5
reaction(s)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nobody's home



He was there sitting under the shade of one of those tents built oddly within the compound of Villamor Airbase. He was eating a Jollibee packed meal: a piece of heavily breaded chicken, a cup of rice and a small portion of gravy. His was a quiet scene amidst noise of disorganization, uncertainty and people walking in circles. 

His name is Aurelio Capili, a little over 70 years old (because he can not tell exactly how old is he). He is one of the thousands of refugees who chose to flee the heavily devastated Tacloban City in Leyte. 

He and the others said there was nothing left for them in that city. No food, no home, no loved ones - everything was washed away by the ferocious wind and water brought by super typhoon Haiyan. Two or three days of waiting, he said, and many of them refugees said, there was still no food, even a decent water to drink. So they took matters in their hands and let fate decide for them. They had to escape. 

Aurelio arrived in Manila Thursday morning. More than 356 miles from his hometown Tacloban, he arrived with one of those C-130 planes of the Armed Forces. He had plans. He informed the volunteers that gathered in Villamor Airbase that he needed to go to his relatives in Laguna. He said they will take care of him from then on. 

And so before night, the volunteers were able to bring Aurelio to his new home in Cabuyao, Laguna. There he was welcomed by suprised relatives who, of course, knew already of what became of Tacloban. When things appread to have been settled, the volunteers left. 

By Friday, Aurelio was back at Villamor Airbase. 

He didn't explain how, or what his relatives told him. He said he doesn't want to talk about it anymore. He said his relatives can not take him. That life is hard for them, too, and that they already have much to worry even without him. He said he understand and said no more. 

Asked if he has other relatives that can take care of him, Aurelio just shook his head. One thing is sure: he's not going back to Tacloban. What's the difference, he said. He has no home to come home to anywhere. 
10
reaction(s)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Thieves and beggars

"Nasa'n na daw sila?"

"Sir papunta na. Naghahanap na lang 'yung nanay ko ng kasama papunta dito."

"Sabihin mo bilisan na nila nagagalit na 'yung mga pulis."

"Sir promise maibabalik 'yung wallet at cellphone mo bago gumabi."

"Eh anong oras na kanina pa dapat sila papunta."

"Maawa po kayo. May dalawang anak ako, buntis pa 'ko."

"Kaya nga bilisan mo na. Sa 'kin okay lang naman eh mainit 'yung mga pulis. Kita mo naman pinagdidiskitahan ka."

Two hours ago

I was about to enter one of the popular malls in the city coming from an adjacent LRT station. I was already lining up for the usual inspection at the entrance when a woman suddenly cut the line in front of me. I didn't argue and just let her be.

She was a small woman, about five feet and two or three inches, wearing white plastic eye glasses, white shirt and jeans. Her hair was short with few highlights and she was carrying this little blue purse.

Five or six seconds passed, she left the line. She even voiced out her change of mind: "'wag na nga lang."

It baffled me. In an instant, a strange sensation filled my insides. Instinct told me to check on my back pack and there I found out it was opened and my wallet and cellphone were nowhere there.

I immediately scanned my surroundings. I thought the thief/thieves is/are still around. And then I saw the same woman who cut the line in front of me. She was already descending the stairs hurriedly, her eyes fixed on the exit not noticing me.

I ran as fast as I could and grabbed her in her arms. As I did, I called for the security guards manning the entrance a few meters away from where I caught the woman.

I told them of what happened. She was acting clueless. She said she was just about to enter the mall but changed her mind. She said she was not doing anything and that she just wanted to go home.

The security guards handcuffed her and brought us to the mall's security office. There, the security officers checked her purse and frisked her, but both my wallet and cellphone were not to be found. We concluded that she had few accomplices. She denied it.

The head of the mall security talked to me in private. There I introduced myself, who I am, where I'm from. I thought my identity made him more resolved to assist me. I explicitly told him I want the woman jailed. He nodded.

The next thing I knew, we hopped on a mobile patrol and we were headed to the police station.

Nerissa

As soon as we get to the police station, again, I gave them my identity. The usual reaction followed, but I immediately proceeded with my tale of what happened.

Then the police interrogated the woman. She was still denying she was the thief.

"Putang ina mo tanggalin mo nga 'yang salamin mo lalo ka lang pumapangit," the police officer said to her, slapping the woman's face. Her eye glasses flew straight to the floor with a tiny crashing sound.

The police officer picked the woman in her arm and brought her to a small room at the inner part of the station.

"Sir relax ka lang diyan. Bigyan mo nga ng kape si sir," the senior looking police told one of the policemen that gathered around us.

A minute after, the police officer came back and talked to me. He said the woman confessed her "crime." That indeed, her group were the one who took my wallet and cellphone. The police officer told me that he was able to convince the woman that if both wallet and cellphone were to be returned intact, she'll be free and no case will be filed.

"Pero sir siyempre sinabi ko lang 'yun para maibalik muna natin 'yung gamit mo. Sa huli ikaw pa rin magdedesisyon kung kakasuhan natin. Karapatan mo naman 'yun," he explained.

I nodded and agreed to the plan. I asked if I can talk to her. The police officers did not object.

She said her name is Nerissa. She's 29 years old and pregnant. From the looks of it, I guess her baby is about four or five months old.

"Sir pasensiya na kayo. 'Wag ninyo po akong ipakulong. 'Yung asawa ko nakakulong na sa Munti, may dalawa pa 'kong anak," she pleaded.

She said she was just a "bakero", a backer, and that she was not the "tagapitas", or the actual person who picks on the items the group is about to steal. There were three of them, she said. The other two were positioned behind me. The woman, she said, was named Alma, and with her a guy named Bong.

Apparently, she acted as bait. Cutting the line in front of me was their way of distracting my attention. It was then that her two accomplices worked on me.

She said usually she gets P1,000 or P1,500, depending on the amount of money or items they steal. It was only her second time joining Alma's group, she explained, but admitted that she was already doing it in Caloocan City with a different group.

Three hours after

The police officers and I were growing impatient. She was calling her accomplices and her mother thru her own cellphone that my stuff be brought to the police station immediately. My calm and reassuring voice turned vicious.

"Ano ba? Sabi mo kanina papunta na bakit wala pa rin? Pasalamat ka wala tayo sa Maynila. Kung dun ninyo ko dinale wala ka nang kamay ngayon tarantado ka."

At that time she was already sobbing. She asked me not to worry because my wallet and cellphone were already with her mother.

"Sir nasa nanay ko na. Pinakuha ko naman agad kasi baka ilaglag ako nina Alma. Sir 'pag hindi ninyo nabawi 'yung wallet at cellphone sampal-sampalin ninyo ko. Naghahanap lang ng kasama 'yung nanay ko."

I was getting frustrated. I wondered if I'm really getting back my wallet and cellphone.

Few minutes passed, the station chief arrived. He was a sturdy looking guy, probably in his mid 30s. He probably came from the Academy. I was introduced by his men and so, again, I recounted to him what happened.

After that, he went for Nerissa. What proceeded, shocked me to my core. The chief slapped her strong in the face and kicked her. Before I knew it, Nerissa was already on the floor, writhing in pain as she
was clutching her pregnant belly.

"Nasa'n 'yung mga kausap niyan? Ba't hinahayaan ninyong siya magtext. Ikulong ninyo 'yan," he sternly said. His men followed immediately

He took Nerissa's phone and talked to her so-called mother.

"Thirty minutes lang. Pumunta kayo dito kundi itutuluyan ko 'to," he said without even waiting for the person on the other line to respond.

Few minutes passed, an old lady with a teenager girl entered the station. She was carrying a plastic and from there, she whipped out my wallet and cellphone.

The station chief asked me to check if nothing is missing. A quick inspection proved that not a single centavo was taken. Both my wallet and cellphone looked exactly the same the last time I held on to them. 

The old woman pleaded for her daughter. Surprisingly, I felt not a single drop of pity for them. To cut the long story short, I still filed a complaint.

"Sir, kung hindi na kayo makakabalik para sa follow-up 'wag kayong mag-alala. Hahanap na lang kami ng kunwaring complainant," the station chief told me.

Epilogue

The police mobile dropped me in a mall a few kilometers away from the station where I can take a ride home.

While sitting on of those benches facing the night street, I noticed my hands were shaking. And then I felt my eyes were tearing-up until my sight became blurry. I immediately forced back the threatening tears and scolded my self.


I guess I was just really tired that time. I remember my last meal was breakfast. It was already passed 8:00 in the evening.
 

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