Friday, July 20, 2018
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At Large

A ‘feel-good’ story

I can’t explain how I got to watch “Ace in the Hole” with my parents in a movie house. After all, the film was released four years before I was born, and I was certainly old enough to remember the black-and-white movie and how it affected me emotionally.

“Ace in the Hole” tells the story of a lone miner trapped in an underground cavern and how his plight, and the long wait for a rescue, was exploited by a news reporter (played by Kirk Douglas) who saw the story as his ticket to the big time, away from the provincial journalism he had been condemned to.

At one point in the movie, the bleak scene of the miner in his dim confines is contrasted with the noise and tumult outside, where food stands, souvenir shops and “tours” for the curious abound.

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I don’t know if “Ace in the Hole,” which failed at the box office despite being helmed by famed director Billy Wilder, somehow colored my view of journalism and journalists. Or if, instead, it whetted my appetite for the profession which I subsequently joined.

But the image of a virtual carnival taking place aboveground while a man battled for his survival below, remains with me. I remember wincing at the thought of revelers drawn to the possibility of a tragedy taking place below where they stood, orchestrated by a journalist who thought the story outweighed all other considerations, including the welfare of a man whose imminent death had drawn all and sundry.

I don’t think such a carnival is a possibility in the remote area outside the Tham Luang cave in the Doi Nang Non mountain range in northern Thailand, where 12 boys and their soccer coach have been trapped amid floodwaters for nearly two weeks.

But photos of the site where rescue efforts are being coordinated show a field filled with vehicles, including ambulances, amid tents housing the international team of divers, along with Thai navy operatives and the families of the boys. I’m sure international media are represented as well.

The story of the “Wild Boars” team—12 boys whose ages range from 11 to 16—and their 25-year-old coach is shaping up to be the “feel-good” story of the year. Four boys, considered to be the weakest among the team, were chosen to go first with a team of divers, who used scuba gear and fixed guide ropes to lead the boys out of the narrow passageways and out of the cave. They were brought to a hospital and are said to be in good condition.

This is certainly news worth cheering about. But still worrisome is the fate of the remaining eight boys and their coach, with monsoon rains rapidly filling up the cave’s chambers despite ongoing efforts to pump water out of the cave.

Even more heartwarming than the possibility of getting all the boys and their coach out alive have been the multisectoral international rescue efforts, with divers with experience in cave diving flying in from around the world.

The Thai people have also been exemplary in their communal efforts to get behind the boys. A farmer who has rice fields with crops getting ready to be harvested said he didn’t mind his fields getting flooded by the water being pumped out of the cave, as long the boys remained safe and would be able to come out alive.

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In notes they sent out with divers who brought them supplies and food, the boys themselves reassured their families that they were doing well. When the coach apologized to the boys’ parents for letting them enter the cave despite the rains, the parents responded by saying that they weren’t blaming anybody and were praying for everyone’s safety.

It is, indeed, a “feel-good” story. And the fact that no Thai politician has sought to bask in the limelight of international media scrutiny—at least as far as media reports go—makes us want to cheer on the rescuers and relief workers who, as the death of one diver proves, are putting their lives on the line to save these young men.

They deserve our “thoughts and prayers,” certainly, but also our admiration and support.

rdavid@inquirer.com.ph

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TAGS: Ace in the Hole, Movie, Thai, Wild Boars
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