The Voice of the Philippines Season 1 winner Mitoy Yonting was among those who escaped the attack at Resorts World Manila at dawn on Friday, and recounted his experience to The Manila Times.
In a phone interview, Yonting said he and his band were performing on the first floor of the upmarket hotel and casino complex at around 12 midnight when they heard gunshots from the second floor.
“We were at the ground floor performing at the Bar 360. My band—six of us—just started our set because we’re scheduled 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. In the middle of the set, the environment was still alive. Eventually, I personally saw people running down from the second floor. We were used to gamble fights between players whenever we perform at a casino, so the reaction was the same—people running in fear,” Yonting said.
“I told my band not to panic because the audience was still there. However, five minutes after, there was a second wave of people running in hysterics. I told myself, ‘this looks unusual,’ the fear in the people’s faces was different already. So I decided to stop our performance,” he recalled.
Yonting said they were able to leave the building and head to nearby Villamor Air Base.
“I told my band mates to go down already because the band room was just beside the fire exit. When we got to the fire exit, we could hear the gunshots so loud, it seemed to be near us. That’s when we decided to go back inside and find a different way out.”
According to him, they walked toward the casino and got out in the parking area of the mall.
“When we got out. We thought it was safer already because we didn’t hear the gunshots anymore, but then another wave of people were running outside the building. So without hesitation, we ran with them as well.”
“We were able to go inside the Villamor Airbase. If I am not mistaken, we were around 100 to 200 people who vacated Resorts World. But when they (Villamor authorities) noticed that there were a lot of people already, that’s when officials decided to lock the gates. Of course, for security reasons, they were also worried suspects might enter also.”
“After that, they let us fall in line, we gave our names and IDs. After an hour, they allowed us to go home,” he added.
The 47-year-old singer said he got home safe past 2 a.m. Friday but left his car, gadgets, and instruments at Resorts World. On Friday afternoon, he got his car back.
Yonting still hopes to perform at Resorts World.
“We will still perform but the fear will be there. This has been my job for a long time, but it never happened to us. We just need to double our alertness. As I’ve said, if you die, you’ll die. But it is better to have a plan so we can prevent bad things from happening,” he said.
Aside from Yonting, “It’s Showtime’s Tawag ng Tanghalan” finalists Jex de Castro, Froilan Canlas and Eumee Capile performed at the hotel and casino but left immediately after their set finished at 11 p.m.
Alarm, sprinklers didn’t work
Several hotel employees who witnessed the midnight attack claimed that the alarm and the sprinklers did not activate.
A card dealer who requested anonymity said he was assigned at one of the VIP rooms located at the second floor of the casino when he suddenly heard the commotion outside.
But before he could get out of the room, the lights went off.
“The entire second floor blacked out. The fire alarm and the sprinklers did not work and we were engulfed in thick smoke,” he told The Manila Times.
He said he and the others in the room panicked because they knew that the casino was on fire.
Since there was no exit, they decided to smash the glass window and jumped out.
“Luckily there were some areas where we could step on to somehow lessen our fall,” the employee, who sustained minor wounds, said.
Another card dealer who was also assigned on the second floor said she was taking her break when the incident happened.
She was about to go back to her post but her supervisor told her in a panicky voice to stay inside the locker room. Still, she went out of the locker room and met a huge crowd. She said she knew something was terribly wrong because the basement was suddenly filled with frightened employees and players.
The group tried all the exits at the basement but these were locked.
The dealer could not recall how she was able to get out, but she remembered seeing thick smoke billowing out of the hotel and hearing explosions inside the building.
“It was really traumatic and we don’t have any intention of going back there,” she told The Times.
Another card dealer said it is possible that there could have been more than one gunman.
He found it hard to believe that the incident was carried out by a lone gunman because he heard gun fires and explosions coming from the second and the ground floor simultaneously.
The card dealer, who requested not to be named, said she was on her post at the ground floor of the casino when he saw a tall Caucasian man armed with a long firearm approach her area.
The gunman then started firing at the ceiling.
“He was a huge man wearing a bullet proof (vest) and his body was totally covered and I can only see his eyes,” the witness said.
She added that the photo of the gunman shown by media seemed different from the man she saw.
All three employees were working on graveyard shift when the attack happened.
With Jefferson Antiporda