Journey into Disaster
The first chapters
- Title: Journey into Disaster
- Author: Konstantin von Weberg
- Copyright: © 2021 Konstantin von Weberg
- Cover: © 2021 Konstantin von Weberg
English edition available on Amazon!
Deutsche Ausgabe auf Amazon!
Sixteen days of hell — as a prisoner — in a godforsaken, hot and run-down Asian Police Station.
The German engineer Thomas Heger is arrested during his vacation in the Philippines. What is he accused of and how do five little Filipino boys and their parents fit into the story?
Are the accusations against the German justified?
Where does the truth end and where does the fantasy begin?
Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator?
And who are the outrageous people who immediately start making money with Heger?l
What very special Filipino mentality does the German have to painfully learn and accept? Where do Western and Asian philosophies of life as well as customs and traditions collide?
What is his experience with the police and what about accommodation at the police station?
How do his family, friends and work colleagues in Germany react to the terrible story? What about his Filipino friends from the coastal village? What happens to the alleged child victims?
Is Heger able to pull his head out of the noose?
Embark on a Journey into Disaster and discover a very special Asian world.
This novel is fiction! Similarities with living or deceased persons, organizations, institutions, companies, places, etc. and/or their names and/or real events are purely coincidental and not intended.
The opinions and beliefs of the protagonists do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author.
Copyright © by Konstantin von Weberg for text, cover and images. Any other publication or reproduction without the written permission of the author is strictly prohibited. Any liability of the author is excluded. All rights reserved.
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1. Saturday night
1. Saturday night
1.00. Unexpected visitors
The journey starts with a knock!
“Knock, knock, knock!”
Somewhere is a knock. Am I still asleep or am I already awake?
It seems that I am slipping back into life — back to reality.
It’s suffocating hot in the room and breathing is difficult. Where am I? What time is it? When did I turn off the air conditioning because of the constant, disturbing airflow?
The fog in my brain clears up. Nevertheless, I still lack any sense of time. In addition to the deep breathing of the children, there are other noises. They shouldn’t be here! There is talk in front of the cottage. Now the door rattles. Vaguely I remember: The door is locked!
Another much louder knock and the door shakes and rattles wildly. Light flashes through my closed eyelids. There are many lights, certainly flashlights.
Damn strong lights! I open my eyes, but I’m too confused to act, feel exhausted, and have mild headaches. Mouth and throat are dry as dust. The flashlights cast frantic shadow plays on the heavy curtains and ceiling above the door.
Again: “Knock, knock, knock!”
The seconds go by, but I can’t act. My alarm bells are still ringing. Come to yourself! Something is strange — really not okay!
Another knock on the heavy glass door. Energetic and annoying. The knocking is dampened by the two-piece curtain, because it is as thick as a Berber carpet and covers the entire front of the room. I’m sitting at the edge of the bed now, and smooth the sheets, put the bedding and pillow back in place. Behind me on the bed on the wall is a boy sleeping. I watch the opaque brown curtain. The calming breathing of the child on the wall is like the breathing of the other children on the two beds in front of me. The children are still asleep and do not notice all the knocking and noises. This doesn’t surprise me at all, because it was a day full of great activities. Happy but exhausted, the boys quickly fell asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows.
The play of light and shadow of the flashlights makes the situation incredibly surreal.
My inner voice roars: An overheated room, sleeping children, outside people with strong flashlights and then knocking on the door. Get up! Something is wrong here.
I remember having these strange premonitions all day long. That kind of gloomy, negative premonition.
It is 10:15 p.m. No, it’s definitely too late for visitors.
Sam had texted his older sister today. Maybe she wanted to visit us at the hotel. His sister lives here in Tugalm City. Like the five boys who are with me today, she comes from the village from which we came this morning. I know Sam’s sister from the remote village and am very familiar with her family. There I am a welcomed guest and spend my holidays. It is idyllically on the quiet river that flows into the Pacific Ocean.
In dim light, I walk to the door in underpants and shirt, stumble over a children’s backpack and look through a gap in the two curtains through the glass door. The entire front wall of the cottage is made of glass. A bright light dazzles me and a red dot remains on my retina when I close my eyes. I put my hand over my eyes, look outside, and am shocked by the sheer number of people. The flashlights cast hard rays into the velvety tropical night. I have a bad feeling in my stomach.
What is going on? Why are so many people outside with flashlights?
My brain is finally working. Alarm bells are ringing. I will surely know in a moment why the crowd is in front of the hotel cottage.
Carefully I open the door a gap.
“May I take a look inside the room, sir?” asks an elderly woman breathlessly. Her English is good. She probably knocked on the door. The stout woman looks at me, but avoids direct eye contact. In front of her hangs a laminated ID. She sweats and breathes very briefly. I’m worried: Hopefully she doesn’t hyperventilate.
Despite her rapid breathing, the woman smiles. It upsets me. This smile is completely out of place, because everyone here knows that there is nothing to grin. The situation is neither funny nor cheerful and certainly not amusing. The opposite is true. Mistrust and aggression are in the air. The negative vibrations are clearly noticeable in the stress atmosphere. They are almost tangible.
I wonder and get angry: Why does the woman smile so stupidly?
The crowd stands around the old woman. There are staff of the hotel and other people. Some in plainclothes are recognizable as police officers, but there are also police officers in uniform. A professional cameraman is not missing. In fact, a lot of people are outside staring at me. Some are expressionless, others petrifying and others with smiling faces. There is a tense silence, which is interrupted only by coughing.
This is the calm before the storm.
The tall cameraman stands behind the hyperventilating woman. At this moment I notice the green LED of the camera. The camera’s headlight is turned on, turning night into day. No one says a word. It’s an explosive atmosphere.
The woman at the door, perhaps around 60 years old, repeats her superfluous question: “Sir, may I look into the room?” and ends her speech with an intrusive “Please!”
I answer in a suffocating voice: “Why?”
“Perhaps a crime is in progress and a violation of our law!”
Behind the woman, an elderly man suddenly speaks in a commanding tone: “We are here to check this, and we will do it now!”
The conversation at the glass door ended immediately because there is someone who believes that talking at night under camera light is useless. At the moment this older man loses his nerve, claps his sweaty hand on the glass door, pushes the door into the room, the woman with the quick breathing aside, me in the room and on the wall. He presses his left hand on my chest and keeps me at a distance. In his right hand, a high-gloss chrome-plated automatic glows and sparkles in the lights of the camera and flashlights. I really have no idea about weapons, but it could be a caliber.45. Shocked, I’m looking directly into the gun. I have solidified into a pillar of salt — standing still. Absolutely without movement. The crowd crowded into the room and the little older woman — who probably knocked on the door — the guy with the automatic gun, a young policewoman and me on the left wall. The wall opposite the three beds has the usual things of a hotel room: desk, flat sideboard with Samsung TV, and the tiny refrigerator. Suddenly, the policeman turns me to the wall. He professionally turns my arms in my back and a few seconds later I feel the cold steel on my wrists. These are indeed not pleasant noises when the handles slide over the notches of the handcuffs — and they glide damn painfully to the stops.
Resistance is pointless! The uninvited guests made it very clear that they did not want to talk.
A real cinema scene in which I am the main actor. Everything recorded? I want to shout out my thoughts, but I remain silent. Definitely a local station. I read “ABC-PTV” on the plastic cover of the camera in the lights of the flashlights.
The boys! I remember.
But the boys don’t notice the chaos in the room. They sleep the sleep of the righteous. Like children sleeping. A volcano could erupt or a high-gloss automatic weapon could be fired. They won’t wake up anytime soon.
I’m not surprised that the little boys sleep so deeply after the activities during the day. The exhausting bus ride to Tugalm City, the visit to the shopping mall and lunch there. But the highlight of the day was the fun in the hotel’s large pool area.
The woman from the door and a few other women, presumably hotel employees, stare at the sleeping boys. I see that they only wear underwear. The crowd holds their hands in front of their mouths or gestures wildly with their arms and screeches hysterically in unison: “Oh, my God!”
These absolutely artificial and annoying screams make me aggressive. Shut up stupid bitches! Why are you screaming so loudly here? Is it the underwear? Millions of children around the world sleep like this. No one is naked! There is absolutely no reason to make such a disgusting theater.
I am silent and there are — of course — bigger problems at the moment.
After the latches have slid over the notches on the left and right, the huge, flashing chrome automatic disappears immediately. They probably realize that I’m not aggressive, but cooperative and calm. The young policewoman — she has high-tied hair and wears a dark blue uniform — contributes to the immediate relaxation of the situation. Her natural, believable smile is far more effective than any giant weapon. This smile contrasts with the smile of the stout woman, who now breathes a little more calmly, and the arresting officer, who has put all his pride — the automatic — between belt and beer belly in his pants. The frozen smiles of these two people turn their faces into grimaces. Disgust and hatred sparkle in their eyes.
The room, however, is getting full.
Where do all these people come from? Damn! What is so very interesting here?
Panic grips me.
I’m still pushed into the corner of the glass front and the wall with furniture and TV. It is difficult to focus on the policewoman’s questions. There are already chaotic scenes in the room. However, the children sleep the sleep of the righteous.
Currently, the policewoman asks a few questions: “What is the age and origin of the children? Where do we come from and why do we stay at the hotel?” This is followed by questions about myself and whether I am related to the boys, whether I am a priest, teacher or team coach. Confused, I answer the strange questions.
The TV team consists of two. A man continues to film with the camera without inhibitions. The other is an impatiently urgent guy. He moves cheekily between the police and me, suddenly holds a microphone with a cover reminiscent of the fur of a poodle under my nose and immediately pours out his questions about me. The microphone smells what it looks like: a wet dog. Disgusted, I turn away. For a moment, the policewoman seems stunned by the reporter’s audacity. The fat guy with the automatic loses his nerves again. He pushes the protesting media man aside, stands up demonstratively in front of me, painstakingly digs a crumpled piece of paper out of his trouser pocket and begins to read aloud: “You have the right to remain silent…”
His rudimentary English combined with a strong Filipino accent makes it difficult to understand what he is reading. The rising noise level in the room makes it even worse. My concentration has disappeared after the words “remain silent.” I’m more interested in what happens to the children. But they just keep sleeping.
The policewoman throws me out of my thoughts: “Do you understand, sir?”
The crowd in the room becomes unbearable as there is a constant coming and going. The room becomes full.
Again, the policewoman asks the question: “Did you understand, sir?”
I nod, lost in thought, but then I honestly answer: “No!”
She shakes her head and says briefly: “Be calm, please!”
Well, that they are not interested in great conversations, they made it clear tonight. I don’t say a word and keep my thoughts with me. The guy with the automatic has already lost patience a few times tonight.
The camera runs through the room, and the spotlight casts hard shadows on the walls, carpet, ceiling, furnishings, our private belongings, the children, me and the countless intruders. Finally, someone finds the switch of the room light. The chaos in the room is indescribable. Some use cell phones to take photos or film the boys who are still sleeping. A stout, uniformed policewoman uses a digital pocket camera. Meanwhile, the TV team illuminates the bathroom.
Women circle around the beds in a swarm. This reminds me of vultures flying over prey. I hear this “Oh, my God!” without interruption in extremely annoying, pointed tones.
What an abnormal situation! The boys sleep deep in underwear (two without shirts) and are filmed and photographed by countless devices. The children cannot protect themselves or complain. No one shows respect for their privacy.
I whisper my words, even though it roars in me: “Are you all crazy? Stop taking pictures. Leave the children alone. They sleep. What are you doing?”
“Silence!” the young policewoman replied strictly.
The cameraman unrestrainedly films the children and the (alleged) perpetrator in full-screen mode. My distorted face keeps zooming. So — really so! — they love it here in the Philippines on the TV News. Pure action TV, rescue operation, chaos and shouting in the hotel room, a foreigner in handcuffs, police and small Filipino children. Everything is exclusive for the TV station, because there is no other TV team or reporter here.
Suddenly, I realized the true face of what was happening. That’s a big punch in my stomach.
A foreigner was found in a hotel room with five small half-naked Filipino boys! Stories like these are absolutely money machines.
Nausea comes. I immediately feel bad, sweat and start explaining the situation with a dry throat. The reporter holds the bad-smelling microphone under my nose. With a sharp look, the policewoman reminds me of her words: “Be quiet, don’t talk!” Again, I turn away from the microphone and remain silent. No one will listen to me except the media team. I’m eager to defend myself and explain things. We could clarify the questions immediately. Bring that all out of the world. But on the other hand, as it says so beautifully: “Everything you say could be used against you later…” How many times have I heard this psalm in thrillers? Didn’t the fat officer read the same bullshit?
There is a restlessness in me and I need answers. What’s the problem? Do you think I’m a bad sex gangster? I ask one of my questions: “What is the damn problem?”
Again, the young policewoman answers: “We talk in the police station. Be silent now!”
A young policeman opens one of the handcuffs. The arresting officer is immediately in tense vigilance and would certainly kill me with his gun if I made the slightest wrong move. I have no doubts about that — none at all! Again, the policeman searches me. He looks into my wallet, puts it back in my pocket and hands my pants to the stout policewoman who has been busy taking photos. Without words, but with a big smile, she holds these and my sandals in front of my face. Without words and smile, I put on my clothes. The young policeman shows his colleagues the red spots on my wrists. I don’t notice any pain. Certainly because of the adrenaline. The handcuffs are now a little looser.
The chaos in the room continues unabated. However, the five boys continue to sleep soundly.
1.02. Running the gauntlet
It’s not the easiest thing to deal with this ruthless police officer. That’s a fact! But if I’m thinking that he, in his shabby civilian clothes, is ready with me, then I’m pretty wrong. And even the media team doesn’t have enough yet. No, the show must go on. The fun — meaning the true action — shall follow now.
I confirm the contents of the Adidas backpack as my property. The police searched me again and put the wallet back in my trouser pocket.
Desperately, I try again to explain the situation. It gushes out of me: “The parents of the children are my best friends from the village. We only sleep in the hotel, because of the countless construction sites between the cities and the resulting longer traveling time. It is far too dangerous to return to Sendong City in the middle of the night. So late it is almost impossible to find a Motorela from the bus terminal back to the remote village. In Sendong City there are frequent blackouts throughout the city at night. No electricity, no lights means the crime rises, especially at the bus terminal and in the city center.” I’m stuttering the arguments out now and thinking at the same time: I risk my neck with my reckless talking. But I must do it and say it now, because I have to defend myself and want to prove my innocence.
Probably, the Filipinos don’t understand my fast spoken English with a hard German dialect, because during my speech some look at me questioningly, others are smiling and others have an astonished facial expression on their faces. The smiling unsettles me and makes me angry. The situation is serious. They handcuffed me! What — damn it — is the reason to smile? What in the hell, what? My anger doesn’t break out. I’m calm and quiet. In this exceptional situation, it does not occur to me that Asians hide their true emotions behind a standing smile.
The attractive policewoman — the name tag on the uniform shows her name is Papillio — gives me signs not to talk, with serious expression and defensive hands. After I ignore, she stops my torrent of words: “Please be quiet!“ Her forehead shows worries. She speaks in a commanding tone.
“Okay, okay!” I answer. My reaction is too hasty. It sounds too apologetic, too submissive.
It is chaotic, very noisy and overcrowded in the room. But nobody wakes up the children. I’m thinking the room is too turbulent for the arresting officer now. He has a brief eye contact with the policewoman, and the police removal from the room begins. The detective takes my hands, which are tied behind my back and pushes me out of the room. Some people follow and of course the camera to capture the news of the year.
The woman, which I opened, is now breathing much more calmly. She is roaming around in the room with many others. I look briefly in her face, but she smiles contentedly and takes permanent photographs of the children with her smartphone. I see the three beds standing next to each other with the children still deeply asleep.
Goodbye children. What will happen next?
The rough cop pushes and the camera greedily filming. He suddenly pulls my arms, until it cracks in the shoulder joints and hurts. I’m moaning in pain. Then he claps his sweaty left paw on my neck and pushes my head down. Clapping the neck wasn’t necessary, because just by pulling up my arms and the subsequent stabbing pain in the shoulders I’m bending forward. I never had been arrested in my life and never could experience wearing handcuffs. Well, I am not sure if this is the special Philippine police grip. In any event, we are, the small fat proud arresting officer from the Philippines and the bent German colossus, absolutely media suitable. Suddenly, in this posture the run is starting now. The cop behind me is slightly offset to the right and my head is down. We are walking faster and faster, quickly passing by cottages, shocked hotel guests, foreigners with very young Filipina, and families with children. The police action seems to have woken up the entire hotel complex. My boys are excluded from this. I am sure they will be woken up now.
Everything is flying past me on this hot Asian night.
We’re passing the beautiful pool-area with a water-slide and tiny waterfall. I see guests sipping cocktails at the bar and stretching their necks curiously about us. Then we are going through the lobby of the hotel. On the right is the reception located and behind the desk is a beautiful young receptionist. She wears a dark blue kimono, and is now looking down and then up. Our eyes meet in a split second.
Do I see a touch of sadness in her eyes?
During the humiliating run, we are accompanied in parallel by the running camera — in the double sense of the words, because I am and the camera is running. Now the cop behind me skillfully pushes me into a Toyota Pick-up. The front seats are occupied by the driver and co-driver, officers in uniform. They are not interested in me, and don’t even turn around and don’t say any words. The driver, lying half over the steering wheel, flips his cigarette stub out of his window. I am sitting in the middle of the rear seat. The cop, he did not tell me his name, is sitting on my right side. He doesn’t make the slightest move to take his disgusting paw away from my neck, and press my head down without any interruption and in a very media-friendly manner. And the camera is filming continuously. First through the driver’s window, then through the rear-seat window. But the place on my left is taken by the attractive policewoman — she looks like a Japanese woman — so that the camera’s view is blocked now. The adrenaline-driven idiot on my side doesn’t stop torture me. His paw acts like a screw clamp on my neck. He pushes me further down, grins extremely satisfied and chews an imaginary gum. Now he’s in a winning pose to impress the camera and enjoy the few minutes in the spotlight.
What about me? Desperately, I’m trying to understand what’s going on. Damned shit, where is the crime? Who gives these people the right to humiliate me here to the blood? Crime, crime, where is the crime? And what is that with the fucking, stupid camera? It is an inarticulate protest. Nevertheless, I’m at turmoil and it screams in me: Tommy, defend yourself! Do something, do not let it be like that! Do not be silent. But I am from a rational world and maybe this is the reason I’m doing so. Wouldn’t it be possible to clarify the problem in a short conversation? I’m deeply frustrated. Well, okay, the police vehicle and the hotel room are certainly not places for a complaint or even talking about a dispute or a misunderstanding.
I’m shaking my head and wondering about myself: My God, how stupid is my mind in this absurd situation! Closing my eyes I’m bitterly thinking: It happened, and it happens now. I am in their hands. First, they kick me down and second, they humiliate, condemn, beat or probably shoot me to death and then they ask…
…you are a perpetrator?
I’m painfully tied up! As a result, the handcuffs between the seat and my back cut the skin of my hands. I’m quiet. Outwardly it seems I’m calm, but it boils inside me. No one notices my desperation, the rage, the frustration and the anger. I have a high blood pressure, but I cannot do anything. From one to the other second, I am powerless. I don’t have power over myself anymore. My humanitarian rights are kicked in the Philippine dust.
This is a stupid police violence against me.
A barely perceptible gesture of the policewoman, and the proud officer on my right side finally removes the screw clamp from my neck. The wordless communication between the beautiful policewoman and the disgusting officer works.
“We’re talking in the Police Station, don’t worry.” The policewoman speaks to me in understandable English. She continues, “My name is Police Superintendent Papillio and this is CIDG Senior Police Inspector Sir Villanova.”
I’m moving a little forward and stretching my body, but the handcuffs are burning on the wounds. The cop beside me has a wide grin on his bacon face. I already forgot his name. It is not really important for me. Probably Papillio is annoyed about the bright light of the camera, because she instructs the reporters to stop the filming. Her words have weight. The light switches off immediately. Behind us, pretty sporty people jumped on the vehicle. These are surely not children. Carefully, I look around. There are two more police Pick-Up cars, but I cannot see my children. Now the driver is starting the engine, and the heavy car staggers like a boat and circumnavigates deep puddles. We’re leaving the rain-soaked parking lot of the hotel. Blue and red police lights flashing in the night, reflecting in the puddles and in the raindrops of the police vehicles. I hear the transmission, the engine and the siren. The driver is ruthlessly pushing his way into the flowing traffic and accelerates.
1.03. Police Station Number 1
Inside the Police Station Number 1 building everything appears tiny. While we enter an office, I’m beating my head at the upper door frame: “Ouch, damn it!”
“Be careful,” warns Officer Papillio, but it’s already too late. The collision wasn’t violent, but rubbing the forehead is impossible, because of the handcuffs on my back. I’m shaking my head to remove the pain.
Papillio commands: “Sit down there, please.” The policeman in civil clothes with the big weapon has luckily left the office immediately. A young policeman removes the handcuffs. Now I’m slightly rubbing the spot on my forehead. The wound at the back of the left hand is bleeding a little, the right wrist is only red. Stupid handcuffs. The other policewoman — she took countless photos in the hotel room — rummages in a half-empty first aid box, then she drizzles a cotton ball with a dark tincture of iodine and hands it to me. She also speaks understandable English: “Press that on the wound. Something like that gets infected easily. I’ll take a look at this soon and take care of it.”
“No need,” I’m growling.
The policewoman stands in front of me, examines my forehead and remarks casually and jokingly: “Well, everything seems to be okay with the head.”
Then she takes my left hand without asking me. I’m lifting the cotton ball. After examining the superficial wound, she attests: “Just a little scratch, be careful anyway. I’ll put a Band-Aid on it later.”
I feel only a little pain. Certainly because of adrenaline or shock symptoms. Probably both. My hands tremble slightly and it is difficult thinking clearly. Nevertheless, I’m reading her white name on the black name tag on her uniform. I’m gasping with a dry throat: “Thank you very much, Ms. Tolisan.”
Her answer is a forced smile.
Suddenly the office door opens. The cameraman and the reporter storm unsolicited into the office and immediately the microphone is under my nose. The camera light is switched on and blinds me. The guy with the microphone throws me questions in English that are spoken far too quickly. I only understand bits of speech: “Nationality? Hometown of the children? Why are you sleeping at the hotel? Old children?” I’m pushing the bad-smelling microphone aside. These impertinent guys are the last, which I need now. I’m protecting myself and holding my hands in front of my face. The iodine brown cotton ball is clapping on the floor. Blood and iodine running down on my arm and dramatizing the injury considerably. The camera zooms it and produces perfect pictures.
Policewoman Papillio unceremoniously throws the media people with a resolute “It’s enough!” out.
Seconds later, a loud discussion starts at the hallway at front of the office.
A young male voice shouts indignantly: “Leave the children alone! No interviews! Let us through!”
The woman who probably knocked on the cottage door is screaming: “It’s okay! Let them ask questions!”
The male voice complains loudly: “No, do not block our way! These are still children! Give way now, go away, disappear, you!”
Some children are crying loudly.
I hear the guy with the microphone yelling: “Hey, stay away from the camera!”
The older woman continuously shouted hysterically: “It’s okay, okay!”
The policewoman is rushing out of the office door. The commotion in the hallway ends instantly.
Now the five boys are sitting together with me on worn plastic chairs. It creaks horribly at the slightest movement. The children are in a pitiful condition. They look sleepy, have red eyes and disheveled hair. Aboy and Sam are wearing the shirts inside out. The normally healthy brown color on the boys‘ faces appears ashen. Sam and Dan are crying softly. Dan is leaning against his big brother Jan, his narrow shoulders are shaking as he sobs. Jan puts his arm around Dan brotherly and comfortingly. Phil and Jan are apathetic and absent. It seems they sleep with open, glassy eyes. Aboy definitely is sitting and leaning forward. His elbows are resting on his knees, the hands are on the round cheeks, and the fingers are touching the ears. Every now and then he is making bubbles with spit, letting them burst and wiping the spit on the concrete floor away with the yellow Islander flip-flops. The children do not understand the situation and are clearly under shock.
Aboy suddenly turns to me and is now asking in broken English: “Tommy, what’s wrong?”
I answer in English, because my Visayan is insufficient: “I don’t know? Probably just a misunderstanding, Aboy.”
“Your hand! The police beat you?” Phil asks me in plain English and asks again in his Visayan language: “Imo kamot? Sumbag?” He makes boxer gestures.
“The handcuffs, it’s just a tiny scratch.”
Aboy wants to know: “Tommy, why did they arrest us?”
I whisper, “I really do not know!” and shaking my head.
Papillio and the woman from the hotel — she is standing in the door frame now, and I do not know her function — are concerned about our conversation.
Policewoman Papillio puts her index finger on her lips. She tells us in English not to talk. She repeats this for the children in their Visayan language.
Papillio advises her colleague Ma’am Tolisan to give the children handkerchiefs. Some of them are still sobbing or crying softly.
They address the policewoman as “Ma’am” and say “Officer” to the policeman. My brain becomes clearer.
Ma’am Papillio orders mineral water from the young officer. Ma’am Tolisan gives paper-towels that she tears from a roll. She also talks reassuringly in Visayan with the children, telling them, all is all right, they shall calm down and brush their noses. The officer is back quickly. He hands everyone a small bottle of mineral water and citron-candy. I also got a tiny bottle and a candy. At the sight of the water, I’m aware of my dry throat. I’m drinking the cold bottle in one go, and the boys are thirsty too. The woman from the hotel is tapping impatiently from one leg to the other in the doorway. She avoids direct eye contact with me.
In the back of the room, opposite the office entrance door, there are two narrow chambers. In the left chamber I recognize a green camp bed with an open blanket and a crumpled pillow. In the right chamber, Ma’am Papillio is starting a computer at the moment. The desktop computer and all the equipment is on a rickety computer table made of steel tubing. The keyboard is on a pull-out drawer, in front of which Ma’am Tolisan is now sitting. Ma’am Papillio is calling the children into the chamber and closes the wooden door. The door has a dirty glass window.
The woman has meanwhile disappeared from the door frame to outside the office. I hear the drowsy and muffled talking of the children and the questions of Ma’am Papillio. Ma’am Tolisan, she is now wearing reading glasses on the tip of her nose, is silent and busy typing on the computer-keyboard. Sometimes, apparently when Ma’am Papillio has to repeat questions, it gets a little louder and I understand almost everything that is being said in the chamber. My Visayan language skills are sufficient.
Ma’am Papillio: “You do not know how old you are?”
Aboy: “I know that, but I just forgot yet!”
Ma’am Papillio: “Okay.”
A short time later, I hear Ma’am Papillio asking: “You do not know your mother’s birth name?”
Phil: “No, but she has the same name as my grandma.”
A while later, Jan is getting loud: “We all live in the village and are all neighbours and friends.”
Ma’am Papillio: “What’s the name of the Barangay, the part of the village?”
Jan: “Well, village, village by the sea.”
“Laog!” Sam answers cheeky.
“Tahag!” countered Jan.
“That is the border to Laog,” replying Sam seriously and adds: “We all live in the Laog part of the village.”
A short time later, I hear that Sam himself is getting in a pretty pickle. Ma’am Papillio: “So how many siblings do you have now?” I’m watching Sam counting with his fingers and hear the result: “Eight, no, nine, but I don’t even know a sister!” Sam is sad: “Because she died as a baby.” Suddenly he’s starting to cry: “I want to go home!” He’s sobbing loudly. Ma’am Papillio gives him a paper-towel, is speaking calmly to Sam and can calm him down quickly.
The recording of the children’s data is a tough affair, and I notice that Ma’am Papillio and Ma’am Tolisan try to be patient. The children’s concentration quickly drops. It’s almost midnight.
Meanwhile, it is the young Officer who cleans my wound. He also defended the boys in the hallway against the caustic media guys. Now he’s introducing himself: “I’m police Officer 1, Sarang. Just call me PO1 Sarang.” He has a friendly smile
PO1 professionally cleans the tiny wound on the back of the left hand with alcohol — that smells like what hairdressers use — and a cotton ball. skillfully he sticks a Band-Aid on it. Meanwhile, he’s asking for my name and is amused because I do not have a second first name. He wants to know about my nationality, my age, marital status, occupation and under which VISA regulations I entered the country and whether the VISA is valid. He also asks, if I need any medications or have any other suffering, that constant medical treatment needs. Then he asks the same questions that Ma’am Papillio has already asked in the hotel room. Whether I am related to the children or whether I am a priest, teacher or coach of the boys? Officer Sarang’s facial expression shows a touch of sadness as I negate these questions. During our conversation, he notes on yellow paper. Now he is tearing off the sheet from the pad and handing it over to Ma’am Papillio in the chamber. Then he gives me a bottle of water after discovering the empty bottle next to my chair.
“Why am I arrested?” My voice sounds frustrated and angry.
“Ma’am Papillio and Sir Villanova will talk to you. Please understand.”
The recording of the data of the children continues very slowly.
Also, slowly I am aware of the environment. Two of the six cloudy neon tubes flicker nervously. The cables to the tubes are patched several times and glued with insulating tape. Officer Sarang is now sitting in front of a laptop decorated with colorful stickers on the back of the screen. The walls of the room are bright green. In the lower area of the walls, there are water edges, probably from floods. Here and there flakes the color from the walls. Now I am also smelling the sweet odor. This is reminiscent of moist paper. Left and right next to the massive office door are small windows. Concealed they are with curtains that are more likely to fit into the nursery, than in a police office. The right curtain is light blue and child-friendly with typical motifs that address boys: rockets, airplanes, UFOs, planets, comets, the moon and stars and an astronaut that hovers in Space. The left curtain is pink and decorated with motifs for girls: dolls, white unicorns, horses, the sun, the moon and stars, vaults, rainbow, colorful lollipops and sweets. The stable but low office door and the tiny windows, creates the impression that it will probably have been the entrance area from the building.
I’m sitting in the corner beside the chamber. On the wall behind me hang various posters. The biggest poster symbolizes the different types of trafficking in different scenes presented in the cartoon style.
In large letters, the headline is “Human Trafficking”
There is an unshaven, greasy guy with oily hair. His suit is old and does not fit. He hands out money to a young, poorly dressed and naive-looking couple in exchange for a baby, which is wrapped in rags. Then the poster shows scenes with two young people. A girl and a boy in different situations. Semi-naked as photo models, the girl at the table dance, and the boy with the helmet and rifle. Both in heavy work, farming on the field, or in the household. The Internet and email-addresses, emergency numbers and data of the publisher are under the scenes.
Another poster gives information on what to do in the case of „VAWC“. Under the heading, this abbreviation is explained:
“Violation Against Women (and) Children”
The poster explains domestic violence. It shows a flowchart with the different escalation levels and the ways to an agreement until a judicial complaint. It has also email-addresses, emergency numbers and further data of the publisher under the information.
Studying the posters distracts and calms me. The trembling of my hands goes, but the pain of the wound increases, as well as the fatigue.
Misunderstanding! Roars my inner voice. The words are spitting around in my brain and keep getting louder. I pronounce: “Misunderstanding!”
Officer Sarang and the other policeman are looking at me.
“Pardon?” Officer Sarang asks.
“Sorry, but that’s a misunderstanding!”
“Sir Heger,” replies Officer Sarang calmly, “Ma’am Papillio or Sir Villanova will certainly speak to you in a moment. Just be patient!”
I don’t need Villanova and his chrome-flashing status symbol.
1.04. Say it!
In the meantime the group in the chamber will be quieter. Apart from the sonorous whirring of a table fan and the working noises of the two officers at the desks, it is actually depressingly quiet in the office. Through the window of the door I see Ma’am Papillio and Ma’am Tolisan conspiratorially approach the children. The children sit in a semicircle around the policewomen. Now and then the children secretly watch me through the smeared glass of the wooden chamber door.
I observe, the boys are tired and confused.
The day before this horror story began, it was full of action. First the bus trip, second, the time in the shopping mall and eating our lunch. Then two hours in the swimming pool. The boys couldn’t get enough. After swimming and relaxing in the room, we went again to the shopping mall for a burger and iced tea. But the main reason was the medicine for Phil’s toothache. Back in the cottage, the boys watched “Tom and Jerry” on TV and fell asleep very fast.
I remember the boys today. Their shiny eyes and their joy. The highest level of happiness!
I’m rubbing my face with both hands. After that my eyes burning slightly. I am totally exhausted now. Officer Sarang offers a menthol-lemon candy: “A little patience.”
The candy stimulates my senses.
The children are under police investigation and I cannot do anything, here in this cramped, shabby and musty police station. It’s stressful for the children and me! The children were woken up by strangers and are now under interrogation. Then the intrusive camera team. Why all this and what’s next? The questions are spinning around in my head, but there are no answers. It’s almost one o’clock, and I have a headache. Nevertheless, I noticed that the atmosphere in the chamber is getting tense.
Basically, the policewomen finished recording the children’s personal details. There are a few gaps in the data, but that is not important for now, because the policewomen know that the families will appear as soon as possible. As far as they can tell, the boys come from poor but intact families.
Ma’am Papillio and Ma’am Tolisan are a well-coordinated team. The wordless communication between the two can hardly be interpreted by outsiders. Especially not for children. They decide to ask the crucial questions, despite the late hour and the children’s bad condition. Ma’am Papillio and Tolisan move up close to the children and lower their heads as if to discuss a secret. Unconsciously, the children do the same.
Ma’am Papillio asks softly: “Does your big friend Tommy do strange things with you?”
Ma’am Tolisan adds: “Such things that kids should not do.” She’s stretching her arms, playing tiredness and artificially yawning: “Such private things. You know what I mean.”
Ma’am Papillio wants to know: “Did Tommy touch your private body parts?”
I see that the kids are shaking their heads, being silent and staring on the floor.
Aboy is the first who speaks. In an aggressive tone he answers honestly: “No!”
Ma’am Tolisan speaks maternally and trustfully: “Tommy has a very nice photo camera. It looks expensive!”
Ma’am Papillio interrupts Ma’am Tolisan: “Did Tommy take photos of you?”
Ma’am Tolisan becomes louder: “Without any clothes, picture when you are nude?”
“No!” the boys answer simultaneously.
Aboy is outraged, jumps up and screams: “Why should Tommy do that?”
Little Dan sobs a little, but doesn’t cry.
Sam is also upset, but says only “No!” and shakes his head wildly.
Phil holds his hand in front of his mouth. He has big eyes and looks scared.
It seems he keeps a secret, Ma’am Papillio mentally interprets this gesture. Phil stays continuously silent.
Jan and Sam, the two oldest, move with the chairs a few centimeters backward. Then Sam is holding his hands in front of his face. Jan’s face color is changing from pale brown to red and back again. The bodies become rigid and sweat builds up on the faces. They are quiet and will not say anything more.
Ma’am Papillio and Tolisan recognize how the boys go in self-protection.
Aboy drums nervously with his fingers on the seat of the plastic chair.
Dan and Phil lock up and fix the polished concrete floor.
Sam leaves the rigidity and his right knee is moving up and down.
Jan continues to look at an imaginary point on the wall behind the computer.
Ma’am Tolisan tries again awkwardly: “Don’t be afraid. You can tell us anything. We’re on your side. Trust us.”
The boys are silent. The conversation is very uncomfortable and embarrassing for them.
Ma’am Papillio is frustrated and realizes that she doesn’t get the five. She failed to build a bridge.
Tomorrow they will tell us their secrets, Ma’am Papillio thinks and gives the signal to end: “Oh,” she’s playing astonished and is looking at the brightly colored Mickey Mouse watch on her wrist, “is it so late? Time to sleep!” She claps her hands softly twice and whispers something in Ma’am Tolisan’s ear.
The children are remaining silent and continue to avoid direct eye contact with each other and with the policewomen.
Ma’am Tolisan carefully folds the yellow paper with the notes and slips it under the computer keyboard. At this moment she’s getting up and is leaving the chamber.
Ma’am Papillio opens a tiny bottle of “Efficascent Oil”, putting drops at the tip of her index fingers and rubbing her temples. Immediately the small chamber smells pleasantly of the essential herbals.
“Does anyone like refreshment?” she asks and recognizes how cute the little boys are. Ma’am Papillio says sadly: “Tommy is a nice guy. He likes you. That’s right, isn’t it? He is your big friend and buddy. If there were anything unusual between you and Tommy, say it, boys. I know this is maybe embarrassing for you. You may already know that adults do things that children don’t do. And all of you probably know a bayot — a homosexual? A man who lives with a man and not with a woman.”
The boys nod barely visibly and grin a little.
Aboy suddenly laughs: “Sam’s cousin is that one”
Sam immediately counters: “So what! What about Boboy? Your uncle, huh?” He asks for a drop of the green Efficascent Oil, rubs it on his neck and says: “That’s good.”
Aboy and Phil also accept the offer. All the boys thaw.
Now I’ll catch the boys, Ma’am thinks and she formulates the most important question already in her mind: Did Tommy touch you? She wants — damn it — to clarify the case! Here and now. She nervously takes a deep breath, is about to ask her question, but then the door slams open. The loose pane of glass is rattling.
The woman who knocked on the cottage door stands in the doorway: “Ma’am Papillio,” she is gasping breathlessly, “you want to speak to me? Did the children tell you something?”
Ma’am Papillio is frightened at first, then perplexed and finally angry. “Shit!” she hisses.
The woman in the doorway asks: “Sorry, Ma’am?”
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Copyright by NOKBEW™ • Oct. 2020 • update Dec. 2021 •