Manila kidnap survivor hopes for normal life
HONG KONG - Survivors of the 2010 Manila bus hostage crisis are still fighting for a return to their normal lives after spending years battling the scars of the tragedy.
Yik Siu-ling, a survivor from Hong Kong, said she survived the incident by pretending to be dead after being shot in the jaw.
But surviving the hostage situation was just the start of a long and painful battle with medical treatment, finances and her personal life.
To cover her scars, she now wears a mask all day long and cannot bear to let her young son see her face as it is too frightening for him.
"He was very young then and didn't understand anything. Now he knows the truth and has become aware of the news. He told me, 'Mum, I know you went on a tour and were shot by bad people.' Then I asked him how did you know that, and he replied that he heard it from TV news," said Siu-ling.
Life has never been the same for her since that fateful day in August 2010 when a sacked policeman took hostages on her tour bus in Manila and shot dead seven tourists from Hong Kong and their guide. The gunman was later killed in a bungled police rescue.
Siu-ling said it was thinking of her son that pushed her to hold onto her life.
"After I was shot, I immediately thought about my son since he was only two years old at the time. I kept telling myself that I can't die. If I die, my son will become an orphan. I told myself again and again: 'don't give up, don't give up. Your son needs you'," she said.
Now, Siu-ling has no choice but to wear her face mask every time she goes outside. Saliva and pus leak out of a hole in the right side of her jaw from time to time. She has already had around 30 operations to rebuild her jaw but more operations lie ahead.
Siu-ling cannot work anymore. Together with another survivor, they shared a one-off donation of one million Hong Kong dollars from an insurance company, which had sold them travel insurance for the Manila trip.
Despite the insurance, Siu-ling said she did not know how she would have to pay the 3 million Hong Kong dollars she has spent on medical expenses, as she has had to go to Chinese Taipei for a series of possible operations.
Along with other victims, she has sought justice from the Philippine government over the past three years, but nothing has been forthcoming thus far.
The official investigation report released by the Manila government in September 2010 pointed out eight critical errors in the way the hostage crisis was handled.
Among them, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim's failure to properly activate the crisis management committee, a lack of communication, and two officials who were busy eating their meal when they should have been at their command post.
The jaw-dropping revelations should have been enough to prompt decisive action, but three years on the Philippine government has yet to apologize, no compensation has been offered and none of the officials responsible have been punished. Families of the victims have campaigned, but the Philippine government hasn't relented.
For Siu-Ling though, the battle is more basic. She just wants her son to be able to see her without a mask and without fear.