Waiting for her order at a restaurant, steadily growing frustrated at people who refuse to show up on time for a meeting, Azenith Briones thought of her kids and whether they would want to eat pizza for breakfast.
In the middle of deciding which flavor would be a good choice, the former actress heard a couple of pops. At first, she assumed it was only angry gamblers who decided to settle their losses in a bitter fisticuffs.
However, after it became clear that what she heard were gunshots and seeing panicked casino-goers fleeing in terror, she knew there was a chance she wouldn’t make it to the next morning.
She made a dash for the restaurant’s kitchen, but not before glancing at the attacker walking past them and firing his weapon. He was tall, hooded, and the only feature Briones could make out of the gunman’s face were his eyes.
The staff and chefs were already cleaning up when she popped in from the waiting area. Her distraught look served as a frightening cue for those around her to drop their mops and sponges.
They were surprisingly calm, she observed of those who helped her narrowly escape death as they made their way to a small room further back. Even when thick, black smoke began to filter in, they had the presence of mind to throw her a wet rag she could use to cover her mouth and nose, Briones recalled.
And as they staggered toward the ground floor of the complex, she thought of her husband, Eleuterio. Once there and safe, she grabbed her phone. “Nagri-ring lang pero walang sumasagot.”
Briones was at the casino with Eleuterio, who insisted in going with her as she met some of her customers. After a career in showbiz, she now sells jewelry.
Briones left her husband at the baccarat room –the last time she saw him alive.
The morning after, Briones made her way back to find her husband. Earlier reports of no casualties gave her hope. “Nasaan ang asawa ko?” she asked everyone she came across.
Her optimism was quickly replaced with grief, frustration as conflicting reports only sowed more questions than answers.
“Hindi mo rin kami masisisi kasi walang umaasikaso sa amin,” Briones said as she spoke to reporters from a funeral home on Saturday.
“Walang nag-iintindi sa amin or to comfort us or magsabi na ng totoo na may patay. Bakit pinaasa nila nung first day at pinagsasabi na walang casualty?” she angrily told reporters.
According to Briones, authorities eventually told her that the body of her husband was found in one of the restrooms, trapped with others. He was bleeding from his eyes and nose, which all but confirmed that he died from suffocation.
Surprisingly, Briones was awash with relief. It felt better than being given false hope, she said. She reasoned that if it was her husband’s time, then it was her husband’s time, adding that no matter how much she regrets bringing him along, she wouldn’t be able to bring him back to life.
Still, there’s lingering rage within her, especially with the country’s police force and those in charge of the security in Resorts World Manila. “Kung maaga na-[rescue] iyong mga tao na iyon, buhay iyon. Bakit hapon niyo pa nakita? Iisa lang ang gunman na iyan, bakit nangyari ang lahat na iyan?
“Ginagalang ko ang mga pulis at PNP pero kahit sino naman po siguro ang inyong tanungin, lalo’t na kaming mga namatayan at nasaktan –pero kahit hindi ako namatayan, mag-iisip ako na bakit naman ganoon?”
Briones said she is now talking with her lawyers over possible charges she could file against the casino.
“Ang bulok ng intelligence,” she added. “Nasaan kayong mga security? Kasi kasiraan na rin ng Resorts World iyon. Gusto niyo po bang pumunta doon kung ganito ang nangyayari?”
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