back when there were too many massacres


My early teen years took place at a dark, bloody time in our country's past. A recounting of growing up in the '90s would not be complete without mentioning this period that made our mothers gasp and fathers go tsk, tsk, tsk. It also explains why, in muffled paranoia, our curfews were set a few hours earlier for a while.
I was around twelve when the slaughter of the innocents began - a stretch of time in the early nineties, in which occurred several unrelated murders, mostly of youths. I'd rather not go into the details, but if anyone would be interested, I'm sure Google can find the related articles. There were so many cases that it seemed like everyone in the city knew someone who knew someone somehow connected to a victim's family. Inspirations overflowed for crappy Carlo J. Caparas movies starring Kris Aquino, the ones with awkward subtitles under the awkward subtitles (something idiotic like Karumal-dumal: The True Story of the Downtown Massacre: God Save the Little Angels).

But seriously. There were random shootings and kidnap-killings, rapes and rape-slays; chop-chops, salvages, and massacres; frat initiations gone awry. AM radio was abuzz about one heinous crime after another - the victims, the suspects, masterminds - and the messy trials that followed.

There was the 1990 murder of Cochise and Beebom. A UP Law student and his girlfriend (a graduating senior) were nabbed during a date, killed, violated and dumped. It was said that Cochise was mistaken for someone else; Beebom was collateral damage.

There were the UPLB students Allan and Aileen, who suffered a similar fate at the hands of a city mayor.

Then there were quite a few fraternity hazing fatalities - promising students of the best universities, snuffed out by unnecessary violence.

In 1991, there was the 25-year old random target of road rage. He was gunned down by a self-important a*****e going the wrong direction on a one-way street.

There was the Hultman-Chapman double murder in the same year. On their way home from a party, two young men and a 16-year old girl were shot by the son of a former chief justice. Chapman was killed instantly; Maureen Hultman died in an Intensive Care Unit months later. She was just a few years older than I was.

Images of Maureen became all too familiar as media appealed for prayers and justice. I recall there was a clip of her that seemed to be a screen-test, showing her as a beautiful and healthy aspirant model. That image was repeatedly juxtaposed with a shot of her in her hospital bed, hardly recognizable, head shaven and crusted with blood, near-dead on a respirator. That latter image, I recall, used to flash every now and then on ABS-CBN with the text, "Justice for Maureen".

That image also became easy reference for parents whenever their teenaged kids asked for permission to attend a party.

The most sensational of all was (and still is) The Vizconde Massacre. Estrellita, her daughters Carmela, 18, and Jennifer, 7, were slain on June 30 1991. It was a high-profile, grossly sensationalized case, in which suspects were a Senator's son and a few other young men from well-to-do families. Everyone tuned in to what was dubbed as "the trial of the century" and had opinions on this and that.

This multiple homicide was jolting because it was too close to home. Literally. We lived in the same city where the massacre took place; family friends whose house we frequented was on the same street as the Vizcondes. What was extra disturbing was knowing that the crime occurred right at the victims' residence, within earshot of many neighbors, in the evening when everyone was home and still awake, in an exclusive village that supposedly had high security, while there was a security guard on duty. On top of the feeling that not even our own homes were safe, it cemented the ominous sense that evil-but-influential people could manipulate things to their own ends.

What was even closer and eerier for me was the butchering of a girl named Katrina. Her story was not as well-known as the others - it did make it to the news, though not the headlines. It was a terrible murder nonetheless.

I knew about her because we went to the same school. She was the friend of a classmate, a few batches ahead of us. I never knew her personally though I met her younger sister and brother, and I'd been to a party at their house. That same house where she died. It was hard for me to swallow that this girl who wore the same uniform that I did, walked the same halls, ate the same awful cafeteria food, did not just die but was murdered. Was actually murdered. She was hacked to death by their trusted gardener, in an act of misdirected rage. She was just fifteen.

All of the killers in the above cases were eventually put away. Due also to those odious crimes, legislators were compelled to review the death penalty. Sadly, in the past several years, a lot of those sociopaths from the high-profile cases were acquitted, for what purpose no one knows, all thanks to a certain crooked former president -- and that is a whole other story.
Now that I am older and have been a guardian of sorts to teenagers, I reckon it was a valid reaction for our parents to have been so concerned about our gimmicks, our associations and late-night parties in those days. There may have been bit of an overreaction from a few moms and pops, but I suppose it was hard to shake off the fear that their son or daughter could go next.

Since I was a kid during that time, I didn't quite grasp that those victims were young, because they were much older than I was. In relation to my age now I see how extremely young they really were. They had entire lives yet to live, but were rubbed out far too soon. They could have been today's leaders, today's parents, educators, fighters for justice, advocates of tasteful arts and so on. Due to a couple of unscrupulous bastards, they never grew up to be who they were meant to be. Let's hope and pray nothing like this ever happens again.
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