MANILA -- A young girl waved a Barbie doll in the air while a boy licked an ice cream cone. Another girl casually finished a bottle of water while chatting with a classmate.
Dozens of children were taken hostage on a bus yesterday by a day-care center owner armed with grenades and guns, but the youngsters took the ordeal in stride, eating pizza, smiling, and waving from the windows throughout the day.
The crisis ended after 10 hours when 56-year-old civil engineer Jun Ducat, who staged the episode to denounce corruption and demand better lives for impoverished children, released the children, put the pin back in a grenade and surrendered.
Jubilant parents were quickly reunited with their children as they filed off the bus clutching dolls, toys, and backpacks. Ducat was led to a waiting police car and driven away.
Manila police district chief Danilo Abarzosa said Ducat would be charged with 32 counts of illegal detention and abduction -- each count is punishable by up to 12 years in prison -- along with illegal possession of explosives and firearms.
"I accept that I should be jailed because what I did was against the law," Ducat said shortly before the standoff ended.
The excited students thought they were going on a field trip when they boarded the bus early in the day. Instead, Ducat had the driver take them to City Hall, where a handwritten sheet of paper was taped to the windshield that said he was holding 32 children and two teachers and was armed with two grenades, an assault rifle and a .45-caliber pistol.
Bus driver Deogracias Bugarin said they had loaded up with bottled water and eaten breakfast at a fast-food restaurant. Ducat said he brought along three chamber pots for use as toilets.
Jasmine Agabon said her 5-year-old daughter Joanne thought they were going swimming, so she had worn her bathing suit underneath her school uniform that morning.
"I cried in our house when I found out about the hostage-taking," Agabon said. "I don't know how to feel. Mr. Ducat was good. He helped people in our slum get jobs. He helped our children get a good education."