18 September 2010

No Bomb; and No Threat: the 2010 DLSL Bomb Hoax

Image credit:  Facebook Group Stop Giving Us Bomb Threats at De La Salle Lipa!
You can have the best-laid plans, but when a situation arises, more often than not, human nature simply takes over. Take last school year’s bomb hoax. We do hold evacuation drills every now and again, but when the situation escalated, contingency plans went flying out the window!

I am not about to start a blame game. What happened did so as a confluence of several factors. At the end of the day, what was important was that everyone came out of it unscathed. There was never any bomb; and, therefore, there was never any threat!

I was briefed about the situation before I went out to lunch. A boy saw a suspicious-looking feller with a suspicious-looking backpack. The feller handed the backpack over to another suspicious-looking feller and whispered something about a code.

Image credit:  Facebook Group Stop Giving Us Bomb Threats at De La Salle Lipa!
It sounded too much like a Jackie Chan movie plot to me and never imagined I would return from lunch with the situation having gotten out of hand. The boy text-ed his parents; his parents text-ed other parents; and pretty soon there was a swarm of parents rushing into school to fetch their kids.

School officials were left with no recourse but to call classes off and call in the authorities.

The younger kids were shepherded by their teachers to the football field – away from where the non-existent bomb people simply assumed would be planted. There were bemusement and fear on just about everyone’s face; and the sight of many children crying tore at my heart.

People were asking me what was going on, and I could only shake my head as I was – at the time – just as bemused as everyone else.

With the high school kids, well… How shall I put it? Have you ever seen a National Geographic documentary with sheep holding up traffic as the whole herd crosses to the other side of the road? One of our college players was at the overpass trying to get to school when the doors of the main building were opened, and that was how he described the scene to me.

It was just adrenaline taking over! It’s a good thing drivers instinctively slow down when on that stretch of road in front of school; else God only knows what could have happened to the kids as they all rushed to the other side of the road.


With the rooms and corridors vacated, the security personnel and the janitorial staff were sent on inspection tours to see if there was anything out of the ordinary, with instructions to immediately report if they did. The police had also arrived; and they – like I was – were skeptical of the supposed threat.

I mean, if anyone was really evil enough to actually think of doing harm to something filled with innocent young people such as a school, he would have done so in a manner that would not have aroused any sort of suspicion. Remember the twin towers? The planes just crashed into them without accompanying fanfare.

That, in a nutshell, was the bind school officials were in. We all knew there was probably nothing to the story; yet, since human lives were allegedly under threat, chances could not be taken.

In fact, I and a colleague inspected the buildings ourselves. We peeked inside lockers; looked inside trash bins; and even stuck our heads behind the blackboards. We even had a good laugh when I espied some loose wires carelessly stuffed inside a student locker. My eyebrows naturally shot up; but any alarm was quickly dispelled when I saw all the other lockers had these. Practical Arts projects, we both realized.

We found nothing, of course. It was reassuring when the Air Force’s bomb squad arrived later. They had with them a bomb-sniffing dog. Whatever I, my colleague, the security personnel and the janitorial staff might have missed during our inspections, that lovely white Labrador could not possibly do so.

I was so tired from the inspection that I took my shirt off and left it to others to deal with the college. In contrast to what happened earlier, the smooth manner with which the college students vacated their buildings was surreal.

Not known to many, this incident was not the first bomb hoax in the school. More than a decade ago, a “bomb” was actually planted in one of the college wash rooms – probably by the very student who reported it. The police were called in; so was the bomb squad.


The to-do went on till the dead of the night. When the authorities eventually decided to take the bomb out to an open field where they could detonate it, that was when they – and everyone else the contraption so disrupted – sheepishly came to the conclusion that it was a hoax. A fart, in comparison to the alleged bomb, could be more lethal to people.

I hope nobody is stupid enough to try for a third one. The danger to this is that people become blasé about these hoaxes that they will think nothing of situations even when there is real danger involved.

[Photos courtesy of the Facebook Group Stop Giving Us Bomb Threats at De La Salle Lipa!.]

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