Most of my childhood was spent on the road—but not in a bad way. My grandparents had a job that required them to go back and forth between Quezon City (where we lived at the time) and Bataan (where the resort they were handling was). I remember it being the best. I got to go to the beach every weekend, and I got to witness my Pappy and Mamai run the business too. There wasn’t much to complain about, and, if anything, it came with its own fair share of adventures. Honestly, it was pretty awesome.
However, on one of the two to three hour drives on the way to Montemar Beach Resort (that’s the name of the resort, by the way), something interesting happened. And by interesting, I mean crap-inducing-ly terrifying. Getting ahead of myself, though, so I’ll start from the beginning. Basically, it all began with my desperate need for a Dairy Queen Blizzard—which, in hindsight, is hilarious all on its own. I could see the potential headline now: Girl gunned down due to insane craving for KitKat ice cream.
I’d managed to convince my grandfather to stop over at a gasoline station. I promised I’d be quick and practically dashed out of the car without a care in the world. Apparently, I was so focused on my quest for frozen dessert that I hadn’t noticed the staggering amount of policemen in the vicinity—then again, I was young, why would I have cared? I entered the Dairy Queen and lined up behind two or three people. There was a mom with a toddler at the very front, and I remember that because I made funny faces at the (maybe) two-year-old and made him laugh. That high-pitched giggle was the last good thing about this particular memory.
My turn came up, and I had to go through the same experience of dealing with people who forced themselves to speak in straight English for my benefit. I gave the guy my order, and I don’t even know if I got to finish my order before everything went to hell. My wrist was grabbed, I was forcibly pulled over the counter (which hurt by the way—I was bruised for, like, a week!), and my head was pushed down behind the register. I had no idea what was going on, and suddenly the sound of that same toddler from earlier crying snapped me out of my shock.
That, along with the sudden loud bang bang bang of gunfire.
There was a lot going on in my mind. (What was going on outside—OH MY GOD, my grandparents are in the car! Why are there guns? Why are they shooting? Was there a bomb? WHAT IF THE GLASS BROKE—there was a CHILD in here!) I remember screaming and clutching onto that guy’s shirt as open fire surged on outside. I remember crying and hoping that they didn’t enter the establishment. I wondered, offhandedly, if that was going to be my last breathing moments—in the arms of some stranger, away from my family, and in a Dairy Queen.
It didn’t take long for the shooting to die down. The employee who was with me let me go, and he rushed to the door to lock it (just in case one of the gunners decided to enter and get a hostage). The little boy was still crying, and I went over to him to help his mother calm him down. I don’t know why I did it, but I had a little brother, Dylan, who was around his age. I think, at the time, he just reminded me so much of him—and how, you know, if things had gone awry, I would have never seen him again. The mom didn’t seem that comfortable with me trying to play with her kid right then, but it worked, and his crying stopped. It calmed me too, to think that he wasn’t panicking anymore.
The employee walked over to me after he checked on some of the other people there. He asked me if I had sprained anything—asked if I was okay. You know what I said? I said I wanted my ice cream. Because, yes, no one shall ever say that I had my priorities jumbled. I asked him if he could make me my Kit Kat Blizzard. He seemed confused, and I didn’t care. I offered him the money and he seemed so unsure of what to do that he took it and nodded. When he handed me the cup (I didn’t bother to check if he’d given it to me upside down), I asked if I could go out and see if my grandparents were okay.
He didn’t let me, at first, but he gave in. I think I was about to start crying again. He asked where our car was parked and I pointed just directly in front of the establishment. From the clear door, I could see that my grandparents seemed to be physically fine. They looked more worried about me. The employee walked me over to our car, and when I got in my grandfather gave him some money as a thank you. I began eating my ice cream and my grandfather began driving away as my grandmother fussed over me, asking me if I was hurt or if I was okay. I just kept eating my ice cream and nodded when appropriate.
I’ve never been able to hear fireworks or sudden loud noises without feeling just the slight bit of panic ever since.