TODAY, a resident of Quezon City was stunned to see an ostrich casually walking down the street of a subdivision.
In an interview with GMA News Online, a resident named Dino Rivera said that he was buying things from a neighborhood store when the large, flightless bird took its stroll down the QC road and into viral fame.
But today’s strange animal experience is nothing compared to that time, a little over 17 years ago, when an elephant caused a massive traffic jam in the heart of Quezon City.
This happened way before the age of social media and camera phones, so few, if any, photos or videos of the elephant remain. But for those who saw it, the memory is indelible.
Sharing Spot.ph’s story on the ostrich, netizen Richard Mamuyac remembers the elephant incident clearly. “Wala yan sa elepante na nakawala noon sa Tomas Morato. Sayang 3210 pa lang phone ko nun,” he said.
In a May 9, 2003 report filed by The Philippine Star’s Matthew Estabillo, 21-year old Jumbo was an escapee from the Elephant World show that was running in Araneta Center.
According to the report, the elephant was both “agitated” by the heat and unused to a new trainer after its old trainer called in sick for the day.
Speculation in another news report said that perhaps Jumbo was a little horny; it was apparently mating season at the time.
Whatever the reason, Jumbo broke free from his enclosure, injuring two trainers in the process.
“Other animal caretakers were helpless as Jumbo crossed the road from Araneta Center, walked to Ramon Magsaysay High School and took a stroll along EDSA against the flow of traffic,” wrote Estabillo.
The elephant reached the restaurant-packed street of Tomas Morato, creating an enormous traffic jam as cars were forced to take alternate routes. Estabillo also noted that bystanders were cheering on the elephant.
Jumbo finally took a rest in front of the Equitable-PCI (remember that?) bank along Tomas Morato when an empty beer truck blocked his path.
As a resident hosed him down with water, Shige Ijima, a member of the Elephant World staff, fed him bananas. Thai handlers from the show were also able to tie Jumbo to a nearby tree.
By this time, a crowd had gathered to watch Jumbo, including kids who, according to the Philippine Star, had never seen an elephant before.
A blog post from Harvey Chua, written in 2007, relates what happened next.
Kathy Chua, Harvey’s daughter, was the founder of the MyZoo Volunteer Group Foundation. Knowing that a veterinarian from Manila Zoo was already on the scene, Kathy called up contacts in three countries to ask for help.
“The local vet knew he had to tranquilize the elephant but he didn’t know with how much or with what,” recounted Harvey in her blog post. “So, there was Kathy, without any degree in veterinary medicine, dictating names and dosages of tranquilizers to him. You can imagine that he was not very pleased, and very reluctant to follow Kathy’s instructions.”
The veterinarian — named in the Philippine Star report as Oyi Sebastian, but in a Gulf News report as Ed De Guzman — eventually packed a syringe with the necessary medication, and then tied the syringe to a pole. (It is here where Harvey Chua and the Philippine Star report differs; the newspaper claims that the veterinarian used a tranquilizer gun. The Gulf News said that De Guzman injected "at least three vials of tranquilizer" into Jumbo's left leg, but did not specify the manner of delivery.)
Chua continued: “He bravely approached the elephant – as far as the pole could separate him, and poked him, making sure his aim was on target. Then, he ran. Really fast. The fastest he ever ran. He knew the elephant would not be happy[.]”
The animal calmed down by 3 p.m., and eventually, the MMDA arrived with a crane to help transport Jumbo back to Araneta Center.
But Jumbo still had one little trick up his sleeve. When he was loaded into the truck, recounted Chua, his harness broke, and he fell into a taxi that was following.
“The taxi was the only casualty,” wrote Chua.