If You Think Your House Is The Safest Place On Earth, Think Again

Exactly two years ago today, I received a disturbing message back home. The security officer of the residential building where I stay in the Philippines reported that shards of glass were falling from my unit window sending debris down the driveway below. There was no one in the flat during that week. Hence, they had to wait two more days until a relative arrived whom I instructed to open the unit for further investigation.

When they finally gained access, they were astounded to find the kitchen window shattered by what seemed to have been caused by a gun shot. When the police investigators came in, they examined the area and recovered a bullet slug stuck inside the cooker hood that is adjacent to the window.

Pictures of the scene were emailed to me. The window glass panel was almost gone. But the cracks on the remaining fragments of the glass formed a spider web-like pattern that clearly showed the bullet’s exact point of impact. The bullet pierced though the cooker hood metal panel leaving a 2 centimetre diameter hole before finally lodging inside the hood and breaking the exhaust fan.

Where the shot came from

Having an engineering background, my imagination was already speculating on the next question given that the point of entry and the point of impact were already identified. And having watched too many C.S.I. episodes on TV add to my fascination on Geometry, it’s but natural for me to connect the two known points with an imaginary line and project it outwards to pinpoint the exact source of the gun shot. Since there was no other obstruction or buildings nearby, this theory lead me to only one place – the slum across the river.

Who pulled the trigger?

Guns (both legal and illegal) are rampant in the Philippines with or without the government’s imposition of gun ban. Slum areas are believed to be breeding grounds of bad elements. Incidentally, there is a military base right next to it. This made me believe that a man in uniform may also have something to do with the incident.

Who would want to shoot me? I don’t have enemies nor am I a gang member much less a politician. Or could my neighbor be a target of an assassination attempt? But the level above is my bedroom and I later confirmed that the units adjacent and below are unoccupied. Hence, it could not have been a hired killer.

Vigilum Culpa

The police investigators took the bullet slug to the crime laboratory for examination. After a week the report came out and they confirmed the bullet was fired from a rifle. I was adamant to find out if it was from the military or police and not a civilian. And my inkling was right. The shot was fired by no less than… a policeman.

According to the report, a group of policemen were chasing some bad guys along the slums during that same time period. To stop the crooks, the police fired warning shots up in the air. Unfortunately, the “up in the air” was not directed vertically upwards. Instead, the gun was pointed towards our residential unit.

Collateral Damage

What a shame! I was furious. I wanted to seek justice. Can I sue the “state” maybe for frustrated homicide or probably for damages to property? I wanted to follow up the police report and demand a formal explanation. But we were told that the police was not interested to further any actions on the case. They possibly want to protect their own men from potential liability and humiliation.

I have high regard for the policemen and still believed in the system. But after this incident, I have lost some respect and trust to those who were involved.

After discussions with my siblings and some deep thought, I decided not to pursue the case for two reasons: First, it would be a long and tedious process and I may put the lives of my loved ones at risk for a possible backlash; Secondly, I looked at it from a positive angle and thanked God for sparing our lives. In fact I was right there in that very unit with my wife and kids just four days before the incident. To top it all, my mother who normally spends most of her time in that kitchen was out of town during that month. Indeed, we were all saved.

This incident taught me there really is no safe place on earth today. Not even your own home. There are even people who get killed by stray bullets while simply lying in the privacy of their own bedroom, or people swallowed by sinkholes beneath their houses. If it happened to me, it could happen to you.


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New Year’s Resolution

When I was in the elementary, our school teachers often tell us to list down our New Year’s resolution at the start of each year. My classmates and I would come up with a very long list of items that we wanted to do, bad habits to break, or things to improve on. To this date, I have no idea where those lists ended up nor did we ever had a chance to revisit them to find out if we did accomplish what we aimed for at the start of each year.

Today, this is still being practiced by a lot of people. A typical list will contain things like quitting smoking, being punctual, spending more quality time with the family, anger management improvement, formulating a superb diet program, donating a fraction of wealth to charity, and the list goes on and on and on.

For me, it all boils down to one thing— the determination to change for the better. We can come up with an endless list of goals but we need to ask ourselves: “Is it realistic or doable?” We can generate an exciting list but do we ever review how we progressed during the year to ensure we are meeting our targets? More importantly, how often do we sit down at the end of each year to analyse how well we did with the list?

There is nothing wrong with having a New Year’s resolution. However, we must remember that we make resolutions not because it is the New Year but because it is our desire to improve our lives and consequently the lives of the people around us. If we really want to change for the better, we do not need to wait for the New Year to commence before we make the change. If we really are determined to make the change, we should do it spot on instead of waiting for a specific date. If our motives are sincere, we must wake up each morning throughout the year with a brand new outlook in life armed with a commitment to become a better person.

Happy New Year to All!!!

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In Memory of Tatang

If today your parents send you Tweets or hit the like button on your Facebook posts, consider yourself blessed.

It was the evening of October 4, 1981, just like any ordinary Sunday night in our little home in the province. My mother was preparing the table for dinner while my father was lying in bed with his eyes closed. He called me up and asked me to massage his back. It was probably a manifestation of one of those illnesses that he has been battling for years.  But the lazy young teenage boy in me did not want to oblige. He repeated his plea and I finally gave in. I massaged his back involuntarily and half-heartedly.

I woke up early the following day as I have to attend the Boy Scout parade organized by my school. That same day my father was scheduled to travel with my mother to Manila for another series of medical check-ups. I went to his bedroom to say good bye but he was still lying in bed sleeping. I didn’t want to disturb him in as much as I didn’t want to be late for the event and so I decided to go.

About a couple of hours later, while in the midst of the parade, a classmate told me that my mother was calling me. I turned my head and saw mother in the tricycle smiling and waving at me. The vehicle was fast moving away hence I failed to get a glimpse of my father who was inside. They were on the way to the bus station that would bring them to Manila. That scene happened for less than 10 seconds and would be the last time my father would set his eyes on me.

Twenty three days later on October 28, 1981 at about 6:00 PM, I received a telegram (no SMS or IMs yet at that time) from our eldest brother in Manila that read: “Father died at 3:35 PM today”. I was devastated.

If there was one regret I had in my childhood, it was that attempt to ignore my father’s last simple request to his son. And as the days went by, I began to realize he may have felt the end was near. He probably had an inkling we would not see each other again and so he made that one final request…and I blew it.

Oftentimes, we take for granted the most important people in our lives. We try to make amends when it’s all too late.

Show your parents how much you love them while they are still alive. Go and show your affection to them while they can still feel it. Tell them how much you care while they can still hear you. Always remember, we only have one father and one mother in our lifetime and we can never replace them. They are a blessing.

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