to our time in the 60’s where a minor traffic altercation led to a shootout/duel at a&w restaurant in what we now know as farmers market. what a waste…

  6. March 9, 2009 at 6:15 am

    When I heard about the news on Amiel’s death, I cried as if I lost a child all over again. I lost my first child at birth.

    Just months prior to Amiel’s death, one of my sons had a traumatic experience that happened within Ateneo premises involving other Ateneo students. The sad thing is that I am not in the Philippines to console my son or personally talk to the school authorities about that incident. Worse, I protected and advocated the rights of other people in the exercise of my profession, but could not do the same to my son. It was my husband who referred the matter to all school personnel in charge, and “they” conducted an investigation which unfortunately was a farce. Among others, words were placed in the mouth of the children who were supposedly witnesses to the incident. My husband talked to these children who confirmed that they did not actually see what had really happened to my son. My husband and I finally decided to let the matter rest, because we see no point in going against the school administration, unless we decide to pull out our sons from school. Apart from that, I am miles away and my husband who has his hands full already, might be overburdened fighting for a cause that will yield only unsuccessful results.

    It would have been better if Ateneo has an investigative body with the main purpose of ferreting out the truth and actively responding to a situation. Ateneo cannot just sweep under the rug its weaknesses, hoping that its name and reputation will do all the work. No system is perfect, but its recognition of this fact is one step ahead in making the school a haven for our children.

  7. bluegadfly
    March 9, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Two weeks after the incident, I still have to see signs that AGS is seriously committed to safety. Where are third party traffic safety experts – men/women with cameras, stopwatches, speed guns, distance measuring devices, weighing scales (for the luggage our sons carry everyday) etc.

    The ingredients for an explosive mix are still there and these include
    – the sheer volume of cars entering the campus
    – inconsiderate drivers (including car driving parents)
    – guns (yup – guns). I bet you cars bearing the plate numbers 7 and 8 have at least one gun-totter inside. I’ve seen bodyguards with guns tucked in their belts in the past. Buti wala pang nababaril. Heaven forbid if it were an AGS student.
    – the heavy luggage that AGS students have to carry daily. These contribute to extended drop-off and pick-up times; and ultimately dangerous traffic practices. And who at the AGS has even considered the health and safety hazards of kids carrying luggage. Our children carry luggage for goodness sakes not school bags.

    In two weeks, classes will be over. I hope the safety issues are not swept under the rug. Now is the time to do something objective and technical while there is still human and vehicle traffic to observe.

  8. bluegadfly
    March 9, 2009 at 8:31 am

    “….Our meeting was scheduled last Wednesday at 1:30pm. Unfortunately, it was CANCELLED* when I received a call from Fr. Kit’s office the same morning of the meeting date. I have not yet received another invitation so far……”

    In my book, this does not spell serious commitment on the part of the AGS.

    *emphasis is mine.

    • george alcantara
      March 9, 2009 at 8:39 am

      i cannot agree with you more. i think the school is acting too slow and too little.

  9. listen
    March 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Hi..the bright apple green color of the printed petition posted in Ateneo has a special meaning..not only to attract attention..but it’s the color of Amiel’s PE uniform….

    • xyz1two3
      March 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm

      what an amazing coincidence!

  10. ateneo alum
    March 11, 2009 at 10:17 am

    So tell me what any governing body can do to prevent stupid, reckless, inconsiderate, smug, arrogant parents from doing what they will?

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