March 2, 2009

A Harsh Awakening: Lessons from Amiel's Tragedy

Like many others, I was shocked, appalled and saddened by the devastating accident that claimed the life of the Ateneo fourth grader Amiel Alcantara. Albeit I am a relatively active blogger, I made it a point not to get too caught up in the discussion in the blogosphere about the accident, but like a moth to a flame, I found myself browsing articles as I surfed.

Of all those that I read, one article hit home hard.

When I first heard of the tragedy, I casually (and perhaps insensitively) blurted out to my mother, "bet tayo nagtetext kasi yun kaya nakabangga. malamang tinetext niya anak niya na come out na, I'm here already". My mom just blew off the comment, saying something to the effect that I should not assume anything especially since I was not privy to the event anyway. However, when I read the article about how a cellphone may have contributed to the accident, rather than feeling smug that I was right, I felt ashamed.

You see, the reason why I so blatantly blurted out that comment is because I myself often catch myself texting while driving. To be honest, sometimes I even do it when I'm in the expressway and not in a parking lot, the way the mom who hit Amiel allegedly was doing. I have actually been unintentionally photographed by my friends texting while we're in the car. Lately, I've even gotten addicted to surfing online or plurking while I'm stuck in traffic, especially on my way to work while I'm stuck in the endless stoplights lining up the road heading to Quirino Ave. Like the eye-witness account shared, the mom supposedly bent down to pick up something while in the drivers seat. I've done that too. And although I try to be aware about taking my feet off the pedals and pulling up the handbrake, seeing the consequences of such an action was truly a harsh awakening for me.

This has been an important lesson I've learned from the tragedy. Amidst the finger-pointing and the appealing for changes in the system (be it the Ateneo traffic system, the justice system or what-not), I would like to believe that as cliche as it may be, we need to start making changes in ourselves. While changes in the system are crucial and definitely needed, making our own little changes is just as important.

For one, maybe we can all be more aware about what we do with our cellphones while we drive. I don't think I'm the only one who has bent the rules about this...For me, I've started zipping up my phones inside my bag when I'm in the car. To be honest, when I hear the "toot" of my phone, I catch myself automatically reaching out for my bag but I consciously remind myself that the message is not that important anyway. It's not like it's gonna save my life after all, and it can wait. I try to do this even while stopped in front of a light or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Despite that itch to do so, I consciously fight the urge. I have failed every now and then, but I try to stop myself and have started to put my phone on silent while in the car so I don't get tempted to keep on checking.

Another lesson I have learned from this incident is really being more patient while driving and being more considerate on the road. Just recently, I wrote an entry about the lack of driving etiquette in the Philippines. In it, I complained about how people often sideswipe and make gitgitan just to get ahead. They even form three to four lanes in front of a left-turning stoplight, thus blocking the road for those who are trying to go straight. Not only that, drivers seem to think that by tailgaiting, they will get to where they are going any faster. Maybe this is not what happened in Ateneo, but by reading the descriptions of how bad traffic can get during dismissal time and hearing how the kids seemingly play patintero between passing vehicles, I can't help but think the lack of driving etiquette is also something that has to be changed. Again, I have been guilty of all of the above, well, except for the extra lanes. To be honest though, not because I'm being polite but because I'm afraid of getting cited by police officers.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the most valuable lesson I've learned in this incident is that we should not wait until it is too late to make changes in our lives, no matter how small they may be.

I know this is of little consolation to the Alcantara family, but if we all learned one lesson from their son's tragic death, then maybe, just maybe, they can find an answer to why the Lord allowed this accident to happen, and perhaps some comfort in knowing that their son did not die in vain.

3 stars twinkling:

noemi 3/03/2009 11:12:00 AM  

I don't text when I drive because my phone uses qwerty keyboard. We really don't know if the mom was texting. I heard that being asked during the wake but no one could absolutely say she was texting.

As to the consolation to the family, they will process the circumstances in their own time.

Ria 3/03/2009 11:56:00 AM  

thank you ms. noemi for your comment. i guess thats the upside of to having a qwerty keypad hehe.

thank you to for pointing out we're not really sure about the texting thing...actually thats why it took so long for me to write this post because i did not want to assume anything.

in any case, whether a cellphone was indeed used or not...i have learned my lesson and i am no longer texting while driving.

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