Sunday, August 16, 2009

Warning to all: Be very very careful

I just read from someone's email in a community mailing group that it seems that the "serial killer" who has been targeting gay men and who has not yet been apprehended by police has struck again. Around three to four years ago, if I'm not mistaken, several gay men were found dead via multiple stab wounds in their apartments around the Quezon City area. The victims included a fashion designer, TV producer, hair stylist and many others. There were rumors that have remained unconfirmed until now that one of the killer's victims was, in fact, a priest.

The serial killer angle came to a head when one of the alleged victims' stories was solved. That person was someone I knew personally: Larry Estandarte. Larry was one of the founding members of the University of the Philippines (UP) Babaylan, the first LGBT students' organization in the UP system. By the time I became a member of UP Babaylan, Larry was already one of our alumni members and had long been working as a researcher for ABS-CBN, a major TV network in the Philippines. One time, a good friend of mine Telly, also a Babaylan member, asked me to accompany him to Larry's house near the UP campus. It was not my first time to meet Larry as we had met in Babaylan activities in the past; but it was the first time we had a chance to sit down and chat.

With all due respect, I'd like to refer to Larry in the feminine. I knew that Larry never identified herself out and out as a woman but I was aware that she was taking female hormones to feminize herself. She wore her hair long, behaved in a very feminine way, had a girlish voice and dressed up en femme at home and at work. Everybody knew her as Larry though and I guess that she just wanted to retain her name.

My first impression of Larry was that she was, physically, very soft and frail. She was also very accommodating and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. She kept asking me questions that ranged from my relationship status to my family to my job. I found it really sweet. We were sitting outside the house where she was renting a room and she was wearing very skimpy shorts and a baby t-shirt at that time. I remarked at how pretty she was and how fair her skin was. She thanked me for my compliments. That was more than 10 or so years ago and the last time I'd ever see her. The next time I heard of her was in the news in August 2005 when her decomposing body was found in her room, in the same place we visited her a decade or so back. The neighbors discovered her body because of the smell. When the police came, they saw Larry's body on the floor with her arms up. She had stab wounds on her palms and arms. That meant she tried to shield herself from her attackers using her hands.

The police did their work fortunately and caught Larry's killers. It was a group of young men in Larry's neighborhood. The police captured them through Larry's missing cellphone. One of the cops investigating the case or at least someone ordered by the police pretended to be a random mobile phone user who just happened to send Larry's number a message. The person using Larry's missing phone or SIM card responded. A friendly relationship began via SMS. When the guy asked to meet later, the police showed up and arrested him. Later, the guy would tell the police what happened to Larry that night and who was responsible. Larry's case was solved. It demonstrated that Larry's case was an isolated incident and raised doubts on the existence of a serial killer.

UP Babaylan honored Larry's death by publishing a literary folio, which included one of my short, long-forgotten poems that I had written in an old log book back in college. Back in the day, if you found yourself hanging around the org kiosk at the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) building, you could while the time away by doodling, writing, and drawing on the Babaylan log book. The folio editor decided to include something I had written in one of the old log books for that special tribute to Larry. I am very thankful for that.

After Larry's case, the serial killer was not heard from again until recently. This week, another gay man was found in his apartment dead from multiple stab wounds. His name was Winton Lou Ynion. He was a writer and a teacher at De La Salle University. I hope the police do everything in their power to arrest Winton's murderer. It can be that serial killer from four years ago or it can also be an impostor. Either way, someone's son, best friend, boy friend, cousin, mentor, favorite teacher, etc. is now gone.

I am sure this recent case will be used to argue for hate crimes legislation in the Philippines. I am all for it as long as the debates do not invisibilize trans people and due accommodation is made to punish crimes motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived gender and/or gender identity and expression. In the mean time, I urge everyone to choose who you let into your house. Sexual needs can make people reckless but with your life potentially on the line, it does not hurt to be very very careful.


Monica Roberts said...

No matter where transpeople live on this earth, it seems we all deal with the same set of common problems.


I'm still in shock after reading your post. I woke up this morning and for some reason remembered my classmate and good friend Larry Estandarte. We belonged to the same college (UP College of Home Economics) and were classmates in several subjects.

I have fond memories of Larry. He was my first friend in the "big" Diliman campus. I remember ditching class once and watching Ferngully with him at the then newly-opened SM City North Edsa. He was funny and gentle and kind. We drifted apart after I took a LOA and when I went back, he was no longer studying. I saw him again years later at Philcoa; he was rushing to go home to Laguna to cast his vote--it must have been the 2004 elections. I never saw or heard from/of him again--until I read your post. I am appalled at myself for not even hearing about it. I was still in the Philippines in 2005. How could I not have come across what happened from the papers at least? It's such a poor way of repaying his kindness.

For what it's worth, I am glad his killers were apprehended.

P.S. Forgive me for the rambling comment. I'm still in a daze.