Remembering Boboy: When Christmas isn’t Christmas
It was about 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 20, 1990 five days before Christmas along a slow-moving traffic in a Metro Manila district. Two shots rang out, and the man on the wheels went motionless. The bullets pierced through his fragile brain. Almost lifeless and bloodied he was rushed to a nearby municipal hospital but left unattended for almost one critical hour, a usual and sad occurrence in hospital care. The young 33-year-old bachelor, a naval architect - one of the few in the country then-- educator and enterprising president of a maritime training center in Metro Manila was in a coma on Christmas Day. For almost one week he laid still on the bed inside the ICU at the hospital which, it turned out, was also his place of birth. On December 27, the doctors declared him clinically dead, though he may have succumbed to the gunshot wounds instantly on December 20 and just kept alive with the hospital machine.
The tragedy left his whole family shocked, devastated and grief stricken. The entire middle-class village where their family lived was in great disbelief. The family was a well-respected member of the community. Was there anybody who nurtured ill will towards anyone of the members? The father who had faithfully served government and the armed forces, and became a founder of a thriving maritime institution, was crushed with despair. More than anybody else, he was most heartbroken over the loss of his youngest son who would have been a bright shipbuilder of his generation. With his untimely death, everybody who knew and loved him, were immediately consumed by anger, rage and revenge. Questions on who and why resonated in the minds of everyone.
WHO would have committed such a heinous crime was a crazy hack and a cold-blooded murderer! Who would want to kill him, a gentle soul who was a big brother to many in his young crowd of professionals and social philanthropists? Who would think that night was his final ride, when all he wanted to do every Christmas season was to bring cheers to street children whom he had grown fond of since his younger days?
Indeed, who could they be, who mercilessly robbed this promising young man of his bright future? He was not known to have enemies in the neighborhood, at work or among relatives. In their investigation, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and police gathered pieces of evidence pointing to an alleged perpetrator who was never an acquaintance. Boboy L. Jimenez was a victim of mistaken identity, the probers concluded. He earned the ire of a drug syndicate which turned out to be a “party line” user over the unusually long “business” use of the same telephone line up to the wee hours in the morning. A petty problem turned violent was a common thread among thousands of other similar stories that hogged news headlines of senseless drug and passion-related crimes inflicted on innocent lives. The year after, in a petty traffic altercation, a gun-toting business magnate named Rolito Go shot a young engineering student Eldon Maguan in the head at close range. Like Boboy’s, the family of Eldon agonized through seven days of struggle and waiting to make sense of the murder that they believed should not have happened at all. These pieces of thread slowly wove themselves into a unified clamor for retribution and soon, a united front among crime victims’ families and survivors fighting for justice. It was Boboy’s story and of others like the Vizconde, de Villa, Hultman and Maguan which galvanized the formation of groups like the Crusade against Violence and Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
“WHY?” is always asked when a loved one goes especially if the leaving is in a violent and unexpected way. Why did it happen to our innocent and loving brother and son? It was as if violent deaths are reserved only for the bad and undesirable elements of society? But why on an occasion like Christmas that should be celebrated with joy? Mind boggling and unanswered questions would add to shock and this shock turns into grief, despair and anger. These combine into a dominant mix of troubled feelings outside the normal range of human experience. Quickly, there arises an overwhelming desire to demand for the head of the perpetrator. A whole conviction about life and death now utterly disrupted and changed because of a single personal experience.
The death of a loved was most traumatic for the Jimenez family because it was sudden, unexpected and violent. More so, when family and friends found it difficult to believe it had happened at a most unlikely time – Christmas, a season of joy and peace. At the Jimenez household, Christmas used to be a traditional yearly get-together of exchange gifts, program of songs, eating and laughter. Boboy was a regular emcee and sponsor of games. He was a jolly good fellow who took to dressing up as a Santa to bring cheers especially to children. At a young age, he had always tried innovating and being hands-on in everything he put his mind on. Like his other siblings, he loved the simple acts of gift giving. Among others, it was the poor street children, who used to line up the highways and the streets of Metro Manila or whenever he was in Naga City, who were his favorite receivers of Christmas gifts all wrapped up at his office. Since that tragic December 20, Christmas has never been the same again. Christmas has taken a new and added meaning for the family.
For 31 years since then, December 20 is commemorated as a special day of “Remembering Boboy” everywhere the family members are located and working. It may not be the happy traditional Christmas celebration that the family would have had in 1990 when two bullets snuffed the life of him. But in time, the healing began. Grandchildren were born, marriages of relatives came, more blessings came to each one family member, the institutions to which he devoted his time continue to grow. Justice is served, and gift giving, sharing of disaster relief, resilient and sustainable projects for organizations and the poor in communities which the family and the schools adopted and continue to support continue. When Kuya Dante, the founder of VACC and Boboy’s lifetime buddy left to pursue his own afterlife journey to join those who went ahead the living, he left a beautiful message of hope, and forgiveness.
On Christmas Day on the first year of the Pandemic, our high school group chat had exchanges about the sudden death of a husband, a brother, a sister and a close friend to Covid-19, to a lingering illness and another to depression. Before that, I joined another group chat to express condolence to the family of a doctor friend who suddenly had a cardiac arrest and also the family of a human rights lawyer who was shot dead near his office close to Christmas day. Being a part of Tabang Bikol Movement allows me to come in touch with communities or people affected by natural disasters and in need. But one particular incident was most unforgettable: a grieving mother of a young student in a private school in Naga City who committed suicide hit hard on me. It pricked my soul, emotionally drawn for some weeks. Losing a young one to suicide and not being able to talk about it in public is most depressing. All the mother needed then was a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. When a crisis like an unexpected death dawn upon a family or a community, individual members react in different ways. But the common psychological effect of the loss of a loved one – natural, self-inflicted or by murder -- is the same, instant and equally distressful.
One cannot choose the time and way of dying. But death is certain to come. Even the most joyful occasion like Christmas is no exempt. I just reconnected to the mother. The oft repeated quotes “Death comes like a thief in the night” from the Thessalonians, “I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you,” from the Revelation, provided some solace. But the pain of loss and the feeling of guilt may remain for a while coupled with a rollercoaster of emotions to endure. In time, with understanding, hope and forgiving, Christmas today and in the next, may just be the Christmas that we all want: merry and peaceful.
On December 20, the second year of the Pandemic, TBM spearheads Alay kay Boboy, Alay sa mga Aki – gift giving ang Palaro-Aki for children of the poor communities led by Ilaw ng Kababaihan ang PODIS to be held at the Open Court in Barangay San Agustin, Canaman, Camarines Sur; Alay sa mga Aki on December 22 with TBM and partners; at Rawis, Legazpi City with Mariners Legazpi City ; Gulayan sa Bakuran at Tahanan or GuBaT, an urban gardening in Barangay Tinago, Naga City and the start of the construction of the Green Facility for Citronella Distillation in Baras, Canaman in partnership with Dept of Agriculture- Region V.