climb

a spate of suicides

there are few things more unsettling than finding the twisted body of a dead person on the pavement, a halo of her own blood caking in the heat of manila's infernal tropical evening. i was out on my usual run last night around my usual route in salcedo village, doing the 2.1k dela costa-valero loop before turning into leviste for a shorter 1.7k route when i noticed something unusual. a crowd gathered along tordesillas, just behind the makati sports club. the surrounding buildings were illuminated by flashes from the silent sirens of police cars and ambulances. a yellow tape cleared an area on the sidewalk, and people stood just outside this makeshift cordon, looking, whispering, like visitors in a museum, deciphering a painting.

it was a scene that was eerily familiar, not because i've seen many, but i've imagined several. this is exactly how onlookers crowd around suicides -- jumpers in particular -- and as i whizzed by in my steady slightly-less-than 6 minutes per kilometer pace, i caught a glimpse of a person through a gap between two parked cars, dead by the looks of it, slumped on the sidewalk.

i didn't stop to look. i do not have a morbid fascination for dead people. in fact, i hate going to funerals. i particularly dislike looking at dead people even when they're neatly placed inside coffins. i remember when i was reviewing for the bar, i looked out of the 24th story balcony of my aunt's unit in makati and saw, just a few buildings away, people rushing to what appeared to be a dead person on the street. his arms were placed in such a way that he looked like a strange japanese kanji character. i looked outside just minutes after the person jumped, and before the police could even arrive to bag the corpse and hose down the bloodied asphalt, his lifeless body had been covered by newspapers.

9 minutes later, after i completed my first 1.7k loop, the woman's body was still there, bathed in the light of a nearby lamppost, burdened by the heavy gazes of strangers. i went for a second loop to complete just less than 6k last night, and even after i was done with my cool down at velasquez park, and while walking back to my place, no one had done anything to cover the body. i didn't linger, but i passed by slow enough to even see her pale face. i write about this because i wonder about how we should deal with situations like this. should we treat suicides as crime scenes where the body becomes evidence not to be tampered with? or do we even attempt to do something to help? the woman jumped from the fourth floor of the building. surely she could have survived that fall if proper medical attention had been given. but not just suicides. how about road accidents. do we just stare at injured motorists, or try to do something to first assess the situation, and help if we could? and if we've drawn the conclusion that there's nothing we could do but call in the morgue, should we treat the body as some curious object to be ogled at? i sometimes wonder whether we've become so accustomed to seeing dead people on the streets that we stand, without emotion, and just stare at them; whether we've become so jaded by death that we are unaffected by it, that we feel neither sadness nor grief, only curiosity?

my stomach churns just imagining the lack of expression on that woman's face.