MANILA, Philippines – It was a normal day for the stall workers at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Shopping Center, until they saw fire coming out from the ceiling.
Fatima Giganto, 39, opened the shop at 7 am on Thursday, March 8, as a co-worker approached her and told her smoke was coming out from one of the stalls. Giganto had been with photocopying shop Blessings for 5 years already.
"When I peeked, there was a man walking with fire extinguisher. So I entertained a customer and photocopied first. Then the lights went out," Giganto told Rappler. (READ: From photocopying services to Rodic's: What's inside UP Shopping Center)
According to her, a customer instructed someone to turn off the main switch for electricity. When she found out that the fire was spreading, she ran to their shop and started saving photocopying machines.
"My co-worker Matt ran to our other shop and brought out the machines. I told them, 'Just bring out anything you can!' So we brought out at least 3 machines because that's what we can bring out," Gigante said.
Investigation is still ongoing but authories said the fire could have started between 6:55 am and 7 am. It reached second alarm. Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) declared fire out by 8:52 am.
Photo by Rambo Talabong/Rappler
UP Shopping Center was where students and faculty members came for photocopying and printing services.
With the fire destroying the center, Giganto is worried about their regular customers who run to them for urgent school work. (READ: Netizens express grief over razed UP Shopping Center)
"Many will be affected. How about those who need to have their thesis printed? How about their due dates?" she said.
UP 3rd year student Jeuel Barroso said the incident will have a grave impact to students like him who rely to the center for photocopying services. "We always get our readings here. Now we don't know where we could get such services," he told Rappler.
It was also home to famous food stall Rodics' Diner, a staple in UP since 1949.
Thelma Tecson, 3rd generation owner of Rodics' Diner, told Rappler it was "big loss," with the food stall recently renovated. (READ: The beloved Rodic's tapsilog)
"It's a big loss to us as we're considered an 'institution' and we're always part of the freshman orientation...The UP Business Concession Office [is in talks] to see how we can work things out to start all these businesses," Tecson told Rappler.
BFP estimated the damage to property at around P500,000 – with food stalls and various merchandise burnt to the ground.
The UP Shopping Center is currently placed on lockdown as probe continues.
The incident is the 4th fire that broke within UP in the last 3 years. Just last April 2016, the UP Faculty Center, home to offices of faculty members, was engulfed by fire.– with reports from Gari Acolola/Rappler.com