“ole’ Frisco with end of land sadness.”—Jack Kerouac
THOSE of us with sturdier anchorage can only wish there’s a handy button that quickly suspends gravity to catch mid-flight all the falling hearts off the Marcelo Fernan Bridge.
At around 2 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 17, a junior high school student found his spot on the summit of the steel arch and jumped to end his life. Mandaue City Police Office (MCPO) Chief Aldrin Villacampa checked on the bridge’s security cameras and said, “In the CCTV footage, you can see that he was sad.”
Sad, the kind that erodes what’s left of one’s humor and will to live, where one arrives at a crude method of self-termination. “It was an apparent suicide,” said Villacampa. The boy disembarked from a motorcycle, and walked towards the middle of the bridge. The weight of the boy’s walk must’ve informed Villacampa’s theory.
Not too long ago, another young soul, a 16-year-old who was pregnant, also leaped from the same bridge. Physics tells you that between summit and water, the human body crashes into a force equivalent to a speeding truck.
Every now and then, the Marcelo Fernan Bridge has become the method of choice for defeated souls who wanted to end their lives. It has become Cebu’s version of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, where between 1937 and 2012 around 1,600 bodies of individuals plunged headlong into the water 245 feet below—all of four seconds to the next dimension. The good ‘ol Frisco, as the poet Jack Kerouac calls it, lost its record to the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in China at some point.
Perhaps, the imitative nature of suicides provides a tipping point that bridge management bodies have to scamper for solutions. Talk about intervention, but it’s tricky engineering to put up suicide barriers on bridges. Regardless of the cost it entails, structural adjuncts mean added weight and an alteration to the original design’s natural balance.
Since Sunday night, the MCPO deployed a mobile patrol team to the bridge.
“We will deploy anti-suicide police officers on motorcycles. They will be stationed in the middle of the bridge from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. While they are on standby, their motorcycle blinkers should be turned on to signify that there is a police presence at the bridges. In the morning, we will also assign personnel who will monitor the bridges from time to time,” said Villacampa.
Well, the police will have their eyes on 1,237 meters of platform, that’s the whole span of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge.
Meanwhile, the Mactan-Cebu Bridge Management Board logs the incident into its agenda, mulling security camera upgrades to closely monitor behavioral patterns on the bridge.
There is a lot to learn from the practices at the ‘ol Frisco. Government fitted a suicide hotline telephone right on the bridge. It also at one time deployed volunteers, even iron workers who had fair knowledge of the bridge’s structure and experience in working over heights were trained to rescue suicide attempts.
All the best minds can come up with solutions to beat the growing lure of Cebu’s bridges as the romantic spots to end all sadness. The incidents come at a time when there looms the third bridge, apparently higher, a more fatal option.
In the end, there is that whole discussion as well that even when we succeed on the bridge, the options are still everywhere for the weary to end their lives. Thus, the need to buckle down for real policies on mental health.