ATTENTION: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT

By Erik de Castro

I arrived at the scene of the hostage taking in Manila with feelings of excitement because it was a big story. But also, with a pang of sadness as I was at exactly the same place two months ago when yellow was the color of festivities for thousands of people attending the inauguration of our new president, Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino.

I immediately noticed a parked tourist bus just in front of the grandstand. I was standing behind a police line about 300 yards away. I quickly snapped photos of the bus and and two women looking out from between the closed curtain of the bus.

Tourists taken hostage look out from a window after a former police officer took hostage a tourist bus in Manila August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Erik de Castro

My colleague Cheryl Ravelo and I set up our communications and our laptops to file pictures from my car. We immediately called Manila-based photographer Bobby Ranoco to arrange how we could get his memory cards to file the first Reuters pictures.

Bobby had earlier called me, out of breath, to advise me of the situation and his safe position hiding from the police at the grandstand. Bobby was near the area as the drama unfolded. He was at the press office of the Manila Police District when he was tipped off by a local photographer and a policeman friend. He went to the area with other local photographers thinking that it was a just a normal hostage taking event, a not-so-unusual occurrence in the Philippines. Bobby needed to hide from the police because of the vantage point of their location, afraid that the police would boot them out from there. He managed to befriend a worker in the grandstand to shuttle his memory cards back and forth to our filing area as he captured the dramatic events.

A police officer turned into a hostage taker stands at the entrance of a bus containing passengers who have been taken hostage while parked near Quirino Grandstand in Manila August 23, 2010.   REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

Philippine media started arriving at the scene and at noon, I looked around the area and it was literally swarmed by press, as the media outnumbered the police.