Journey into Disaster
The first chapters
- Title: Journey into Disaster
- Author: Konstantin von Weberg
- Copyright: © 2020 Konstantin von Weberg
- Cover: © 2020 Konstantin von Weberg
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This is a translation from the German language.
I search for you! Would you like to check the English language? Please contact me by email for further information. [HERE]
Sixteen days of hell — as a prisoner — in a hot and run-down Police Station in the Philippine province.
The German engineer Thomas Heger is arrested during his vacation. What is Thomas Heger accused of and how do five little Filipino boys and their parents fit into the story?
Are the allegations 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 people who make money immediately with Heger’s story?
What very special Filipino mentality does Heger have to learn and painfully accept? Where do Western and Asian philosophies of life as well as customs and traditions collide?
How is his stay at the police station and what are his experiences with the police officers there?
How do his family, the friends and work colleagues in Germany react to the mortifying story? What’s about his Philippine friends from the village by the sea? What happens to the supposed child victims?
Does he pull his head out of the noose?
He just wanted to buy school supplies, together with the boys!
Come on an exciting roller coaster ride of emotions. Come to the Journey into Disaster
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 random and not intended.
The protagonists‘ opinions and beliefs do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the author.
Copyright © by Konstantin von Weberg for the Text, Cover and all other pictures. Any other publication without the written permission of the author is strictly prohibited.
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1. Saturday night
1.00. Unexpected visitors
I cannot know that the journey begins with a knock.
“Knock, knock, knock!”
There is a knock somewhere. Am I still sleeping or am I already awake?
It seems I’m sliding towards reality because my brain annoys me with thoughts and questions.
Its damned hot in the room. Breathing is difficult as it is stuffy and the air is stifling. But where am I and what time is it? When did I turn off the air conditioning because of the constant, disturbing draught?
The fog in my brain becomes clearer. Nevertheless, I’m still lacking any sense of time. In addition to the deep breathing of the children,there are other noises. They shouldn’t be here. There is talking in front of the hotel cottage. Now the door is being rattled. Vaguely I remember: Locked! The door is locked!
Another much louder knock and the door is rattling wildly.
Light flashes through my closed eyelids. There are many lights, surely flashlights.
Damn strong lights! I open my eyes, but I am still too confused to act quickly, feeling exhausted and having a slight headache. My mouth and throat are as dry as dust. The flashlights cast hectic shadow games on the heavy curtains and ceiling above the door.
Again “knock, knock, knock!”
The seconds pass, and I am still unable to act. However, my alarm bells are ringing: Come to yourself at last! Something is not okay — even pretty wrong!
Another knock on the heavy glass door. Now energetic and annoying. The knocking is muffled by the two part curtain, because it is as thick as a Berber carpet and covers the entire front of the room. I’m sitting on the bed now. I’m smoothing the bedsheets, putting the bedding back and tossing the pillow in its place. Behind me on the floor by the wall a boy is sleeping. I’m watching the opaque brown curtain. The calming breathing of the child at the wall is like the breathing of the children on the two beds in front of me. The children are still sleeping soundly unaware of all the knocking. I’m not surprised at all about that, as it had been a day full of great activities. Happy, but exhausted the boys fell fast asleep as soon as their heads had hit the pillows.
The light and shadow play from the flashlights makes the situation seem eerily surreal.
My inner voice roars: An overheated room, the children are sleeping, outside people with strong flashlights and then the knocking on the door. Wake up! Something is wrong here.
I remember that, throughout the day I had had those strange premonitions. That kind of gloomy, negative premonition!
I glance at my watch: 10:15 p.m. and think to myself: “No, it is 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 originates from the village we had travelled from this morning. I know Sam’s sister from the remote village and am also very close to her family. I am a welcome guest in the village and spend my vacation there. The village is idyllically situated on the calm river that flows into the Pacific.
In subdued light I walk in my underpants and shirt to the door, stumbling over a child’s backpack that is lying around carelessly and look through a chink in the curtains through the glass door. The entire front wall of the cottage is made of glass. A bright light blinds me and a red dot remains on my retina when I close my eyes. I put my hand over my eyes and look outside. I’m shocked by the sheer number of people. The flashlights throw hard rays into the velvety tropical night. I have a bad feeling in my stomach, and I’m asking myself: What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Why there are so many people with flashlights?
My brain is finally working, and alarm bells start ringing. I will surely know in a moment why the crowd is in front of the hotel room. The bad feeling in the stomach gets worse. Damn it, those bad omens today. Something is wrong, absolutely not right! After I am spotted behind the glass, they immediately stop their heated discussions.
Carefully, I open the door a little.
“May I have a look into the room, Sir?” asks breathlessly an elderly woman? Her English is good. She probably knocked on the door. The stout build woman looks at me, but avoids direct eye contact. A laminated ID hangs in front of her stomach, and she sweats and breathes very short.
Hopefully, the old lady is not hyperventilating and collapsing here, I’m thinking worriedly.
Despite the rapid breathing, the woman smiles. This upset me. Her smile is completely out of place, because everyone here knows that there is nothing to grin. The situation is neither funny nor joyful and certainly not amusing. The opposite is true. Mistrust and aggression are in the air. The negative vibrations are clearly noticeable in the tension atmosphere. They are almost grab-able.
Why does the woman smile so stupidly? I wonder and get angry.
The crowd stands around the old woman. There are employees of the hotel and other people. Some in civilian clothes are still recognizable as policemen, but there are also police in uniform. A professional cameraman is not missing. Indeed, a lot of people are outside and stare at me. Some are expressionless, others petrifying and others with smiling faces. There is a tense silence that is interrupted only by coughs.
That’s the tranquility before the storm.
A tall cameraman is behind the hyperventilating woman. At this moment I notice the camera’s green LED. The spotlight of the camera is switched on and turns the night into day. Nobody says a word. It’s an explosive atmosphere.
The woman in front of the door, she is maybe around 60 years old, repeats her superfluous question: “Sir, may I have a look into the room?” and ends her speech with an intrusive “Please!”
I’m answering with a choking voice: “Why?”
“Maybe a crime is in progress and a violation against our law.”
Behind the woman speaks suddenly an elderly man in a commanding tone: “We are here to check this, and we’ll do it now!”
The conversation at the glass door stops immediately, because there is somebody beside me which also finds that talking in the night under a bright camera light is useless. The short conversation was probably too much for the elderly man. At the moment he loses his nerves, claps the sweat hand on the glass door, pushes the door inside the room, the woman with the fast breathing aside, me in the room and at the wall. He presses his left hand on my chest and keeps me at distance. In his right hand shines and sparkles in the lights of the camera and the flashlights a high-gloss chromed automatic. I really do not have any idea of hand weapons, but it could be a caliber.45. The direct view in the mouth of the weapon scares and shocks me. I am solidified to the salt column. I’m standing still. Absolutely still without any movement.
The crowd pushes into the room and the little elderly woman — who probably knocked on the door — the guy with the automatic weapon, a young policewoman and me at the left wall in the room. That’s the wall opposite the three beds. There are typical things of a hotel-room, a desk, a flat sideboard with Samsung TV and the fridge.
Suddenly the policeman pulls me around and rotates me with my face 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 pawls slide over the notches of the handcuffs. They slide damn painfully to the stops.
Resistance is futile, it is screaming inside me. That they don’t want to talk, have made the uninvited guests quite clear. Crystal clear!
A truly cinematic scene, in which I am the main actor. Everything recorded? I want to cry out to the media-men, but I’m quiet. These are definitely guys from a local broadcaster. I can guess “ABC-TV” on the plastic cover of the camera in the lights of the flashlights.
The boys! I’m worried about the young friends.
But the boys don’t notice the chaos in the room. They sleep the sleep of the just. Just like children sleep. A volcano could erupt, or a high-gloss automatic weapon could be fired, they won’t wake up that quickly.
I’m not surprised that the little boys sleep so deep after the activities during the day. The exhausting bus trip to Tugalm City, the visit of the Shopping Mall and our lunch there. But the highlight of the day was the fun in the big pool-area of the hotel.
The woman from the door and a few other women, probably hotel employees, stare at the boys. However, they are still sleeping, and I realize they are wearing only underwear. The women hold their hands in front of their mouths or gesturing wildly with their arms and screech hysterically in unison: “Oh, my gosh!”
These absolutely artificial and annoying shrieks make me aggressive. It screams in my head: Shut up your stupid bitches. Why are you screaming so very noisily here? Is it the underwear? Millions of children around the world sleep like this, and nobody is naked! So there is absolutely no reason to make such a disgusting theater!
I remain silent and there are — of course — bigger problems right now.
After the pawls are sliding over the notches on the left and right hand, the huge, flashing chrome automatic immediately disappears. They probably recognize that I am not aggressive, but cooperative and calm. The attractive policewoman, with her high hair and the dark blue uniform, contributes to the instant relaxation of the situation. Her natural smile is far more effective than any automatic weapon. The situation relaxes. She smiles nice and credible. This smile is in opposite to the smiles from the small woman, who is now breathing a little more calmly, and the arresting officer, who has put all his pride — the automatic — between his belt and beer belly in his pants. The frozen smiles of these two persons twist their faces into grimaces. Disgust and hatred sparkle in their eyes.
However, the room gets full.
Where are all the people come from and — damn again! — what is so very interesting here?
Panic grabs 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 questions of the policewoman. In the room are already chaotic scenes. The children, however, are sleeping the sleep of the just.
At present the policewoman is asking 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?” Questions follow about myself and whether I am related to the boys, whether I am a priest, a teacher or a team coach. Confused, I’m answering her strange questions.
The TV team is two. One man continues filming with the camera without any inhibitions. The other is an impatiently pushing guy. He moves himself cheekily between the police and me, suddenly holds a microphone with a cover, that reminds of the fur of a poodle, under my nose and he immediately pours out his questions over me. The microphone smells like it looks like a wet dog. I’m turning away in disgust. For a moment the policewoman seems perplexed by the reporter’s audacity. The fat guy with the automatic loses his nerves again. He pushes the protesting media-man aside, demonstratively stands up in front of me, laboriously 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 increasing noise level in the room does the rest. My concentration is gone after the words “remain silent.” I’m more interested in what happens to the children. But they just go on sleeping soundly.
The policewoman kicks me out of my thoughts: “Do you understand, sir?”
The crowd in the room becomes unbearable, as there is a constant coming and going, and the room becomes full.
Again, the policewoman asks the question: “Did you understand, sir?”
I’m nodding, lost in thought, but then I answer honestly: “No!”
The policewoman shakes her head and says briefly: “Be quiet, please!” It’s very noisy in the room, and she speaks loudly.
Nobody takes consideration of the sleeping children, I’m thinking bitter. Be quiet, please! Echoes in me. Well, that they are not interested in great conversations, they made it clear tonight. I do not tell and keep my thoughts in me. The guy with the huge automatic has already lost the nerves tonight a few times!
The camera runs fast through the room, and the spotlight throws hard shadows on walls, carpet, ceiling, furnishings, our private things, on the children, on me and the countless intruders. Finally, someone finds the switch of the roomlight. There are more and more in the cottage.
The chaos in the room is now 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. The TV team meanwhile lights up the bathroom.
Woman circles in a swarm — this reminds me of Vulture, that fly over the prey — around the beds. Constantly I hear this “Oh, my gosh!” in these extremely annoying, pointed tones.
It is an abnormal situation. The boys are still sleeping deep in underwear (two without t-shirt) and they are filmed by countless cell phones, a pocket camera and the professional cameraman. The children can not protect themselves or complain. Nobody shows respect for the privacy of the children.
Although it roars in me, I’m whispering my words: “You are crazy? Stop taking pictures. Let the children alone. They are sleeping. What do you want?”
“Don’t talk!” response strictly the young policewoman.
The cameraman films on uninhibited children and the (supposed) perpetrator on full screen. My distorted face is zoomed into full screen again and again. Like this — really like this! — they love it here in the TV news. Action TV pure, rescue operation, chaos and shouting in the hotel room, a foreigner in handcuffs, police and small Filipino children. For the TV channel everything is exclusive, because there is no other TV team or reporter here.
Suddenly, I realized the true face of this blatant story. That’s a huge hit in my stomach.
A foreigner with five little semi-naked Filipino-boys catches in the hotel room! Stories like this going in the sky like rockets and are money-machines.
Nausea comes and I feel instantly bad. I’m sweating and start to explain the situation with a dry throat. The reporter immediately holds the stinking microphone under my nose. The policewoman looks at me sharply again and reminds me so in her words: “Be quiet, don’t talk!” Again, I’m turning away from the microphone and being silent. Nobody will listen to me, except the media team. I’m burning to defend myself and explain things. I’m reflecting, we could bring the story immediately out of the world, by talking. But on the other hand, how does it say so nice: everything that you say now, could be used later against you! How many times have I heard this psalm in thrillers. Did not reading the big officer the same?
There is a growing unrest in me and I need answers to my questions. Damn, what is the problem? Do they think, I’m a bad sex gangster?
I’m asking one of my questions: “Where is the damn problem?”
Again, the young policewoman answers: “We talk in the Police Station. Keep silent right now!”
A young police officer follows her signal and he opens a handcuff. The arresting officer — his hand is on the automatic weapon — is in tense alertness and would surely kill me if I’m doing a slightest wrong movement. I have zero doubt about that, none at all! All my movements are carefully observed. The young policeman searches my short pants, looks into my wallet, puts it back in the pocket of my pants, and hands the pants to the little policewoman, who has taken diligent photos. Without words but with a big smile, she holds me the pants and my sandals in front of my face. Without any words but without smiling I put on my clothes. The young policeman draws his colleagues‘ attention to the red bruises on my wrists. I didn’t notice that. Neither burning nor pain. I’m thinking, that’s the adrenaline. Now the handcuffs are a little looser.
The chaos in the room continues unabated. The five boys, however, continue to sleep soundly.
1.02. Running the gauntlet
It’s not the easiest thing to deal with this ruthless police officer. That’s fact! But if I’m thinking that he, in his shabby civilian clothes, is already finish with me, then I’m really 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 search 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 in 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, sir, 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 wake 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 smart phone. 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 on 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 are running. Now the cop behind me skilfully 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.
And I? 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 in turmoil and it screams in me: Tommy, defend yourself! Do something, do not let it 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 a 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 can not do anything. From one to the other second, I am powerless. I don’t have the power about 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 in 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 word has weight. The light switches off immediately. Behind us jumping pretty sporty people on the vehicle. These are surely not children. Carefully, I look around. There are two more police Pick-Up cars, but I can not 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 at the 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 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 in 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, lets them burst and wipes 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 get 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, in opposite of 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 neighbors 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 how he is counting with his fingers and hear the result: “Eight, no, nine, but I don’t even know a sister!” Sam is going sadly now: “Because she died as a baby.” Suddenly he’s starting to cry: “I wanna 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 in a 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 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 the Space. The left curtain is pink and decorated with motifs for girls: Barbie, 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, sir, 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, was full of actions. 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 after relaxing in the room, we went again in the shopping mall, for 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 joyness. 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, sir.”
The candy stimulates my senses.
The children are under police investigation and I can not 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 kindful: “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 maternal and trustful: “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, “it is 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 a refreshment?” she asks and recognizes how cute the little boys are. Ma’am Papillio is 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: “The cousin of Sam 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, ma’am.”
Aboy and Phil also accept ma’am’s 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?”
1.05. Damn, where is the problem?
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Copyright by NOKBEW™ • Oct. 2020