The following story is part of our “Prison Diaries” which highlights women who have been or are currently behind bars. Due to the sensitivity of legal matters, names have been changed to protect the identity of the women sharing their stories. This story was narrated to Evelyn R. Obo as part of a research project.
I am *Darice, a cum laude graduate in a government school in the Philippines. I took Business Management and finished with flying colors. My family was the proudest on my graduation day. I was applauded when I delivered my speech in front of more than three thousand graduates. I was literally flying at that time. Tears of joy flowed from my eyes, and my parents were crying, too. It was truly a winning moment.
It was easy for me to get a job as offers flooded my email. It pays more to be an honor graduate. I easily blended with my workmates and it was easy for me to learn my job. I was a marketing executive and I would say that my salary was big enough to support my needs and to help my younger siblings go to school. Everything was smooth and I was so content and happy to help my family. My parents no longer had to borrow money from Indian lenders.
After a year on my job, I met *Jude, an account executive from another company whose office was just opposite ours. We would always bump into each other at the elevator or at the waiting shed every afternoon after work. We began as nodding acquaintance until we started talking and became good friends. Our friendship developed and bloomed into something romantic.
Jude is such a gentleman and comes from a simple family like mine. We were both helping our families and were happy doing so. Our relationship went on smoothly for five years. When our younger siblings finished college and started working, we planned to settle down. We built our dreams and little by little tried to achieve them, beginning with our church wedding. It was well attended by our friends, workmates and relatives. After the wedding, we went home to our own house after our wedding. It was truly an almost perfect path. We thanked the Lord and made our faith the center of our union.
We loved each other so much and vowed to nurture a godly family. We still helped our parents, not as much as before, but we still helped. Every weekend, we made sure to visit our parents alternately. One particular Sunday was the most memorable of all because after 6 months of marriage, I found out that I was pregnant.
We were both excited to share it with our families. After attending mass that Sunday, we went to Jude’s family to tell them of the good news. We arrived at their house before lunch and his parents were extremely joyful to hear our news. My mother-in-law was excited and said that there must be a celebration for us. She hurriedly dressed-up and asked my father-in-law to accompany her to the market to buy food that she would cook for us.
As my parents-in-law left for the market, Jude, his younger sister, Anne, and I prepared the kitchen. We were preparing the food when someone knocked on the door. When my sister-in-law opened the door, three police officers entered the house and asked for my father-in-law. We respectfully said that he was with our mother at the market. To our surprise, the police showed a search warrant and started to check the whole house. We could not say a word due to so much fear and shock.
After a few minutes, the police who entered the room of my parents-in-law came out of the room with several plastic packets with salt-like substance they called shabu (methamphetamine). My husband, my sister-in-law and I could not believe what was happening.
The three of us were forced into the police car and taken to the police station. We were all pleading and explaining but the police seemed deaf to our cries and appeals. We were praying and calling everyone we could think to call – my family, my husband’s family, friends…everyone.
My family came at once but were told that unless my parents-in-law came, we would not be released. The police claimed our case, the illegal possession of prohibited drugs, was a non-bailable case so we were detained. We were all praying and hoping that in a few more hours, my parents-in-law would come, but night came and no one from my husband’s family came.
Morning came and night came again, it became days and weeks and months. We were still detained. Every day was a nightmare. We lost our jobs, we lost a good future, we lost almost everything, and there was life in my womb.
Not a day would pass that I didn’t cry due to our fate. I could not understand because I knew we did not deserve it. I had big dreams for my family and for my child from the first day I learned about my pregnancy. My husband was detained in a different detention cell. We could only see each other once a week and we would just hug each other and cry. We could only pray, hope and wish.
I needed someone to take good care of me while pregnant. I needed the warmth of my husband’s embrace. I needed him and our baby needed him. And I knew he needed us, too. We were supposed to be enjoying each moment as a family but we were not given any choice or option at all. We were detained for reasons that we never understood.
After two months a public lawyer came to talk with us. And after a few more weeks, a court hearing was scheduled. They seemed deaf to our appeal. My husband, sister-in-law and I were all innocent. I was pregnant and was bound to deliver my baby in 7 months. We had a family to nurture and a future to build for our child. Would I be giving birth in prison? Would we be raising our kid here? Are we to rot here for a crime we never committed? Where was God? Why did He allow all of this to happen when I could never remember a time in my life when I had abused anyone? What had we done to suffer like this?
My tears ran out and I could not pray in the next months. I could not believe that our dreams and plans were all shattered and broken. They were just illustrations in my head that could never be realized. I was in my last term of pregnancy when I met a group of pious women from AIIAS. They were praying and staying with us for a few hours every Saturday.
At first, it was hard for me to believe what they were saying about God until I had the chance to talk to one of their group members. Several Saturdays she would come and talk to me about God and her faith. She seemed kind and true. It was two months until I would give birth and the kind woman whom I learned to call Ate (big sister) shared her story that totally changed my whole being.
Ate shared how she had been a good daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend to all people around her, yet her faith was tested tremendously. She had a very beautiful married life centered upon faith. They were head of different ministries, but 8 years ago, her husband died in an accident and all the money her husband had on him was taken by heartless people at the scene of the accident. She was left with their four-year-old son, penniless.
The money that her husband had at that time was their earnings from the piggery business and half of the money was to pay for their debts incurred during the five months of tending the pigs.
Ate had to bear all the pain and the problems resulting from her husband’s death. She had to look after her son, pay all their debts, and she had to console herself for the loss of the only man she loved. I was crying when she was telling me that in the midst all excruciating pain, she remained a strong believer that God would stand by her.
I was literally almost bursting when Ate started to tell me of how blessed I was even if I was detained. She told me how lucky I was that every Sunday I was given the chance to still hug and kiss my husband, which she could never experience in this lifetime. Ate opened my eyes to the reality that there is hope for me to be able to be free and start rebuilding our life and our family because we have the greatest gift of all…the gift of being alive each day.
It was a complete turning point for me. I am forever indebted to Ate for making me realize that not all hope was lost for me…for us. God is a fair God who is capable of performing the greatest miracles. If Ate could still hope of having a complete family again after her husband’s death, it is truly a thousand times realistic for me to have a complete family of my own outside prison.
Darice and her husband are still detained. The last time Evelyn saw Darice was in December 2019. She gave birth last year and her parents are raising the baby. Her in-laws are still at large.
*All names have been changed