When I asked Mercy about Precious, she told me that while in hospital she had been diagnosed with meningitis. They had discharged her from the hospital knowing that they didn’t have money to treat her, and she suffered for several months before she died.
Mercy went on to have a few more children after that. We fulfilled our promise to keep Paulo in touch with the family even though they lived a 40 minute drive away. On the way to jail every Tuesday, we dropped him at his family’s home and picked him up on the way back. We did this until he started school.
Mercy asked me if I would take two of her daughters into our Children’s home too, as they were unable to send them to school. I agreed at first, until one day they went missing along with Greta’s youngest daughter. We reported their disappearance to the police and we spent the day and night searching for them. Fearing the worst, I went to Mercy to inform her about the girls’ disappearance only to find they were there with her. She found it quite amusing. She had given the girls money and showed them how to run away and find their way home. Needless to say, I refused to have the girls back, but was glad to return Greta’s daughter home safe and sound.
Every Christmas Day, Mercy brought her kids to our house to visit Paulo. One year, I (as I did every year) raided my larder and fridge to send her home with plenty of food for her family and I disappeared to my room to get Christmas presents for each of her kids. As I was in my room, my mum (who was visiting at the time) stepped out of her room just in time to catch Mercy stealing my wallet (it was actually my 8 year old daughter’s but she had hoped it was mine). Of course I let her know my disappointment but just let it go. Every Christmas after that, I met them outside to give the kids their presents out in the garden.
Meanwhile, our life with Paulo at home was rewarding. As Greta worked in my house, Paulo spent most of his time with us too. He was the same age as my son Nathanael, and we treated him as one of the family. He shared a birthday with my son Aaron, and we would have joint birthday celebrations. If I made Aaron a birthday cake, I would make one for Paulo too. If we celebrated in Mc Donald’s, half of the guests were Paulo’s, and they celebrated together.
When he started elementary school, however, we noticed his behaviour changed. He really struggled because the curriculum at our school was in English, so Greta suggested we enrol him in the public school, which we did. I paid for a tricycle (motorbike with sidecar, which is a provincial type taxi) to take him to and from school every day. I later learned, when he was caught stealing in the market, that after the tricycle dropped him at school, he would go to the market all day and just go back to school for his ride home.
Then my children’s Game Boy’s and other expensive items started disappearing. I suspected Paulo, but my children got angry with me at even the suggestion (years later he confessed to them that he did steal the Game Boys and sold them to his classmates for P20 (30p, 50c). In the end I had to ask that Paulo not come to our home anymore.
We caught him stealing money from my bag and breaking in to the house of our guests. We always knew it was one of the children and not just random break ins because there was chocolate missing out of the fridge (a signature we later learned to be his).
When in his teens, my son Rannel caught him after breaking into my husband’s office, but couldn’t give a positive ID as he wore a mask. Paulo told Rannel, as he ran passed him with a knife, “You’re lucky I didn’t take you out!!” (He knew our schedule of activities and was not expecting anyone home and Rannel had surprised him!!)
Fearing desperately that he would not break the habit of stealing before he reached the age of 18 and would face criminal charges and a certain prison sentence, I was forced to file a case against him for stealing my kids’ bikes so that he would be sent to a government juvenile detention centre in the hope of rehabilitation.
After 2 years in rehabilitation centre, Greta visited him and he was given a good report, so she agreed to take him back after his release, though I advised her not to do so. After just days with Greta, he stole everything she had of value.
Knowing our schedule, he’s always known the right time to break in. We no longer leave the house empty. Then he started breaking in while we were asleep (I’m told these gangs now use spray gas so that sleeping victims don’t wake). One time he stole a laptop and 5kg of bananas. When we looked over our wall, we saw the banana skins!! He was just mocking us. While I was in the UK this summer, he broke in while people were sleeping and stole my jewellery (given by my husband and mother). We now lock our bedrooms at night.
And now he has progressed to entering the house even when there are people awake. Just 3 weeks after I arrived in the Philippines, while there were 4 people in the house, he waited until they were all busy in their rooms and entered through the front door, went straight to my bedroom and got my iPad and iPhone. Yes, the iPad my family bought for my 50th birthday. Ugh!! Now we lock our bedrooms even when we are home!!
When I went to report the incident to the police they told me, “Just tell us that you saw him, so we can arrest him!!” Of course I could not lie. They told me they know him well. He is a known leader of a group of young thieves and is heavily into drugs too. He also needed money to settle a case filed against him by a local department store.
They say there are people who “Bite the hand that feeds them”, well, I am well and truly BITTEN!! But it is him I pity. I don’t want him to reap what he sows, but that will happen one day. I hope and pray that he comes to his senses before it’s too late!!