Thursday, November 22, 2007


This ube-colored firetruck is owned by Gerry Chua, the man who made a fortune from those ube-flavored hopias that he sells at his family-owned store, Eng Bee Tin in Binondo.

It is manned by volunteers and
funded by private contributions, mostly from various Chinese business associations. This truck is one of several privately-owned and operated firetrucks stationed across the city. The goal is to provide Metro Manila with free expeditious firefighting response units to supplement the services provided by the official firefighters of the city.

So if you live within Metro Manila or know of anyone who does, please take note of this volunteer firefighters' hotline: 0918-688-8888

In case of a fire, send an SMS message: Type in Report (space) specific location of the fire, and send it to the above number.

Incidentally, this entry was inspired by an article emailed to me by our fellow blgger, Romy. Entitled Rapture 911. It is a disturbing look at America's growing industry -- private disaster response teams for a fee.

* * *

Update: November 30, 2007

At the commemoration ceremony of the 144th Birth Anniversary of Andres Bonifacio held at the Shrine of Bonifacio near City Hall, Mayor Alfredo S. Lim acknowledged our heroes of today -- the city's volunteer firemen. Standing with the mayor and Senator Manny Villar are some volunteer firefighters from the Association of Volunteer Fire Chiefs & Fire Fighters of the Philippines, Association of Philippine Fire Brigade, and Fire Brigades & Communication Groups, Inc.


posted by Señor Enrique at 5:06 AM


Blogger Android Eyes said...

here's another interesting read about Disaster Capitalism, by the same author.

November 22, 2007 8:23 AM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

they showed it on tv some people who has acquired private "firefighters" to surround their properties with retardant at the beginning of the fire. i believe they have provisions for such with their insurance company, if i am not mistaken. they must pay extra high premiums to get this service.

November 22, 2007 8:49 AM  

Blogger mgaputonimimi said...

sana dumamami pa sila.. ^_^

November 22, 2007 9:41 AM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

I always see this ube-firetruck parked in front of the Eng Bee Tin branch in Binondo. And during there was a Maundy Thursday (Visita Iglesia) that they also distributed free drinking water to those who made the pilgrimage to the Binondo church.

A few years ago, the house beside my parent's home was struck by a fire. If it wasn't for the volunteer firefighters, nasunog na din kami kasi the fire was already going our way. We didn't get much help from the city's firefighters and in fact, they were asking for money when I was begging them to spray the eaves of our house para di na kapitan ng apoy. Bad :(

November 22, 2007 9:50 AM  

Blogger Sidney said...

I like those colorful Eng Bee Tin fire trucks.
I think the Chinese have something with fire trucks. I see a lot of them in Binondo.

Well, when government fails the private sector takes over. You see this everywhere. Mail, transport, schools, energy, etc.
Sad to say but the government is not particularly good in managing things.

November 22, 2007 10:20 AM  

Blogger pusa said...

wow so that is why this awesome truck is colored violet!!! and why it was parked beside the church and near the eng bee tin's store :)

i've taken a pic of this magnificent truck, it reminded me of optimus prime =)

btw, guess you've noticed as well that most firetrucks and volunteers in manila are sponsored by chinese, and most often than not they are always the one who arrives first!

November 22, 2007 10:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is kind of ironic to hear comments that these Chinese volunteer fire fighters are more equipped with better fire fighting gear than the city's Fire Departments.

I still remember that tragedy with the de Venecia family when they lost their youngest daughter because city firefighters weren't equipped with anti-flammable clothing! I hope the government does something about this deficiency.

November 22, 2007 12:07 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the color of the firetruck. I've seen one parked in front of Starbucks at Malate when I was there last year. Pretty impressive. And it's good that they have volunteers; at least it'll keep the place safe, in a way.


November 22, 2007 12:53 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

Galing! We need more people like these volunteer firefighters. Look at the sad state of the PNP fire trucks and other equipments--kinakalawang lang sa tabi ng fire stations. I'm sure the valuable parts have already been looted.

Hats off to you S.E. for sharing this good news.

November 22, 2007 4:04 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, Miranda. Glad to share this information.

The fire scene when the Comelec building had a fire was quite appalling with the sight of our real old firefighting equipment and vehicles. Scary, actually.

November 22, 2007 5:58 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

It's a very unusual color for a firetruck, isn't it, Kyels?

Sometimes, the volunteers help bring water to the areas who have no water like right after a major typhoon or something.

November 22, 2007 6:00 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's because those volunteer firefighters are often better endowed than our regular city firefighters, BW.

It's sad to see them compared to those high tech equipment and gear that NY fire personnel are supplied with.

November 22, 2007 6:02 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's the story behind that unusual color, Pusa ... hehehe.

From what I heard, the Chinese community also had to cope with corrupt firemen who would squeeze money out of them, and if unable to give any cash, their properties were simply allowed to burn to the ground. Hence the Chinese community created their own firefighting crew.

November 22, 2007 6:06 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And I love his collection of fire photographs on the second floor of his restaurant, Sidney. Some frightening fire scenes, indeed, huh?

Thank God for citizen initiative ... hehehe.

November 22, 2007 6:08 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The same unfortunate incident happened to my two aunts whose respective house was right next to each other. They were in church (during Holy Week) that afternoon that one's house had a fire. The responding firemen demanded money but the maids had none to give. When they all returned from churc, many houses in the area were razed to the ground except for a couple. Word was those owners gave money.

November 22, 2007 6:11 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Sana nga, Mimi :)

November 22, 2007 6:12 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And quite expensive those premiums are, indeed, Photo Cache. Pretty soon, the rich will be the only one truly protected.

Yup, they do respond quickly and make all attempts to save your house from catching fire.

November 22, 2007 6:14 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks for this one, too, Romy!

Excellent, though disturbing, articles.

November 22, 2007 6:15 PM  

Blogger Heart of Rachel said...

I've seen this firetruck parked at Binondo but I only found out upon reading your post that it is owned by the owner of Eng Bee Tin. So that's why it's purple. I learned something new today. :)

November 22, 2007 8:49 PM  

Blogger NOYPETES said...

Parang nuong unang panahon, Barangayan ang tulungan. I like the idea of a firefighter posse, similar to the Barangay Tanods. Ika nga.."Huwag mong i-aasa ang kaligtasan mo sa kamay ng iba"...Sana ang mga katulad nitong mga kaugalian ang maging gabay sa karamihan sa ating mga Pilipino na kinagisnan na ang pag hingi at hintay ng tulong sa halip na tulungan ang sariling mai-ahon sa lagak na kinalalagyan o kaya sa mga sakunang dulot ng kabihasnan.

The purple bus that plied the route in Pasig and Mandaluyong to Quiapo and back was popular back in the 70's for it's heavy metal sounds and leniency with dope smoking passengers. It was also one of the favorite buses to charter during the holy week trek to Baguio by "Hippy Families" of Manila. Willy Miles, an American seaman who jumped ship to marry our regular "labandera's" daughter drove one of those buses. My uncle took him in to work for his manufacturing warehouse in Pasig but was always goofing around and stole some stuff from the company. After his release from the Pasig jail, he worked as a driver for the bus company.

November 23, 2007 1:55 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That purple bus should have been preserved and displayed in our national museum, Pete! That would be quite an exhibit. At around the same time, in New York, there was an old school bus painted in groovy psychedelia but it was a boutique which sold cool hippy clothing and awesome tees.

I didn't know that smoking cannabis was quite popular here in Manila back then :)

As for our bayanihan culture, yes, I do agree that we should uphel our tradition of helping one another, especially during challenging times. As most folks claim, they'd rather have their homes broken into and robbed instead of everything being reduced to ashes due to some fire.

November 23, 2007 5:38 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Rachel,

I learned about it when I joined Ivan Mandy's walking tour of Chinatown. I would suggest for anyone to check out his walking tours. They're quite fun and educational as well.

November 23, 2007 5:41 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

First, most everybody still refers to these merchants and/or residents as Chinese.

Is that still the case, or aren't most of them now Filipinos by citizenship? If so, then shouldn't they be simply referred to Filipinos or Chinese Filipinos? I believe it gives them a sense of belonging. If they are engaged in most retail trade, then shouldn't they be Filipinos to start with?

Anyway, let's all call it the fire trucks that hopia built.

November 23, 2007 6:44 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

They're nowadays referred to as Chinoys, Amadeo; not "intsiks." But their establishments are still referred to as Chinese drug store or Chinese restaurant, for example; likewise with their business associations. By the way, membership in one conveys much esteem and prestige.

From what I was told, most of the city's Chinese business organizations are quite magnanimous, and actively participate in various civic and cultural affairs. Therefore, it is with great pride that the Chinese community refers to its businesses and organizations as such -- Chinese. No derogatory intentions are ever attached to it.

Unarguably, the city could use more of these volunteer firetrucks and manpower.

November 23, 2007 8:16 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nakita ko nga itong ube firetruck na ito. very attractive nga because of its unusual color. i even took a picture of it and made friends with the volunteer firemen of binondo.

anyway, im not sure if you've seen my sagada video but clickthecity is currently featuring. here is the direct link so you can see it:

November 27, 2007 7:00 PM  

Blogger reyd said...

Many thanks to these past, present and future volunteers of the Filipino-Chinese Fire Brigade.
Even in other major cities in the Philippines have these fire brigades since the main reasons they have been created were mostly posted by others in here.

Established in 1967, the thirty years that passed are witness to the courage and dedication of the men and women that make up the volunteer fire brigades. In every fire alarm, volunteers willingly risk lives to help people in need without asking for anything in return. Still, their efforts have been recognized by various organizations by being granted presidential citations, awards, and honors.

Taken from's - A Salute to the Tsinoy Fire Volunteers

November 29, 2007 1:19 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I will certainly check out your new video on Sagada, ByahengPinoy. I'm sure it's a good one as always :)

November 29, 2007 9:05 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

When I joined Ivan Mandy's walking tour of the Chinese Cemetery, Reyd, he did take us to a tomb of a Tsinoy volunteer fireman.

Thanks for the link.

November 29, 2007 9:08 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four fire trucks are parked in binondo Church. And yet, the Eliong Fire incident happened where 5 persons perished. Eliong is located less than 100 meters from Binondo Fire Brigade.
What happened?? What lessons can be learned?

March 06, 2011 4:38 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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