From far away Biringan City, Teresa’s neighbors had gathered inside her scant living room to watch the Senate investigation on live TV. She had earlier told them she recognized Vice Mayor Junie Justicador and whose mention of the melee at the Lacson Underpass that led to his father’s death had brought her reminiscing of a trying life of years ago. When Junie mentioned Boy Deo’s name and unexpectedly called to testify, her heart jumped. Boy Deo was unexpectedly called to testify, her heart jumped. Before she saw him beside Junie, she thought she also saw him at the One Nation Workshop, but she remained unsure of Boy Deo’s identity until Junie mentioned his name.
Although true-to-life events have partly inspired the stories presented in Miracles of Quiapo, this work in its totality is a work of fiction, a novel. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. No offense is intended for any mention of names, places or things that bears similarities with actual or existing names of persons (natural or juridical), places or things.
Teresa thought there was nothing else that Boy Deo could do to surprise her. But his expose on her sister Waday reminded her of how often she underestimated his resourcefulness. She remembered she mentioned to Katalina about seeing Waday at the Correctional before she left Novaliches for Biringan a week after Luzie’s death.
She did see Waday at the Correctional Institute; she found her able to somehow cope with her emotional burden. The problem was not so much about the putrid condition of the prison facilities as it was about nursing the thought that one was in jail for a crime committed by another. Dayamante’s wife had paid the parent of the family to sue Waday; she also paid witnesses who testified that Waday was behind the wheel when the Land Cruiser rammed into the wooden cart where the infant was sleeping.
Waday had already served 17 years of her 25-year sentence. Another 8 years not only compounded the injustice imposed on her. They also offered her opportunities to recouped what should have been the best years of her life. Teresa vowed that she would do anything within her means to ask the court to re-open Waday’s case. When Boy Deo brought it up in a forum that was followed by practically the entire country, she knew that Waday had a chance. But for an ongoing workshop she was facilitiating for fisherfolks in Biringan City, she could have boarded the next flight from nearby Tacloban City to Manila. There were two very urgent itineraries: one, to see the Vice Mayor where she was certain she would be meeting Boy Deo for the first time since she left him almost twenty years ago and, two, revive Waday’s case.
IT LOOKED LIKE city hall was having a fiesta. Banners—propelled to exuberance by occasional breezes from the Manila Bay—hanged from its windows, extolling the Vice Mayor and his Executive Assistant, Boy Deo. Confetti droped from nearby buildings. Music bands played live music at the quadrangle. Giant caterers and fast-food outlets offered free food and refreshment for city government employees and their guests.
Today, 22 February 2003, was Junie’s 26th birth anniversary. Like his father, he married a childhood girlfriend when he turned 25. His wife, Sarah, was now four months pregnant with their first child, whose gender—male—has been suggested by an ultrasound scan.
Eleven days ago, he, Gidaben and Boy Deo rocked the Senate investigation with their explosive testimonies. Starting with the evening news on that day, until today, media could not seem to get enough of clips and snippets from that day of revelations at the Senate.
Streams upon streams of distinguished visitors called on Junie in his office. Government officials, business moguls, entertainers, academicians and politicians of all persuasions, congratulated and wished him luck. Ambassadors and diplomats broke protocol to hobnob with the latest Cinderella of Philippine politics.
Monsignor Ubanon and Father Andoy, who also sought an audience with Boy Deo, also came. Ubanon said he wanted to hug both young men after they gave their testimonies, but the ensuing chaos prevented him to do so. He further said that linking Sylvia Monir’s testimony to that of Father Andoy got them excited; they entertained the idea that Boy Deo was the one the Quiapo clergy had baptized as Leandro Deo Renato Moscavida in March of 1976. But when the Vice Mayor mentioned his name as Deodatu Biradayon, they felt heartbroken. But just the same the priests found it awesome that Boy Deo had finished his high school education at the Quiapo Catholic School.
Media networks encamped their transmission equipment within the vicinity of city hall. Reporters milled about in the hope of being the first to break stories regarding Junie and Boy Deo.
Broadsheets and tabloids made a killing with headlines that screamed—like “Gidaben Dunks the Police into Dustbin of Shame”, “El Chapo’s Confessions”, “Senate Digs Up A 20-Year-Old Grave”, “Nation Mourns with Junie,” “Vinegar Boy Deo: The Man Who Exposed a Fake Diamond”, “From the Eyes to the Brain to the CCTV”, “Dayamante Gone Forever?”, etc.
The fallout from the Senate investigation was quick and nasty. Makatigbas and his allies in the Senate did not object to a multi-party proposal for Dayamante to be investigated further by the Ethics Committee. The Justice Department pulled out Waday Biradayon’s folder and was quoted by the press the other day that there was basis to re-open her case, given Boy Deo’s sworn testimony.
Mayor De Mozo tried to weather what for him had been a turbulent week by downplaying the digressions of the recently concluded Senate investigation as politically motivated.
He was right, of course. A year ago, the base constituencies of both he and Makatigbas were pushing hard to project them as possible frontrunners for the presidential derby in 2004. Now with a little over a year to go before the elections, they grappled with urgent questions of how to control the damage that had been inflicted on their principal’s respective reputations. Almost everyone knew that the humps erected by their unmasking were too high to overcome: De Mozo was unmasked by the Senate; Makatigbas was embarrassed by the police chopper crash. Hecklers in media had commented that the two of them might have seen the last of their happy days.
While both De Mozo and Makatigbas had police and military backgrounds, it was De Mozo who enjoyed greater support from the military establishment. Makatigbas, on the other hand, had broadened his constituency among pillars of big business. Anything that debased the credibility of the police hurt De Mozo’s reputation more than it did Makatigbas’. So, yes, he was right: the Senate investigation reeked of political odor. At first, he could not sniff it from afar, but soon, even with Dayamante coming in as the fumbling knight with shining armor, as it were, he knew his rude awakening was coming. Ode to the elders, he berated himself, who had warned him of how rotten politics could be.
While the investigation started with an expose of wayward orphanages and corrupt judges, it ended with rogue cops. By the inescapable inference that De Mozo was one of the rogue cops, if not the top rogue cop himself, his political future had been crushed to irrelevance. His efforts to mitigate the institutional damage by explaining through media interviews that rogue cops constituted but a very small minority in the entire police force sounded like he had never been a bad cop. But he merely pounded more nail on his political coffin. The more he opened his mouth, the more media came up with reports of his involvement in organized criminal activities. The greatest fear of all—that his OXD links could be exposed—hounded him towards the exit of an otherwise financially-rewarding public life.
IT WAS AN emotional re-union, to say the least, when Teresa met Boy Deo inside Junie’s office. Surrogate mother and surrogate son talked for almost an hour privately, after which Junie offered to bring her to their Sampaloc home so she could also see his mother, Katalina, whom Teresa had valued like a sister.
Joey Ty wanted to celebrate Junie’s rise in politics by donating his real estate property in Sampaloc. However, Junie insisted that he pay for it, even in several installments. It was therefore with reluctance that Joey eventually sold the property to the Vice Mayor.
Junie had the apartment renovated and expanded to accommodate the garage for his city government-issued vehicle. Quite an indication of what now appeared to be his unstoppable rise to the highest office of the city government were more offers of real estate properties from top developers; all he needed to do was grab them. The city mayor, after all, had the power to decide on the issuance of building permits for multi-billion shopping malls, hotels, and residential condominiums that were in the pipeline.
Five of them—Teresa, Katalina, Guimo, Junie, Sarah, Boy Deo—happily recalled their Quiapo days. “Isn’t it a miracle,” Katalina said, “we could talk about our hardships with laughter?”
“Yes, it truly is,” Teresa quipped, “we are not only alive—which is a daily miracle—but we are also thriving.” She elaborated on what she meant; she referred not only to the success that Junie and Boy Deo were having in their respective careers, but also to the expectant mother in Sarah.
Teresa shared stories of her personal life after Luzie’s death. Back in Biringan City, she entertained a couple of suitors. But her work as area and community development coordinator took much of her time away from romantic attachments, whether of the seriously committed or the fleeting just-for-fun kind. In time, she underwent formation, and eventually took vows, as one among the Theresian Sisters in Tacloban City.
Before she could continue, Guimo butted in. “How about Boy Deo? Can we hear your love story?” Cheerfulness in Guimo’s banter had not disappeared in all these years.
“Only politicians like Junie are under obligation to marry, I suppose, if it is true that politics is addition,” Boy Deo tried to match Guimo’s jovial mood. “But seriously, don’t be surprised if I become a priest or brother someday, just like mommy.” Boy Deo winked at Teresa.
Old, but Junie sounded like this was new: “There is a standing scholarship offer from Joey for him to go to the miliary academy.”
“Yes, Sir!” Sarah was quick to the draw, complete with a hand salute. “You can be the good cop.”
Every body was enjoying every one’s company. They shared such soul-cuddling rounds of laughter.
Then Teresa opened herself up again. Although baptized in Biringan, Teresa said she developed her affinity with the Catholic faith in more than five years of hearing masses at the Quiapo Church. It is true the Black Nazarene had miraculous powers, she said, and she experienced them from the outpouring of love and support she and Luzie got from his devotees. “We barely survived, but until now, by God’s grace, we…” gently putting a hand on Boy Deo’s shoulders “are still alive. Isn’t that a miracle?”
On the next day, Boy Deo took a leave of absence from his work. He volunteered to show Teresa around the new Manila. “It has been close to 20 years,” Boy Deo talked as he drived, “you might want to see things that did not exist then.”
“Yes,” Teresa replied. “But I would prefer we go to Quiapo first before anywhere else. Just to thank Mama Mary and the Black Nazarene. Besides, I have been in Manila a couple of times to attend workshops organized by the Peace and Development Foundation.” Then, with girlish gusto, she blurted out: “I think I saw you in that One Nation workshop! I was just too shy to find out if my hunch was correct.”
“Where was that hunch coming from, if you don’t mind?”
“The way you folded your hands behind your back was familiar to me,” Teresa replied.
Boy Deo sort of remembered Father Revo, who remarked that he used those hands as pillow when he slept.
Caught in the morning rush hour, vehicles from Sampaloc to Quiapo barely moved, so they had plenty of time for more probing. Teresa tried to mimic the Senators. “Your Honor, how did you know about Waday? You may have heard me telling Katalina about Waday, but you were too young to comprehend anything, I guess. By the way, that should be our next stop after Quiapo.”
“At the One Nation workshop, I had a hunch that one of the participants was my mother! But I did not saw her on the last day. I checked with the workshop secretariat the attendance sheets for the previous sessions and I saw your name. Your provincial address took away any doubt I had that you might be somebody else. I was not sure about your Metro Manila address though.
“So I looked it up and I met your relatives in Tondo. They told me you have already left for Tacloban before dawn that day. We chatted a little and they mentioned that you visited Waday the day before you left for Tacloban. I think that explained why you were absent in the last day of the workshop.
“I went to the Correctional after that. I learned the complete details from Waday herself.” With a waggish smile, Boy Deo said: “End of story.”
In Quiapo, they arrived at the Minor Basilica just as the 7:30 AM mass ended. As soon as they got inside the church, Teresa quickly noticed that it went through a physical make-over in the years that she was away. The ceiling had been raised and the posts along the aisles had been removed, providing a more expansive interior look.
They searched for their old spot at the back and found that the carriage, now bulkier, was still there. There was not much crowd today; many pews were vacant, but they sat at the metal base brace of the carriage. There was no particular reason for that. Mostly likely they just subconsciously wished to relive the old days. Less than two meters to Boy Deo’s left was the store room where the 5-year-old Boy Deo, then called Franco, was dumped by the OXD operatives. This was the same room where Boy Deo collected trashed Sampaguita flowers which he then recycled and sold as fresh. Both were keenly aware of Sylvia Monir’s and Judge Vida De Gracia’s testimonies, and finding out what was next, after Waday, in their agenda.
The moved to the Adoration Chapel, a few steps to their right. Inside, they knelt down.
“My Lord and My God,” Teresa whispered. She was paying homage to the Holy Eucharist with the words of the doubting Thomas, who had to acknowledge Jesus when the latter appeared to the apostles a few days after his death at Mt. Calvary, showing him the wounds in his body.
Teresa: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Boy Deo: “Amen.”
They recited the rosary.
They prayed in silence after that, then, about twenty minutes later, they went outside and into Plaza Miranda and, mingling with a sparse crowd, a pair of begging toddlers appeared in front of them. On the way out, Boy Deo had suggested to Teresa that they dine at Town Fiesta first before proceeding to Waday at the Correctional. Would Boy Deo do what Father Revo did to him and four of his friends, who included Junie, about twenty years ago? Boy Deo scratched the head of the one who appeared to be the older of the two.
Boy Deo asked: “Where is your mother?”
Both toddlers replied: “She is in our home.”
Boy Deo: “Where is your home?”
The younger child, about four years old: “At the pier near Intramuros. On a sidewalk.”
The older child, about six years old: “Sometimes our home is in Magallanes Drive.”
Boy Deo: “Where is your father?”
The younger child: “In the police office.”
The older child: “He is in prison.”
Boy Deo: “Why, what did he do?”
For a moment the kids said nothing. Boy Deo scratched the head of the younger child, who opened up: “He stole scraps from an old building in Intramuros.” He threw a glance at the older child, as if to check if what he said was correct.
The older child got the clue. He said: “The old building was in Fort Santiago, not Intramuros.”
Boy Deo smiled, almost chuckling: “Fort Santiago is still in Intramuros.” Then, turning serious, he addressed the older child: “What is your mother doing in your home?”
The older child replied: “She is taking care of our youngest brother.”
Boy Deo: “So the two of you are brothers?”
The younger child: “Yes. We are three brothers, incluing the youngest one.”
Boy Deo surmised that the two kids he was talking to were the breadwinners for the family. He tapped the shoulder of the older brother, and whispered to his ears something like “Ok, good luck. Work hard and take good care of your mother and brothers.”
If the kids were disappointed that Boy Deo gave them nothing, it did not show in their faces. On the contrary, they looked pleased. It must have been the first time a stranger had talked to them the way Boy Deo did, and they appreciated it.
Boy Deo went straight to Town Fiesta, thinking Teresa has gone ahead of him. At Town Fiesta, he looked for Teresa but couldn’t find her there. She slipped to buy something for the toddlers while Boy Deo was interviewing them. Boy Deo did not see her giving grocery items and some cash to the kids. Then she walked up to find Boy Deo waiting for her at Town Fiesta.
In between sips of hot coffee and bites of hamburger, they mulled the idea of seeing the rector first before proceeding to the Correctional. They eventually did try to see the rector, but the latter was out of town.
At the Correctional, Waday told them that Justice Department lawyers had visited her twice already. They had interviewed her and shown her a draft of a sworn statement for her review and signature. Waday asked the lawyers if she could request Teresa to see the document first before she could sign it. The lawyers gave her their business cards. Call them, they said, whenever she was ready to sign.
Boy Deo and Teresa read and re-read the draft document. Both of them thought the affidavit was fine. Boy Deo remarked that Waday had suffered too long that she should sign it without further delay, although he also suggested that it might be prudent for him and Teresa to seek Judge Vida De Gracia first.
However, Boy Deo also remembered that Teresa had mentioned in a previous conversation he had with her that pending work-related tasks back in Biringan needed her immediate attention. He did not wish to make it hard for her to leave Waday’s case to his care, so he assured her that he would be on top of it.
Feeling accomplished, Teresa went back to Biringan. With Boy Deo around, she had no need to see Father Andoy, Sylvia Monir, or Judge De Gracia in person. She thanked him for helping her family overcome its most trying hurdles. She told him Waday’s conviction for murder could have kept her in jail for several years more, even a decade, if it was not for him.
Boy Deo in turn said he was what he had become because of her. He further said that Junie would likely vie for mayorship of Manila in the 2004 elections, something that was happening in a just over a year. He hoped she could come over to help in the campaign. Teresa assured him she would make herself available when the need for it came up.
Boy Deo visited Judge Vida—after a spirited search for her address—at her New Manila home. In her light-hearted mood, she told Boy Deo she was too old for litigation, but could recommend her nephew to help him as private prosecutor. She went over the draft affidavit and found substantially complete.
“Perfectly done,” she commented. Aside from the affidavit, it was important for him to try and track former employees of La Casta as possible witnesses. “Anyone who actually saw what happened would be helpful,” she advised him.
Digressing, she asked: “Is she one of your aunts?”
“Yes, sort of,” he replied.
“What does that mean,” Vida persisted, with eyes aglow.
“Her sister, Teresa, found me as a lost child, about five years old, and she took me under her care. Sort of adopted me as her son.”
“When did this happen? I mean, when Teresa found you as a lost child?” she probed.
“On the day your fellow witnesses—Mayor, Vice Mayor, Gidaben, among others—at the Senate inquiry said there was mayhem at the Lacson Underpass.”
“I hope you don’t mind,” Vida sounded like she was inviting him to a day-long conference. “I wish to share with you some of my personal thoughts related to that Lacson incident. I lost my own adopted son, about five years old, to kidnappers on the day preceding that tragic incident where Junie’s dad was killed. My friends in the military and police organizations could not locate my son—I had complete documents regarding the adoption which I keep to this day—nor determine with certainty if the kidnapping and the Lacson incident were in anyway related. His name was—is—Francisco De Gracia.
“When I saw you attending the Senate hearing, first beside the Vice Mayor and then as a witness, the way you moved your head reminded me of my lost son. And, of course, the facial features may have changed, given that it had been what—twenty years?—but basic caricatures of them have not.
“Again, I hope you don’t mind… and I wish you don’t get offended… I assure you I do not mean to be preposterous, but having heard you say Teresa found you as a lost child, I had to ask myself if the child she found was the one I lost in March of 1981?
“How diplomatic of you, Judge Vida,” Boy Deo heard himself say, “when you probably mean to ask what I think of your thoughts when you say ‘I had to ask myself.”
Vida had no ready reply. She just smiled. But after a while she said: “By the way, your own testimony at the Senate was a blockbuster, to say the least. Few people can mix drama with facts, and you certainly had it. That is one thing that baffles me—your wit and gift of gab is easily noticeable, which is quite unlike whatever talent the child I lost may have had. At five, the child I am referring to could hardly talk; he communicated mostly with facial expressions.”
Her eyes suggested she would be happy to share with him more stories about the child’s early years, but he was edgy in his seat. She continued: “I wished to visit you in your office not only to congratulate you but to open up with you these thoughts that lingered in my head. I hesitated, though, for fear that I may end up offending you.”
“Everything you said is much appreciated,” Boy Deo said. “I myself is interested in trying to find out who I really am. It’s just that this one,” tapping Waday’s papers, “is more urgent, I suppose. Hope you understand. We will see each other soon, shall we?”
Vida in her frail condition tried to stand up from her seat. “Can I hug you?”
Boy Deo helped her get up. He hugged her as she did the same. “See you. Thanks for everything.”
Boy Deo was able to locate La Casta’s former floor manager. Mr. Dayamante’s wife bribed her and threatened her family with physical warm unless she testified against Waday in court. With Junie’s help, the floor manager recanted the initial testimony and signed a fresh affidavit. The floor manager also helped Boy Deo locate two more former La Casta employees and a balut vendor who witnessed the crime, who also signed affidavits in support of Waday’s case.
The court re-opened Waday’s case and, in an unprecedented pace, reversed its earlier decision that convicted her six months later. The Dayamante couple were arrested and tried for murder and perjury.
But even before Dayamante’s court indictment, Makatigbas and his allies at the Senate had already disowned him. The Ethics Committee, which had been notoriously slow in passing judgment on members of the Senate, expelled him when news broke out that witnesses had recanted their statements on the basis of which the court convicted Waday.
Before long, the election season was on. Those who filed candidacies for president included—surprisingly and seemingly against all odds—Manila Mayor De Mozo and Senator Makatigbas; Mark Benaobra, son of a former president; and Bonggoy Kawatsing.
Showbiz icon Vinnie Iglesia ran for vice president in tandem with De Mozo. Dan Mascardo, son of a former president, ran with Makatigbas as vice president. Rising star Polong Cujaco ran Benaobra’s vice president, while Senate President De Yamat ran as Bonggoy’s vice president.
Junie ran for Manila Mayor. His rivals included Robina Capablanca, wife of a former mayor; Rod “Tax” Escapador, a sitting Manila Councilor and son of another former mayor Pilanding Escapador; the ageless Huwan T. Burcio, grandfather of a former assemblyman; Ruy Lopez, Jr., former congressman Ruy Lopez, Sr.’s son, and uncle of a sitting councilor; and Madis-ogon, De Mozo’s protege.
One early evening during the campaign, armed motorcycle riders fired upon Junie’s and Boy Deo’s service vehicles along a narrow street in Sta. Mesa, Manila. The mayoralty candidate and Boy Deo, along with two of their security aides, were badly injured. Junie and one security aide died in the hospital; Boy Deo had to undergo surgery to remove a bullet in his spine and barely survived; and the other security aide also had to undergo multiple surgeries for various bullet wounds.
Speculation flew fast and wide as to who ordered the killings and the motivation behind them. Political pundits commented that Boy Deo, and not Junie, was the target of the ambush. They also tagged, although without sufficient basis, that Dayamante was the mastermind.
Sarah grieved with her two-month-old son, which the Justicador couple had named John Patrick Justicador. Katalina wept too, and Teresa, who just flew in from Tacloban, tried to console her, but often unsuccessfully. Katalina did not sleep nor eat for a week. She remembered Porferio, Junie’s uncle, who told her about Junie being in the line of a family curse. She gathered John Patrick in her bossom; she feared for his grandson too. Oddly, the feel of him in her embrace was like a wellspring of hope. Minutes later, Sarah found her mother-in-law and John Patrick soundly asleep.
After an abbreviated judicial process, Hakbang Ng Mapayapang Himagsikan (Journey of a Peaceful Revolt), Junie’s political party, succeeded in substituting Boy Deo for the murdered Junie. Shocking turns of events after another, and the drama that accompanied them, had left the usually boisterous political analysts at a loss for coherence on which to frame their analyses and commentaries.
There was just too much media stuff to cover: explosive revelations at the Senate inquiry, ambush of a leading mayoralty candidate and, most recently, the rise of “The Eyes” to contend for the highest office of the country’s premier city.
It did not surprise many, but the celebration was unprecedented in the history of Manila and elsewhere when Boy Deo won the mayoralty race two months later.
At the national level, Mark Benaobra and Polong Cujaco won as president and vice-president, respectively. But for reasons that remained a mystery to all, Benaobra died after barely two months in office. Cujaco, the elected vice president, ascended to the throne.
Miracles of Quiapo
is also available in Kindle and Paperback editions.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND DISCLAIMER
The author is indebted to the memory of people whose lives have inspired kindness, compassion, and forgiveness among the many lost generations that followed them.
Although true-to-life events have partly inspired the stories presented in Miracles of Quiapo, this work in its totality is a fictional novel. No offense is intended for any mention of names, places or things that bears similarities with actual or existing names of persons, places or things.
Copyright © 2022 Ingming Aberia
All rights reserved.
Photo Credits: QuiapoChurch.com.ph