Health chief campaigns against indiscriminate firing of guns during New Year as 15-year-old fights for life

What was to be a joyful occasion turned into a tragedy when a stray bullet hit a 15-year-old lass in Malabon City on her head as she was watching fireworks to welcome the New Year.

"How are we going to face this new year now?" asked Emilyn Villanueva Calamo's 34-year-old mother, Marilyn Villanueva, a fish vendor, as she stood watch at the girl's bedside, praying fervently for a miracle.

At 11:45 p.m. on Dec. 31, Emilyn, who has dreamed of becoming a chef one day, was watching the fireworks when she suddenly slumped on the pavement after she was hit by a stray bullet, an occurrence in the country during the New Year when irresponsible or drunk gun-owners indiscriminately fire their guns in the air. Emilyn was taken to the hospital. She is currently fighting for her life at the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) of the Dr. Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMC) in Manila.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, Marilyn said she could not believe that this has happened to her daughter, the eldest of four children, she who at a young age had displayed a great sense of responsibility and has become her pride and joy as they struggle to meet the needs of their growing family.

Emilyn, whose name is a combination of the names of her parents Emil and Marilyn, is a Grade 8 scholar at the St. James Academy in Malabon, attending the night class so she could help her parents -- both fish vendors at the Malabon Bayan Market -- by attending to the needs of her younger siblings.

"She's a gem to us," said her mother, recalling that on that fateful night, Emilyn even helped her prepare 'menudo', chicken and ham for their 'media noche'. She even tidied up the house, knowing that her parents were busy selling fish so they would have enough money for the New Year, Marilyn said.

Every New Year, she said, her children watch the fireworks outside their house as part of their family tradition. She related that when neighbors informed her of what happened, she ran to her daughter as fast as she could.

"Had I known ahead of time that this would happen, I would have just told her to stay inside the house and I would have wrapped her safely in my arms," she said.

"It's very painful, I feel like I am also losing my life now," she said. "I want the culprit to pay for this in prison. He ruined what was supposed to be our happy moment."

She expressed hope for a speedy and accurate investigation. She also appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to help put an end to the indiscriminate firing of guns during the New Year by punishing those responsible for it.

"I can see and feel that my daughter is fighting and wants to survive," Marilyn said, adding that they are now relying on Divine intervention and the power of prayers, especially after doctors said Emilyn's survival rate would be low if they performed an operation on her.

In an interview, Dr. Emmanuel MontaAa Jr. admitted that surgery would be too risky, as other areas of the brain could be damaged.

He said that they are doing their best to manage Emilyn's condition, such as by providing her the proper support system.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial asked the media to help campaign against the indiscriminate firing of guns during the New Year.

"(Emilyn) has been doing well in school and has a great future ahead of her. She is a scholar. But now, this. Even one death is unnecessary, it just breaks my heart," Ubial said in an interview as she held back tears. She visited the patient on Sunday morning.

She said that while there has been a significant drop in the number of firecracker-related injuries, the indiscriminate firing of guns continues to claim innocent lives.

Back in 2012, just a few minutes before the New Year came, a seven-year-old girl named Stephanie Nicole Ella was also felled by a stray bullet in Tala, Caloocan City. Like Emilyn, she was bright, talented and studious and dreamt of becoming a teacher. She was rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) where she succumbed to her injury.

Arrests were made but the suspects were soon released because the police did not have enough evidence against them, leaving the public to ask how many more dreams should be shattered before this practice is stopped.

Source: Philippines News Agency