Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Child No More

Diana Limjoco at 13 years old
At the tender age of 13 my life took an awful turn.  It irrevocably tore whatever remnant of childhood might have lingered in myself. I only remember that my parents were out of town in the provinces...in those days, no cell phones, not even a phone in the province (bukids) for my parents to call and check on us.

A lot of the details of this incident are now vague, my brains' protection against the trauma I suppose. I remember asking my brother to take me to the beach in Batangas, I cannot be more specific and later you will see why. He did. He dropped me off, I assumed he would come back the next day to fetch me, which he did not.
After he left, I went to one of my real blood uncles beach house which I assumed I could use but was closed for some odd reason, even the caretaker was no where to be found. I strolled down the beach till it became dark and I came upon the home of a family “friend” allied by friendship since my grandfathers time. I knocked and my two “titos” were there playing cards and drinking, I’ll never forget, Johnny Walker Red! I asked them if they could put me up for the night, which they did in a cabana type screened in room.

Not long after I retired, one of the “titos” (everyone is a tita or tito back home that is older) to the door and asked me to let him in. I don't answer. Next is on the verandah, I can see him through the screen, inches away from my head, once again whispering, “let me in, I won’t hurt you, I just want someone to cuddle with”. Oh wow...this definitely NOT a good thing. Instinct tells me I am not in a good situation here. I’m thinking, what do I do, and where do I go now? The middle of the night, hours away from home, no phones, and I don’t really know anyone else I can stay with. There is another door which exits to the beach, but if I get up now, he will see me. I pretend to be asleep.

He comes back in the house and tries the inner door, while he is doing this, I literally leap from the bed and rush for the outer door, and dash into the moonless night on the the beach. My heart is pounding so hard I am sure everyone else can hear it. I hear voices, I see flashlights, and soon both of these “titos” are in pursuit of me. I am now prey for for the drunken mindless male predator which the alcohol has unleashed within them. I look to and fro, I slip under nipa huts as they go past me, hiding in the deepest shadows, barely breathing, heart still pounding, mind racing. I’m wondering, “why is this happening to me?”

I slip into the dirt roadway and see a house lit up, and people on the upper verandah playing mahjong, I recognize a woman who is an acquaintance of my family, I dash up the stairs, trying to be calm. I tell her my brother has not come back for me, may I sleep here in the house till morning, surely someone will come back for me then. She coos over me, her maternal instincts kick in and she leads me to a room where I promptly fall asleep from exhaustion. These men had been hunting me for most of the night and by now, it’s about 3 a.m.

In the morning, early at first light by the looks of it, I am awakened by this “lady family friend” and am told that she has arranged a ride back home with another friend, and that their driver was outside waiting for me. Roosters are still crowing vigorously. I thank her profusely and enter the car. My eyes close on their own, from the lack of sleep, and it’s a long drive back home. When the car stops, I can’t even open my eyes, I assume the driver is getting some ciggies from a street vendor before the long ride home... suddenly both of the doors in the back where I am, open and I am now surrounded by the two men who pursued and lost me in the night.

Oh my God, this has got to be a nightmare. This stuff only happens in horror movies. But no, they are real, still drunk, eyes bloodshot and in very bad, malicious frames of mind. I am trapped, I’m only or 13 or 14, I don’t have the cunning or conniving mind to get out of this one. They say do not worry, they will take me home, which I can sense is a lie, but hope it is not. Their malevolence is palpable. I do not know what to do, I’m so scared. I’m so angry at God again for letting this happen to me.

After driving for awhile I realize that they are NOT taking me home. We are somewhere in the outskirts of Manila and the driver pulls up to a house, I suppose this must be their “safe house”. Many powerful and wealthy males kept them to bring their mistresses to.  I’d heard about them. Now I am at one. This can’t be happening to me. I will not leave the car, I say, “ OK I’ll just drop you off and this is fine, my parents have a flat in Manila I can stay at, your driver can just take me there.” But there’s gun in my face now, and “ no, you will come with us or I willl blow your head off.” This is unbelievable. I’m so afraid I’m shaking uncontrollably, and they lead me into the house, where they lock the door from the inside with KEYS!! I’m sunk and I know it.

I make a dash for the bathroom, I lock the door, and I sit on the floor shaking and crying, and trying to think but too stunned to. I hear them twisting the door knob. Then silence. I’m trapped in here, there are bars on the windows..no way out. They leave me in here for what seems hours. Taunting me with words, calling me names from the other side of the door. Now cajoling, now threats, now silence. The humiliation I feel disgusts me, they disgust me. I throw up, I can’t even make it to the toilet bowl. Suddenly as I crawl for the toilet bowl, to continue my retching there, there’s a loud bang and a kick and the door slams open, I am grabbed my my hair, I feel a slap across my face, I am thrown down onto the bed and pinned down by these two animals. They just sit on me laughing, their breath befouling me. I am thrusting out like an animal, primordial survival instincts over ride thought. I’m biting anything that gets near me, I am reduced to an animal, I am willing to bite off the arm they are holding me by if only I could. I am slapped more, my hair is pulled more, my shirt is ripped off me, I want to kill them, I look for the gun to shoot them with, but one of the others is holding it on me, I can’t reach it. I am crying and the sweat of fear is rolling off me and my arm becomes slippery and I am able to twist to my side, roll off the bed and make a run for the door. He grabs my arm, another shot goes off, but the bullet misses me. I run into the living room. The front door is thrust open, and new man walks in, I drop to his feet, cling to his legs, “save me, save me” I am hysterical, inside me I am now screaming, but my throat is so constricted from fear my voice will not raise above a quivering whisper. “Help me, please help me.” I BEG.

He looks up and sees the disgruntled appearance of the two, I’m sure he too can smell their alcohol breath. He asks them, “Who is this?” they are silent, they look at me rapaciously, slyly. I answer him, he knows my family, my fathers' reputation for revenge, his bad temper. He is stunned, he literally seems to fly at them from across the rooms and grabs them and slams their heads into each other! Whack, cracking sound. They are dazed, fall to the floor...”Mga Ulol, mga gago” he says ( YOU idiots translated.) “What there aren’t enough putas in the world you have to befoul one of our own?” “Stay where you are”, he commands them, though I can see he is clearly younger than the two. He looks at me apologetically, he goes to another bathroom and fetches me up a towel to cover my ripped shirt. He looks from them to me, his hand rubbing his head in indecision. He apologizes, he asks my age, I tell him, he’s shaking his head now. Cussing and swearing at the other two.

He says “ I’m sorry, but now we really have to kill you. If your father finds out about this it will cause a blood war between our clans and this I cannot allow.” I go white, he pulls out a gun which I now see was under his jacket, I realize I’m going to die now, how sad and so young too.

The other two object. Now they are saying, “Wait, maybe we better run her over to make it look like an accident.” The other, “No! Maybe we should drown her in the pool to make it look like an accident.” They cannot decide how to kill me. I whisper “Please, don’t kill me, you don’t want evil to come upon your own daughters from this do you?” This hits home...they listen.

I say “I promise, I will never tell anyone about this. No one will ever know”. He says, “No you are a child and will not keep your word”. I look him straight in the eyes, “NO, I am no longer a child, I WILL keep my word. I have only one brother, one father, I do not want them to die at your hands, I will be silent. Please think of your own children, and the sins of the father”. We stare at each other, one imploringly the other, confounded.

He scratches his head...he curses the other two for drawing him into this. They cannot decide whether to trust me. He apologizes again to me, but he grabs me up, runs out to the car with me, opens the trunk and throws me in. I hear muffled arguments, they can’t trust me to be silent, they will drive somewhere and think about how to dispose of me, they are screaming at each other. No wonder I hate small enclosed spaces till this day. We drive, it seems hours again. “It’s so dark in here, walls closing in, can’t see, so hot, help me, help me. Can’t breathe, so dark. Mind sinking, sinking, now breathe, remember to breathe, deep breaths that’s it, don’t think, can’t think. I’m dying, I’m dying and I’m so young. It’s so black, I can’t see, panting. NO NO be still...don’t breathe, then I will die and this will be over. Why is this happening to me, let me out of here. Oh God, I’ve gone mad, help me.”

Finally when the car stops and open the trunk it is dark. We are in a grove of coconuts trees, still no moon, so dark. They open the trunk...I’m afraid to come out clawing at them. I hold out hope I can still talk them out of this. I sit up slowly, dazed and still in shock, I am crying again, I hate that I am crying and so weak and helpless, I BEG them again. “Please let me go, just leave me here and I will make up a story why I have been missing that will fool everyone, you will see.” Thinking of their own children now perhaps, and Gods wrath on judgment day (being Catholics) they relent. The younger one now says, “Ok we will leave you here. You must find your own way home”, he thrusts some money at me, “here,  find someplace to eat, busfare whatever, and if we ever get wind of this, if your father and his men come for us...YOU WILL ALL DIE. All of your family from cousins to aunties, ALL will die, do you UNDERSTAND ME CHILD?”

I climb out of the trunk, I look him in his eyes, I swear I will not tell my parents or anyone ever, to myself, I swear they will pay to God for this.  More curses are tossed at his brothers for getting him into this mess. He shoves the other two into the car before they can change their minds, as they were objecting to my release all along. They say I will destroy their lives, it was a mistake on their part, they were drunk they had no control, blah blah blah... “ No! The younger man screams to his brother, get in the car NOW”, which they reluctantly do. They drive away into the night. I am alone, I don’t know where I am.

They had thrown a sack out of the window when they left, I open it, in there a new shirt and pants to put on, probably bought at one of the stops, while I lay sweltering in the trunk. They fit, a tender mercy.

I feel befouled. Humiliated beyond belief. The air feels thick with humidity, my skins is crawling, my face a frozen mask of defeat. I’m so broken. I feel broken all over. I begin to weep, my knees give out and I fall to the ground face down, I pound the dirt, all I feel is pain, and more pain. Please let me die. I’m cursing life, I’m cursing God again, I vow revenge upon them. I know hate. I am a child no more.

I did an interview about the experience in June of 2007 for Cheche Lazaro, for ABS/CBN Probe Team, National Filipino TV show. It was called "Isang Estoyra ng Tagumpay", in English it means, "One story of  Triumph". Because I am a survivor; no longer a victim.  I felt I was a victim until I grew tired of hating. They took away that part of my life, my teens and midway into my 20's, I decided the best vengeance is to have a good life. And I have. One fabulous, amazing life. I guess you could say, ultimately I have forgiven them. Forgiven myself for thinking I might have deserved it.

I am in my mid 60's now and I have the life I always wanted. My life is a treasure and all those in my life are too. I truly love my life and am grateful for everyone and everything in it.


Here is a behind the scenes video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8xiaX0KT5s


2 comments:

clarabelle said...

FABULOUS AUTHOR ! More more, I was riveted.

May A. said...

A friend posted a link to your blog on facebook,I hope you continue to be strong, and may God continue to bless you and your family. Your face looked familiar, and yeah, you're that lady driving the e-trike!!Have a great year ahead!

Blog of Diana J. Limjoco of the Clan Limjoco