There are four stages in a fight. First, the trigger. I was in fifth grade when one of my bullies asked me in a tone that’s intended to mock: “Are the infamous drug lords in our city related to you?” Her query was not without substance. I bear the same last name as these big time drug suppliers. But I was too ashamed to admit that yes, these drug lords are my uncles, aunts and cousins.
Which brought me to the next stage — the cover. You see, weeks before my bully asked me the question that shook my core, the authorities arrested her police dad for possession of illegal drugs right in their own home. So I answered with another question: “How did you know? Did they supply drugs to your dad?”
Then followed the third stage: retribution from the enemy. She pushed me so hard that I dived in one of the classroom desks. So I finished the fight with the last stage, the payback. That’s when I ran back to her with my anger. I grabbed her hair and the next thing I knew, I was in the guidance counselor’s office for the very first time.
Before this incident, however, I was not fully aware that my classmates saw me as one of the potential drug den heirs in our city, like maybe one of the Yakuza Princesses in Japan. But I am no princess. In fact, I am a granddaughter of a poor farmer who later became a guerilla during World War II — a man who chose to till the meager land he got from his parents and to fight against the Japanese, instead of being a big-time drug dealer like his siblings.
My grandfather made a choice not to get involved with drugs. Eventually, his sons and daughters continued his battle, a fight that even his grandchildren are fighting until now. Yet the family war that his deviance created made no safe haven for his brood.
My family was almost massacred.
I remember answering a call from my panicking dad who was incessantly asking me where I was and who I was with. I was in second year college, living in a boarding house near campus. Immediately, I knew something was wrong, especially when I saw my mother at my doorstep in the city having traveled all the way from the province. It was just a few hours after my dad’s call. She gathered all my things in a rush. She did not even bother to pack my stuff in boxes. We walked out of the apartment with dress hangers in our arms. She even carried my newly laundered wet undergarments in her hands for all my housemates to see. When I asked why, all she managed to answer was, “Basta.”
Later I found out that my dad got into a rift with a dangerous drug dealer. The man was asking my father’s help in selling shabu just so he could pay for his daughter’s hospital bills. He lived not too far from our neighborhood and knew my father. He may have thought my dad was into the business as most of our relatives were. But Daddy refused.
Eventually, the man’s daughter died. And all he could blame was my dad.
What we didn’t know was that this man had a vast network of hitmen. We were their next target. The day my dad called me was the day my brother was nearly killed in school by an unidentified man who attempted to stab him. It was also the same day that my dad’s enemy threatened to find and kill me. He said my family would be lucky if they can still find my body floating in a river elsewhere.
My mother then transferred me from the boarding house to a hotel. She revealed that two personnel from Camp Crame had been keeping an eye on me in the past few weeks. Another tandem saved my brother’s life that day.
All of us became cautious from that day on. I had to stay in the hotel for two semesters. My family in the province stayed in our house so the enemy won’t suspect that we were planning to catch him. We pretended to renovate our home so my family can have an excuse to keep a bunch of men around — most of whom were undercover policemen.
All of this happened while the enemy kept threatening my dad through text.
The Retribution from the Enemy
The Texter eventually grew frustrated after a few more failed attempts to kill us. So he cooked up his big move. He decided to try to kill my father instead.
The layout of our garage was open, one with walls that were only about six feet high but with an extremely elevated roof. The leaves of our mango trees filled the gap between the top of the walls and the towering ceiling.
In one of the mango trees, the Texter hid one night. He was carrying a gun with a silencer, determined to shoot my dad up close. He patiently waited until my dad would go to the garage to feed our dogs like he always did. And when the timing was right, he was ready to pull the trigger.
Thankfully, the men from Camp Crame were one step ahead. As luck would have it, the Texter is on the top of the list of Most Wanted Persons. He killed one too many victims. Some of the bodies even ended up dumped on the yards of our neighbors. The authorities were more than willing to lend us a hand.
The Texter didn’t know that several agents were also hiding in the mango trees around him. How they knew the gunman’s plan, I never found out. But I will always be grateful that they did. My dad was unarmed in the garage that night so that he was a vulnerable bait. And right when the Texter was preparing to shoot, the police covered his head with a sack and knocked him unconscious.
The Fight Continues
A few months after this incident, I found out that the Texter was already dead. The police still had custody of his mobile phone so they received the messages from his hitmen asking about the plan to execute our family. I never knew how the authorities resolved this. All I remember was their assurance that we were already safe.
But some of my cousins are still not. One is under the witness protection program after he was ambushed for turning in a drug dealer to the CIDG. Another politician relative was attacked in his home by gunmen. We still don’t know his whereabouts. And just recently, a first cousin almost exchanged fire with two men in a motorcycle who were spotted lurking around his business depot. Investigators are still trying to find out if these have anything to do with the drug dealing ventures of our relatives.
Most people would say: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” But the families of my dad and his siblings remained firm in continuing my grandfather’s legacy of rejecting the illegal drug trade. We may have fallen prey to the dirty business of our relatives several times, but we are tough targets.
We take pride that our parents once lived in huts while their cousins relaxed in their mansions. My dad and siblings nibbled on kamote and mais for dinner as they watched their privileged relatives enjoy the sumptuous fruits of unlawful exploits. But they never complained. They were poor, but were never tempted to climb the easy ladder to extravagance that is drug dealing, supplying and manufacturing.
But for the rest of our lives, we will have to endure the curse that we are all of the same blood.
[Entry 116, The SubSelfie Blog]
Editor’s Note: The author of this article requested to remain anonymous.