Life has never been the same since the bullet on bus, says Manila victim

Maimed survivor still relives the terror of being shot, and is about to join in legal action for redress from the Philippine government

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:48pm

Yik Siu-ling has never told her young son what happened to her three years ago, or why she was going in and out of the hospital so often.

But as he turned five and became more aware of the news, it was him - in simple words of comfort to his mother, survivor of a shooting trauma - who brought up the subject.

As I was admitted to hospital again last week, he said to others in the family: 'Mum went on a tour and was bullied by bad guys, so she's in hospital now

"He's the one who keeps me going," said Yik, 36, whose lower jaw, left thumb and right index finger were shattered by a bullet in the 2010 Manila hostage-taking crisis.

Since the tour-bus tragedy, Yik has undergone dozens of operations to rebuild her jaw.

But hope gradually turned into disappointment as she realised the chance of getting new teeth implanted was becoming slimmer.

"I didn't know how to tell my son about my plight," she said. "But as I was admitted to hospital again last week, he said to others in the family: 'Mum went on a tour and was bullied by bad guys, so she's in hospital now'."

She was taken aback, but realised his remark could have been spurred by news coverage of the incident's third anniversary.

"Sometimes, I am so touched by him. When I go out, he tells me: 'Mum, why are you going out again? There're many bad guys out there. Don't go out so often'."

The experience overseas has turned her life around. From a hole in the right side of her jaw, saliva and pus keep dripping out. Yik does not step outdoors without her mask, and refrains from venturing anywhere far from home. Treating her son to a leisure outing is out of the question. Mother and son manage on their own at home, with some help from her mother.

"It has been three years, but that scene, it is still so real and vivid. It's really hard for me," she said. "It has changed me. I wasn't a grumpy person before, but nowadays I flare up easily."

Yik's jaw was to be rebuilt by implanting a bone from one of her calves, but the implant died because of a lack of blood supply, and had to be removed in an operation last week. More operations lie ahead.

"I thought I could have a dental implant this year, but now it's like going back to square one."

Yik has lost her ability to work. Together with another survivor, Joe Chan Kwok-chu, they shared a one-off donation of HK$1 million from insurer Chartis, which had sold them travel insurance for the Manila trip. She had not figured out what to do if she failed to obtain compensation from the Philippine government, she said.

"I know the Hong Kong government has helped us, but perhaps their stance towards the Philippines has not been tough enough," she said.

Survivors and families of the dead have given Manila until tomorrow - the third anniversary of the tragedy - to answer their demands for an apology, compensation, punishment for the officials responsible and improved tourist safety.

They will file a writ with the High Court today in the name of Lee Mei-chun - the mother of late tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn - Chan and Yik. It will be against the Philippine government, then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim and other officials who were named and shamed in the Philippine investigation report. The families will also march to the Philippine consulate on Friday.

Another survivor, Jason Leung Song-xue, 21, had progressed in his recovery from brain injury, health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said. Ko said he visited Leung yesterday at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

On August 23, 2010, a sacked policeman took 22 Hongkongers and three Filipinos captive on a tour bus in Manila. He shot dead seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide before being killed in a bungled rescue.