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Reader’s Digest Article: Grace Under Fire

The buzz of her doorbell interrupted Lani Generoso,duty manager of the Oakwood Premier in Manila, as she prepared for bed at 1.30 a.m. on July 27 last year.“There are armed soldiers in the lobby,” front-desk officer Don-don Rambla blurted as she opened the door.

Turning on the TV news, Generoso discovered that there was a commotion in the vicinity of the hotel. About 200 rebel soldiers had taken over the Oakwood and were holding more than 600 guests, including Australian ambassador Ruth Pearce, hostage. The mutineers were accusing the government of breeding corruption and sponsoring terrorism. In response, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo demanded the soldiers’ surrender by sundown the next day or face “dislodgement using reasonable force.”

This is a nightmare, thought 34-year-old Generoso.Within 20 minutes she was in the lobby assisting Oakwood general manager Robert Rosetti and security manager Michael Brown negotiate with the mutineers.“We do not wish to harm you,” the rebel leader toldthem. “Nevertheless, you do exactly what we tell you to do.” The young officer demanded that no-one use their mobile phones.

Lani Generoso

 

              Photo: Lani Generoso, RD editor-in-chief Peter Dockrill & me at the awarding ceremony for Everyday Heroes

 

Generoso took charge of the front desk and was pleased to see that Rambla had already shredded the guest list. With the help of the front-desk staff, she changed the Australian ambassador’s name on all the files and unplugged the laptop that created computerized room keys and contained guest information.

Defying the hostage takers, Generoso had switched her mobile phone to silent mode, and when a call came she scooted under a table to answer it. An Oakwood executive watching everything from across the streettold her: “All the planter boxes fronting the building have bombs, and I can see the detonators.”

Just before dawn, Rosetti, Brown and Generoso told the soldiers that there wasn’t enough food and water for the guests. The rebel leader agreed to release them,but the 35 employees had to stay behind. It was decided that the guests would be taken to the frontentrance and Generoso would escort them to waiting buses.

Generoso swallowed hard as she led the first line out the door. Hundreds of bomb fuses were strewn over the street. A guest almost tripped over a wire, causing panic. “It’s going to explode,” a bystander yelled.

“Don’t listen to them. It’s not true!” Generoso shouted back, trying to calm the disoriented guest. I could escape if I want to, she thought while guiding another group of guests but dismissed the thought for the two gruelling hours it took to lead everyone,including the Australian ambassador, to safety.

It wasn’t until 6.15 p.m., less than an hour before the government’s deadline, that the employees were allowed to leave. The moment she got home, Generoso received a call from her former boss Peter Lucas, now in Tokyo. “I saw you on the BBC,” Lucas said. “You were directing traffic so calmly. You have nerves of steel.” Generoso took one bite of a sandwich andcollapsed on her bed. The rebels surrendered around 11 that evening.

“It feels great to know that I was given a chance to make a difference and I was able to deliver,” Generoso says, “Now I can say I contributed something to the human race.”

— by Jennifer Yap Caspe

From the “Everyday Heroes” section

of Reader’s Digest Asia, June 2004

(Pages 10-12)

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3 Comments

  1. heroes are just ordinary people doing extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances…all the others simply fainted…lol.

  2. i wish we can always be sensitive enough and strong enough to rise to the challenge.

  3. Thanks! 🙂

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