BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Monday, March 26, 2012

Captain Javier

(This is a story about a day in the life of a policeman. I wrote it for Fookien Times in 2000. Found the hard copy gathering dust in my baul.)

BOY MUSLIM was a newcomer in Kahilom, Pandacan Manila's "Little Tondo," but he had already earned the ire of many of his neighbors. He harassed and intimidated bystanders and tricycle drivers. With arms outstretched, a tirador tucked in the pocket of his pants and a bolo on his right hand, he blocked the only entry and exit point of the narrow Apitong Street, one of Kahilom's main roads.

Alas, he met his match in Captain Danilo Javier, a police officer who happened to live in the area and who was a mere seven meters away from him. But not even Javier's warning shot slowed him down. He came on too fast.

"Walang pulis-pulis sa akin (There's no such creature as a policeman to me)!" shouted the sando-clad man armed with his bolo, as he sped towards the captain.

Some 30 bystanders held their breath. "It's my life against his," Javier thought as the fellow got nearer and nearer. Javier had to make a choice. He shot Boy Muslim five times.

"Yehey! Sa wakas! (Yahoo! At long last!)" the crowd of onlookers cheered and clapped as Boy Muslim fell on his own pool of blood.

In his almost three-decade career in the police service, Capt. Javier, 52, has had to deal with a lot of violence at the Makati Police Department -- Manila's business district, among them, bomb explosions, suicides, bank robberies, and physical injuries. From being an ordinary beat policeman, he rose from the ranks to become head of Makati's Homicide Section, Criminal Investigation Division.

The situation we just recounted was one of those life-and-death situations the police officer has had to deal with through the years. Once Captain Javier landed in the front pages of the newspaper for having shot a hostage taker in Estrella, Makati. It was his birthday and his family was waiting for him. What would have been a quiet birthday dinner with them at the Aloha hotel had to be cancelled because he had to file an incidence report. He had to respond to the call of duty. He had to finish his job. He ended up celebrating his birthday at precinct 9 with family and friends.

There was no hotel food at the police station, but a local official gave a bottle of Black Label, a birthday cake, and a bilao of Pancit Palabok for the celebrator.

"It was like a scene from a Tagalog film," Javier said of that incident. "I realized how true those scenes from local films are which show that sometimes policemen can't even celebrate their birthdays because they have to respond to the call of duty.”

"People sometimes look down on policemen, but they do not realize how difficult our lives could get sometimes," Javier said.

Job offers with unbelievable perks from top executives of banks and companies continue to come the captain's way in. But the man with the badge is happy and proud where he is.

Javier admitted that when he was in college, students often regarded a policeman's work as a last choice or option for a job.

"A lot of them would say, ‘I'll just be a policeman,’" he said. But when I became one, I realized that the profession is something one should be proud of. Pulis yata 'to," he declared proudly.

Javier finished a degree in criminology in 1972 at the Philippine College of Criminology. After graduation, he immediately joined the service as a patrolman. He later became a corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and then captain. The next step for him is to be promoted major, then colonel, then maybe, general. But he humbly admitted that is unlikely that he would reach the rank of general before he retires.

"Nowadays, if one goes through the Philippine Military Academy or the Philippine National Police Academy for two years, you could be promoted lieutenant right away," he said.

He laments that when he was still training to be a policeman, he could neither enroll at the PMA nor the PNPA. If he could have, "I would be a general by now."

Javier, however, said that even though he did not have a chance to study at the PNPA, his hard-line experience at the beat taught him just as much as what he could have learned there.

He grew up like any boy of his time. His father was an employee at the government-run Bureau of Printing while his mother took care of his children. "My mother was a good cook," he recalled, adding that his parents worked hard to make both ends meet.

Javier is proud that despite the odds, he worked his way up and was able to send all his three children to school and build a house for them through a loan from Pag-ibig Fund.

He and his wife pulled resources together to give their children good education, believing that it is one of the best gifts parents could bequeath to their children. "I have to keep reminding the kids that I and my wife work our fingers to the bone to earn the money we used to send them to school," Javier said.

"He wanted all of us to finish out studies," said Andy, his eldest son, now 28 years old. At the tender age of 17, however, Andy got married even though he was still a college freshman. In spite of his disappointment, Capt. Javier continued to finance Andy's education until the latter graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering. He now works with Kimberly Clark, a multinational corporation, and has made his parents proud of where his determination to graduate landed him.

Twenty-six year old Raquel, the second child, finished psychology at the San Juan de Letran College in Calamba and now works with the computer firm Intel.

Donna, the youngest at 22, graduated cum laude with a degree in Occupational Therapy. She is taking the board examinations and is planning to work abroad for a few years when she is issued her license.

A consistent honor student, Donna said she also disappointed her father when she got married at the age of 20, had a daughter and stopped going to school.

"Papa asked me if I could still continue schooling," she recalled. "I said yes. He supported me financially, and I eventually graduated cum laude. Papa cried when I got my diploma," Donna said.

Now, all three children have finished school and have families of their own. "They are slowly establishing themselves," Javier proudly says. "Andy and his wife have their own house and lot in Sta. Rosa, Laguna where they stay with their three sons," Javier added.

"My husband and I will have our own house in Cavite very soon through our own savings," said Raquel, adding that she had ample training from her father in terms of setting of goals, and more importantly, in budgeting finances.

"When we were younger, my father gave us a budget for household needs," Raquel said. Now and then, he would check with her the family's acknowledged "chief accountant" -- if the money was enough to last till the next payday.

Raquel emerged from this experience wiser. She and her husband now invest in stocks to earn extra income for their two-year-old child an option that wasn't available to her parents while she and her siblings were growing up.

Donna said, "My husband and I are acquiring a franchise of a beverage kiosk with the help of my parents." The young coupe is also into selling cellular phone call cards.
Donna explained that it would have been difficult for the three of them to raise their own families without the support of their parents.

"We are very lucky because even if we got married at an early age, our parents helped us finish school," Donna said. "They continue to support us up to now."

"I made sure they took their studies seriously," Javier said. When his children were still in grade school and high school, he saw to it that he was the one who signed whenever their teachers sent their report cards. He wanted to check on his children's progress.

"Even if they were already asleep, I would insert my comments in their report cards," Javier recalled.

The man is a good father to his children, attests 51-year-old Teresita Gavino Javier, the Captain's wife. "He is a disciplinarian," she said, adding that it was he who made sure that all three children practiced time-honored principles of Filipino culture.

"He always reminded us to kiss the hands of our elders as a sign of respect and to always say po and opo," said Andy.

Teresita admitted, however that it is difficult to be a policeman's wife.

"There were times when we wouldn't see each other because he'd always be away," Teresita recalls. Sometimes, she said, she had to be both mother and father to the children.

She was a college freshman when she and the Captain met for the first time. She was waiting for a bus ride along Taft Avenue in Manila when they first set eyes on each other.

Teresita admitted that she has lot of suitors back then. "Hindi mo naitatanong, ligawin ako nuon," Teresita said. But she was serious with her work. She had to find a job when she was barely 14 because her father had died of cancer. After job-hopping, she eventually landed her current job as liaison officer of Aloha Hotel where she had been working for the past 33 years. Because she had to fend for herself at a young age, she was not able to finish college.

Even if she had many suitors, she ended up with a policeman, she chuckled. She admits that her friends had often asked her if it was true that policemen were babaeros, Teresita says she "does not really know," and refuses to find out. Di ko alam at di ko na lang inaalam," she says.

"It is perhaps a phase in a man's life (to seek women outside of marriage), but I am happy with the way things are between me and my husband," Teresita said. "We always communicate even if he is very busy. He calls me everyday at nine in the morning," she added.

Andy admitted that his father was, and still is, his "idol." But the Captain advised his young son early in life not to follow his father's footsteps because a policeman's life is always in danger.

"Kalahati 'nang buhay mo, nasa hukay (You're always at the brink of death)," Javier used to tell Andy.

Aside from the dangers on the job, Javier says, one also has to keep his name clean. In spite of the generally unsavory reputation of policemen, Javier is proud to say that he's worked hard for every single centavo he's earned since he started in the service. This he attributes to hard work and perseverance.

Why else would he have to borrow P150,000 for the expansion of his humble home in Binan? "We also joined paluwagans, particularly before enrolment periods to be able to raise extra funds for our children's tuition fees," recalls Teresita. "What can you expect from a policeman's salary?" he asked.

"I admit that in my 29 years of service, I have received a lot of tokens of gratitude from many big names," Javier said. He sees nothing wrong with being on the receiving end, however. After all, they were given after not before or during -- an operation. He hastens to add that they were mere tokens of gratitude, not bribes.

Home to Javier is a middle-class bungalow in Binan, Laguna where he spends weekends with the whole family. He acquired the house and lot through a loan from Pag-ibig 17 years ago, on a 25-year-to-pay term. He's still paying P2,000 a month for it. "At one time the amortization was only P800!" he recalled.

Javier goes home to Binan only on Wednesdays and on weekends. He stays at his home in Pandacan on weekdays as the daily commute is more convenient. He never forgets, however to communicate with the children daily by calling them through their cellular phones or sending them text messages.

More than his retirement pension of P3M, Captain Javier looks forward to the day he turns 56, when he can rest from years of police service, spend more time with his wife, children, and his five grandchildren. 

Now, that would be the day.