Magnetic Hill: The Bus Tragedy of Tanay, Rizal

Magnetic Hill: The Bus Tragedy of Tanay, Rizal. Written by Bam Alegre for

For millennials, a selfie is not special anymore. Every waking moment usually has a corresponding picture. Most uploaded images in Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook even disappear after 24 hours.

But here is a particular selfie that will not be forgotten anytime soon.

For some of them, it was their last.

Image retrieved from FB account of Joy Pacquiao.
Image retrieved from the FB account of Joy Pacquiao.

Aftermath of the Accident

The students in the selfie were from Bestlink College of the Philippines in Quezon City. They were on a field trip and were only just a few minutes from reaching their destination, a recreation camp in Tanay, Rizal.

But they had a different final destination. On February 20, 2017, past eight in the morning, one of the buses reportedly lost its brakes while descending Magnetic Hill — called as such because it is a steep blind curve with a strong gravitational pull. Overwhelmed by momentum, the bus crashed. Sixteen people died, including the driver, a staff and fourteen students.

Edwin Caro and his friend were one of the first to respond to the accident site. They had photos and videos capturing the moments after the crash. But these are too sensitive to be posted online.

As I was writing this, I had just finished talking to Edwin and he recalled to me the events of the past 24 hours. There were countless bodies in the site, some barely breathing, others beyond recognition. The responders mustered enough presence of mind to bring the wounded immediately to the hospital and to retrieve the dead with dignity.

After telling me all this, he broke down and cried. He wasn’t able to sleep. He could still remember the cries of help from the students. He thought about his own children; what if they were also on a field trip and this happened? If they sign a waiver, will they really be unable to hold anyone accountable?

The first responders who were really just Good Samaritans.
The first responders who were really just Good Samaritans.
Ground Zero.
Ground zero.
Clearing operations.
Clearing operations.

The Perils of Magnetic Hill

A day after the accident, the bus is still there in Magnetic Hill, Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal. It can’t be easily towed because the vehicle has become an abomination. The authorities were already using acetylene torches to declutter the mess.

Eerily, the remnants of the tragedy were all over the place. There were shoes and food items of the students, a silent reminder of the horror that happened here yesterday.

Overnight wreckage.
Overnight wreckage.
Acetylene torch.
Acetylene torch.

Here are all the casualties according to the local government of Tanay. Our thoughts go out to all their families and loved ones:

Gerry Bernandino
Jeid Cabino
Elmer Cabrera
Jonahfay Cerezo
John Michael Dagondon
Arneline Galauram
Eman Gel Garinto
Charlie Magdaong
Robert Kenneth Pepito
Hasmin Samauna
Princess Nina Sentonis
Lovely Siringan
Jemerson Mesicula
Mark Dave Baday

In a blink of an eye, all the potential of the following victims vanished in thin air. However, what hasn’t disappeared is the potential of another tragedy in Magnetic Hill.

Residents describe this place as a killing zone because of its topography. Last year, two people died here after a sand truck collided in the same exact place.

And yet here we are a year later. No signal lights. No clear barriers. Just more casualties.

The steep blind curve of Magnetic Hill.
The steep blind curve of Magnetic Hill.

Blame Game

In any tragedy, we can expect a witch hunt that will try to find who is most accountable. The Tanay PNP said they will set a case conference to determine if it is possible to file charges of criminal negligence to anyone.

Bestlink has stated clearly that they will shoulder the expenses of the affected students — be it in the hospital or in a funeral parlor.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) sent a suspension order against the operator of the company Panda Coach Tours and Transport, Inc.

The Commission on Higher Education has issued a moratorium against educational tours in colleges.

But at this point, no matter what they say, no words will be enough to comfort a parent’s grief.

A parent waiting for the arrival in Quezon City of his child's remains. Photo by Mav Gonzales.
A parent waiting for the arrival in Quezon City of his child’s remains. Photo by Mav Gonzales.

[Entry 203, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Bam Alegre.

Bam Alegre is the founder of and writes from time to time as a guest contributor. He is a News Reporter for GMA News (2012) and a Special Lecturer for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the East (2015). He was also part of the team that won GMA News the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for the news coverage of super typhoon Yolanda (2013). Previously, he worked behind the scenes as a Segment Producer for State of the Nation with Jessica Soho and 24 Oras (2009-2012). He is also the vocalist, pianist and guitarist of the band No Parking (2005). BA Broadcast Communication 2007, UP Diliman. Read more of his articles here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Gerry Labatorio says:

    Sir Bam pansin ko lang sa european ccountries kapag ganito nangyari maraming bulaklak at kandila ang kanilang ilalagay sa mismong lugar ng trahedya upang ipagdasal mga nasawi. Marami ang nag-ooffer ng prayers. Pero bakit dito sa lugar na ito parang walang ganun pangyayari. So sad kasi puro Sisihan at turuan kung sino may sala.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bam Alegre says:

      There was a priest who visited with his parishioners and blessed the site.


  2. Levi J says:

    These bus companies disgust me. We travel a few times per year from Baguio to Naguilian and I refuse to take the bus downhill anymore. Between the bus driver’s reckless driving, and burning/screeching brakes… more tragedies like this will continue to happen. These lives were lost out a complete disregard for human life, so that a few extra pesos could be added to their yearly profits. The owner’s/supervisors/mechanics of this company must be held responsible for not properly maintaining their busses. They should be doing some hard time in prison to set an example… but we all know that will never happen.


    1. Bam Alegre says:

      I hope it comes to pass that we see someone punished.


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