A Cebuana’s death

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Friday, May 30, 2014


IT HAS been a difficult week for Filipinos in New Zealand, and far worse for the Gotingco family. Last Saturday, Cebuana Blesilda Gotingco got off from a bus to walk her way home after working overtime. Little did she know that she would not make it home, as someone took her away. It was past midnight when her daughter became worried because she didn't find her mother home.

Both the police and the media were alerted of the situation, and the entire country became anxious oof Blessie’s mysterious disappearance. While the police scourged for leads, the media sent out appeals to locate the missing mother of three. Theories about her disappearance were many, and these were published in newspapers, broadcast on radio and discussed on television.

Less than four days from her disappearance, Blessie’s lifeless body was found in a nearby cemetery. Not only that, the police arrested the suspect, a man who had a criminal record and who lived in the vicinity. Neighbors of the Gotingcos were shocked to learn of Blessie’s fate, while those who knew the suspect were surprised.

Blessie’s husband Antonio returned from Cebu only to learn of his wife's death.

Instead of hurling angry words at the suspect, he remained calm and cooperated with authorities. The District Court in North Shore was fully packed when the suspect was arraigned. Many felt frustrated when the judge allowed the application for name suppression.

Antonio and his family conducted themselves calmly as media sought their comments. In one of the interviews, Antonio expressed his gratitude to those who condoled with and supported his family. He acknowledged the police for their work. He said that he still believe that New Zealand remains to be a safe place, though changes are happening. He should know, for he has lived for ten years in this country.

I talked to him the other night and he told me that while he showed a strong face, he was hurting inside. The overwhelming support of the people in the community, both Filipinos and Kiwis, helped ease the pain, he said.

I asked him how we could extend help. He said that the presence of many Cebuanos was help enough. He was thankful for friends like Butch Rafols and Alfred Belleza, who led in the nightly novenas. We are raising funds to help alleviate the burden of the family.

But what I observed is the outpouring of public support. During the novenas, non-Filipinos joined in. While the Katilingbang Bisaya sa New Zealand that I head will conduct a People's Prayer on May 31 at the start of LINGAWDUWA, a Filipino sporting event, a group of North Shore residents will have a candle-lighting memorial later in the evening.

I wondered why there is much interest in what happened to Blessie Gotingco last May 24, and I realized that this is because she could have been just anyone who would be walking home after work and gets killed. It was just unfortunate that it happened to Blessie. Please pray for the repose of her soul.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 31, 2014.

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