Intruders climbed over to our house on 2 November, Sunday, when my family and I left home to visit our mother’s grave around noontime. The intruders probably thought no one’s left in the house.
Actually, the incident or incidents was/were quick. Since my nephew stays at the second floor and the stairs is just outside—it’s not connected inside the house from the ground floor—and as he shut the door then made that first steps, he—to his shock—saw a young boy who, needless to say, made an over the bakod to our territory. The intruder, upon seeing my nephew, ran away like the speed of a bullet.
My nephew couldn’t remember the face. All he knew was that the boy just lives nearby, in this small community of informal settlers which is walking distance from our house. And just when that’s the end of the story, while my nephew was in the bathroom, he heard footsteps either climbing up or down the stairs outside. My 17-year-old nephew quickly rinsed away the shampoo from his hair, quickly put a towel over his head, then went out to check. He didn’t see anyone. He was certain another intruder got in. Or could be the same intruder.
By the time I received this unfortunate news, it was already evening since my nephew just came from computer rental shop, his place of refuge to ease his boredom when he’s not studying. And hearing the “noise” and “festivity” and “videoke” happenings in that small community of informal settlers just nearby amid the quietness of the night, without even thinking or planning, I thought of going there and tell them about my concern as a homeowner. I walked there alone. I didn’t care if I’m gonna get mobbed, get killed. All I remember was that my body was shaking with fear and I just couldn’t let that day passed. I had to let them know. They know us anyway, especially my father. Who even helped some of these people.
So there I was. At their territory. I saw naked men and a few women seated closely together. There was singing and alcohol. I was waiting for somebody to ask why I’m there and when an old thin man looked me in the eye, I approached him and politely told him, “Kuya, there’s just something I need to say.” I told him a boy who lives in their area climbed over to our fence then suddenly, a young man approached me and was already in a defensive mode. He said there was indeed somebody who climbed our fence and it was his nephew and it was just an accident. They were playing and he, whose name is Alvin as I learned later and probably in his 20s or 30s, kicked the ball hard that went over our fence. So he “instructed” his nephew (the “intruder”) to climb our fence to get it. I don’t remember the chronological events of that confrontation but I remember hearing someone shout “There is no thief here in our place!”
Things went out of hand when I got emotional, raising my voice for what he did. When I asked if the only intention was to get the ball, how did it happen that my 17-year- old nephew saw the “intruder” exploring our corridor, where our laundry area is. He was denying that was his nephew, the intruder who climbed over our fence. This Alvin—who was domineering in reasoning out, not giving up to win—told me that maybe that was another kid. Maybe a kid from Relocation (where informal settlers from Metro Manila were relocated by former president Erap). When I told him in my stern, high pitched voice to never do that again, when he instructed his nephew to just climb over our fence, he just never stopped. He just kept on repeating in different variations that it was an accident, he kicked a ball hard that went over our fence.
When an older man approached and pulled me away from their territory and led me to the front of our house (whose name is Ayi and who turned out to be one of our barangay tanods and older brother of Alvin), I expressed to him my rage, that my family and I are living quietly in our subdivision, we don’t stop them have videoke ‘round the clock but please, don’t climb over to our fence just because a ball “accidentally” went over our bakod.
This Alvin from their territory went to me again, who came with companions with tattoos on their bodies. He exhibited his dominance over me again when he apologized but with some more excuses. He just never stopped. A girl stood beside me, from his camp, who turned out to be Alvin’s wife. And pregnant. I saw this little girl who turned out be Alvin’s daughter.
That night, knowing I got no allies, nobody understands, I just surrendered by asking the young man’s name. And that’s how I got to know that his name was Alvin. And the men with tattoos are also barangay tanods, who were also part of that “videoke” festivity. He also asked my name. I told him my first and last name since we’re known in our place anyway even though I don’t know them. Three times he asked my name and I said my first and last name three times also, I mean, what the hell! There were shaking of hands, I shook hands with one of the men with tattoos for diplomacy sake. This occurred on a Sunday night.
The following day, 3 November, I didn’t report for work. I went to barangay hall to report the incident, that confrontation with a young man named Alvin, even the past disturbances of intruders that trespassed to our house, with or without our presence. And this Alvin, since our confrontation, has become a “hero” to the children in the informal settlers area shouting his name cheerfully and repetitively as he disembarked from his motorcycle. Now I hate children. I learned from a neighbor, another informal settler, that this Alvin is very charismatic and seen as a “leader” in that small community of informal settlers.
When I shared that harrowing story to my friends and colleagues individually, one of them said I lost when I lose control of my emotions. Because when I raised my voice, this Alvin used it against me to bring me down, reprimanding me to not shout at him while he was pointing his finger at me, moving it quickly up and down at my face. I shouted at him to not point his finger at me. That was the time that men with tattoos refereed our argument. A colleague told me that the “ball accident” was just an alibi which is exactly my same sentiment. He said it was only right that I went to barangay hall to blotter or record the incident. But I should be careful next time. I have this other friend who didn’t judge me for what I did, she said it was hopeless dealing with those kind of people since they’re squatters. Suing them would be a waste of time. At the barangay hall, one of the staff there told me that there is already an ordinance that videoke is allowed only until 11PM. And should there be continued disturbance of this videoke, I could ask help from the barangay hall by going in person. Text or phone call is not accepted because there are “complainants” who only want to deceive. I was told to let the other tanods (not the tanods I told you about) handle them. But I have to travel far to get to our barangay hall.
I’d like to stress that not all informal settlers are bad people. There are just some people you know you just couldn’t trust just hearing the first sentence coming out from their mouths, regardless of whether they’re informal settlers or not. Oh, and I don’t regret “gatecrashing” their videoke festivity. My intention was to express my concern and rage. And that Alvin was showing his dominance over me because he knew I’m a girl and small. And he quickly took advantage of my weakness when I got emotional. Sometimes my nephew wondered what if my older brother was there who used to be part of a fraternity?