I recently posted a status update on Facebook, announcing my anger at the court ruling concerning the murder of two of my brothers-in-law, the injuries of another brother-in-law and the injuries of a sister-in-law. This happened in the barangay (administrative subdivision) of Santa Rita in Olongapo City. One of my Facebook friends (Steven) commented that he was planning to leave the country, never to return. He never found a comfort zone for himself or his wife. They’re both older than me. He’s an American and she’s a Filipino-American. More on that in a minute.
I met my future wife, Josie, in Olongapo City in 1983. She was 21 and I was 22. She joined me in Yuma, Arizona, nearly two years later (January, 1985).
I spent more time in Olongapo in 1986, 1987 and 1988. Josie bought the property my in-laws now live on in 1988 while I was stationed on Okinawa. Josie and our younger son visited a couple of times between then and 2003, when we all returned with the body of my deceased father-in-law. One of those times was in 2001, when some of my in-laws were murdered and injured by their next-door neighbors on the property to the right.
In 2003, I met the rest of the neighbors and they were all good people. In 2005, Josie and I made plans to move there. It was then that she bought the property to the left, between the creek and our other property. Well, she paid for it. One of the other in-laws became the property owner and it was changed over to Josie when we moved there in 2006. I found my comfort zone, despite the things that happened a few years earlier.
I can’t post all the details because of something called the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175). I could be charged with libel and if found guilty, I could be sentenced to 12 years in prison. A prison in the Philippines. If I’m charged while outside of the country, it would mean I could never go back.
On October 7, 2001, the other family attacked our family with multiple weapons. The only weapon our family used in defense was a kitchen knife. The court case against the other family dragged on for years, with court hearing after court hearing until December 18, 2013 (more than 12 years). Our family just found out about it a few days ago from someone not connected to the court system. Our family’s attorney didn’t even have the decency to tell us about it.
Our family, the rest of neighbors (and some other people I can’t mention) were flabbergasted at the final court judgment of acquittal. Josie was devastated. We know what happened and there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t even appeal the decision.
Despite all that’s happened, that place in Olongapo is still my comfort zone. The accused are free, but if any one of them steps foot on anyone’s property, on or near our property, it will be the last step he or she takes. In the Philippines, you can still kill a person for trespassing on your property.
Steven is living with his wife in Talisay (pronounced with emphasis on the “lis” part of the word) on the island of Cebu, which is also the province of Cebu. I mentioned what he said to Josie and she told me it’s a crowded city, with a really high crime rate. A friend of hers, here in the United States, is from that area and that friend swears she will never live there again.
Steven probably moved to that area because that’s where his wife is from. I’m just guessing, but I’m probably right. He describes it as a place full of liars and thieves, which is probably true. There’s more 200,000 people crammed together in that city, an area that probably shouldn’t have more than 50,000.
As you can guess, Steven never found his comfort zone in the Philippines. He’s going to be returning to his comfort zone in the United States. Perhaps, mentally, he never really left.
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