I know I usually post about Christlikeness. I talk a lot about how we, Christians, must be obedient, humble, and gentle. This post isn’t going to be like that at all. However, that doesn’t mean that this is totally contrary to what the Bible teaches. Take this passage for example:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Jesus Himself talked about how we are as sheep in the midst of wolves. Being His followers will paint a target on our backs. We will be preyed upon by the wolves that surround us. That is why we should be shrewd as serpents.
The reason why I felt compelled to talk about this is quite personal. It’s a part of my life that I am, still, not comfortable to discuss with anyone. That’s because of three main reasons.
- Looking back, the entire thing may seem really ridiculous and hard to believe.
- Telling this story brings back a lot of negative emotions.
- I don’t want to paint anyone, especially my family, in a negative light.
To alleviate some of those fears, I just want to point out that I can only say these things with the benefit of hindsight. Being really young when this happened, I didn’t know what to do and, even if I did, that wouldn’t promise a different outcome. (With time, possibly being a closed loop and all) I also want to emphasize that everything turned out okay. If anything, I’m stronger now because of this and I get to talk about it on a bigger platform with conviction because I had firsthand experience. Remember this promise?
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
I think it’s time to let it come into full fruition. The goal is right there. Maybe, just maybe, this can help save a life.
This started when I was in highschool. Our school service driver whom we called Manong, who was in his twenties at the time became my stalker. I was thirteen at the time.
In the beginning, I didn’t think there was anything wrong. Some of the other kids in our group started warning me about him. They said he’d look at me differently and would talk to them about me. But I didn’t take it seriously at first. The idea was just too impossible. I was raised to believe that older people can be trusted. Well, Manong was older and was deemed responsible enough to pick up and bring about 20 kids home from school. It’s impossible for him to be interested in me in that way, right?
After more time, things began to get worse. He would compliment me, offer to treat me and my friends, and be noticeably nicer to me than everyone else in our school service. The worst came when he had a physical altercation with one of the older students in the car pool whom we called Kuya (big brother). It was triggered by seeing me sleep on our Kuya’s shoulder after an extraordianarily long day of school. Our driver hit Kuya on his arm, breaking his watch, and took a pocket knife to threaten him. One would think that would be the end of it all, but because my parents did not see that as “threatening enough,” One time, my dad said, “He’s a gentle giant. Maybe you shouldn’t provoke him.” That broke my heart. And, maybe even worse, I thought maybe it was my fault.
Manong still picked us up and dropped us off for months after. Another violent incident happened with one other student. But, it wasn’t until after I cried and told my story in church and got the attention of other church leaders who told my parents to take it seriously that they agreed to pull us out of the school service.
I thought that would be the end, but Manong kept showing up at our house, bringing gifts with cards asking me to address him by his first name and urging my sisters to call him Kuya. No matter how much we asked our dad to put Manong in his place, he kept being gentle and civil with him. Papa would accept the gifts, and pass it on to us.
Manong kept showing up randomly at the corner of our street until I was 19. So, for years, I would dread the prospect of going home alone. I would hide around the corner and squint to check for his motorcycle before taking a step towards our house. When I went into UP, he’d show up in the middle of the day in front of the AS steps. The first time I let my guard down by not checking to see if he’s there before going down the stairs, he followed me asking repeatedly for me to grab a bite with him. I walked/ran to another building and he yelled, “Sabi ko na may klase ka dito. Aabangan na lang kita ulit sa susunod. (I knew you had a class here. Don’t worry, I’ll be back for you soon.)” I never showed up in that class again.
Things didn’t end until my twin sister did something totally out-of-character for her. Manong’s last visit to our house sent me running up the stairs to hide. My twin sister, completely frustrated by the way this problem was dealt with by my parents, stormed out and confronted Manong. She asked him firmly to get out and stop coming. When he went into his usual smile and said that he was just trying to “make friends,” my sister raised her voice, pointed out that what he was doing was illegal, and threatened him with a lawsuit. For the first time in her life, she was rude.
And it worked. That was the last time I saw him.
I think the entire thing could have ended earlier if we were rude earlier on. But we were trained to be kind and gentle and believe the best in people. That may have made things worse. Let me give you examples:
- I kept quiet when Manong complimented me and said one-liners. My friends were better at shooting him down than I was. They’d call him out and shout and tell him to stop, but I’d lower my head and clench my jaw shut. When things got worse and my friends started cursing at him, I would even tell them to stop because that was how I was taught. You weren’t supposed to be rude to other people no matter what. But, there were times when that was necessary. By me not saying anything, in his crazy little mind, he must have thought I was okay with the attention. If I yelled at him earlier on, would he have stopped earlier?
- After being unhappy with how my parents dealt with the situation, I should have told other people right away. But, I was scared of tarnishing my parents’ reputation. I was more afraid that they would seem like bad people and I kept everything inside. If I told other people earlier, would that have kept our Kuya from being hit? Would my parents have pulled us out earlier?
- My dad, who was a pastor at the time, is the king of diplomacy. Maybe he saw Manong as another soul to win for Christ. Maybe he thought that Manong would eventually lose interest and leave us alone. I think he also believed the best in people and saw our complaints as exaggerated tales from thirteen-year olds. Even when Manong kept going back, he still treated him well. If my dad did what my twin sister did, maybe things would have ended earlier?
- I should have made a scene when he went to my university. I literally walked past the building’s security guard who asked me if everything was okay when I ran into that building. Instead, I chose to put my own future on the line by not attending my classes. If I told him that the weird man was following me, the armed guard could have scared Manong into leaving me alone. Would I have finished college earlier?
I really don’t know the answers to those questions. And, I’m not sure if I’d agree to go back in time and change the way we all handled the situation. I know that who I am today was partly because of this experience. I would like to believe that if anything like this happened today, I would have enough courage to be rude enough and emphatically say, “No!” I also have more empathy towards other victims of untoward attention regardless of their age and status. I am more passionate about talking about this because I know the short-term and long-term effects of this kind of abuse. And, I get to tell you that if you experience anything like this, BE RUDE!
If you are a child’s parent or guardian and they start telling you about someone, anyone, showing interest in them, do your part and keep a close watch on them. If things turn out to be true, don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Protect your child. If the other person refuses to stop, BE RUDE!
You may just save a life.