Before I left for England for my holiday I had arranged with the City Boy that we would go to Banaue
and then Batad to see the famous rice terraces
I got back into Manila on the 17th April late night, on the 18th afternoon (having hibernated all morning) the City Boy called and asked if, given what had happened, did I still want to go to Batad…
Fresh back into the country, I hadn’t seen a paper, hadn’t looked at the internet, I had no idea what he was talking about.
On Easter Sunday (8th April); a 38 year old American Peace Corps Volunteer called Julia Campbell was reported as missing. She was last seen hiking around Batad. On the 18th April her body was found, in a shallow grave on the hiking trail into the village of Batad. By this stage no body knew how she had died, but it was obvious from the fact that she was found in a shallow grave that it was not an accident.
So, did I still want to go to Batad, yes…but I would just have to be a little bit more aware of my surroundings than normal.
I’ll write more on my visit to the rice terraces in another post, but for now…just a few disconnected observations.
When we hiked from Saddle Point down to Batad, the hiking guide pointed out the area where Julia had been found, there was a long discussion with the City Boy in Tagalog, most of which was not translated – probably censored for me.
I did mention to the City Boy that in most other countries the area surrounding the shallow grave would be closed off with police tape…’do not cross’ etc…however, in this case unless it was pointed out, one would be none the wiser. The next morning, though, when hiking out of Batad on the same path, as we passed the shallow grave area the City Boy noticed a crumpled piece of paper lying in the grass a few feet away…
On closer inspection, handwritten in biro, on the scrap of paper was ‘Police Line – Do Not Enter’… at least someone had tried….
Batad village was incredibly quiet, don’t get me wrong I think even when there are a lot of visitors there it’s not exactly Piccadilly Circus’ lesser known cousin, but the inn that we stayed had about 15 rooms, only two rooms were occupied – the City Boy and myself in one and a Filipino family who had arrived with us in the other. According to the village residents, it does seem as if the number of visitors (particularly foreigners) has dropped off in the wake of Julia’s murder.
I didn’t realize until I read Carlos’ post
that Julia had a blog
…if you read through it you really get a measure of how happy she was living here and how much she gave to the country through her work here – it’s so tragic the way her stay in the country ended.
The prime suspect in her murder case has been ‘handed in’ by his mother and is now in police custody…reading his story
, makes the whole thing seem even more heartbreaking and wasteful.
Labels: news, Philippines