No Christmas for woman who lost her son in drug war
Every year at Christmastime, Nanette Castillo would decorate her tiny home at Holy Cross in Novaliches, Quezon City, with lights and lanterns to feel and display the holiday spirit.
The 49-year-old grandmother would buy simple gifts for her son, daughter and grandchildren, and prepares a variety of dishes for the family’s “noche buena” feast.
But this year, there were no lights and lanterns. Her home has been shrouded by the pall and gloom of the brutal killing of Aldrin, her eldest child and only son.
Aldrin, 32, was gunned down close to midnight on Oct. 2 on busy Herbosa Street in Tondo, Manila. He was about to cross the road to buy brandy to share with friends when seven masked men on motorcycles cut him off and shot him.
Bullets in head, chest
Two bullets slammed into his left cheek and another struck his neck. He fell on his face and his blood flowed down the pavement.
It seemed that the three bullets lodged in his head were not enough. One of the hit men turned him over and shot him two more times in the chest.
The gunmen fled as if nothing happened.
Two months have passed, but Castillo is still furious and indignant over her son’s murder. So many questions remain unanswered—“What had he done wrong? Who killed him? Why did they kill him?”
As she grasps for an explanation, she also struggles to find a reason to celebrate Christmas.
“I will have no Christmas this year, and neither will my daughter,” Castillo said in an interview with Inquirer.net this week.
“But the thing is, I have grandchildren. They’re just kids and Christmas is for them. I cannot stop the kids from celebrating,” she said, shaking her head in sorrow as she held a laminated portrait of Aldrin.
“For us? We have no Christmas, not even my mother. Whether it happened long ago or just recently, I could never accept my son’s death,” she added.
Aldrin was a drug user, Castillo admitted, but she pointed out that he had already kicked the habit long
before he was killed.
Not on drug watch list
Castillo also said her son was not on the drug watch list in Tondo or in Novaliches as he had a clean record and had no enemies.
“He was not a scourge to society that this government is saying. He has not wronged anyone. Why did they gun him down? I want answers to my questions and I want to know who those animals were,” she said.
Aldrin had kept himself busy working as a welder. Days before he was killed, his sister, Abigail, requested him to install an air-conditioner in her house in Tondo.
Castillo said he was supposed to return home to Novaliches sooner but he got the flu so he stayed longer in Tondo. The family lived for decades in that neighborhood so Castillo felt it was safe and did not think anything untoward could happen there.
She was wrong.
Castillo wanted someone held responsible for Aldrin’s death. In her despair, she blamed her daughter: If he were not in Tondo, he would still be alive.
“It has created a gap in the family,” she lamented. She longs for the day that she and her daughter patch things up.
Strength to pursue justice
Castillo smiled as she sat on a bench across a table inside a café in Quezon City for the interview. She said she wanted to go to Tutuban night market in Divisoria, Manila, to buy cheap stuff for Christmas.
Normita, another woman who lost a son to the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, told her that it would be a struggle to shop there because of the sheer number of people.
Castillo laughed. She told her: “I got through my son’s death, what is that compared to shopping in Tutuban?”
These days, Castillo keeps herself busy as a volunteer for Rise Up for Life and for Rights, a Church-based nonprofit group supporting and organizing families of victims of extrajudicial killings. She helps conduct house-to-house visits, talking to family members, scheduling meetings and doing other things.
She got in touch with the group at the Nov. 5 “Start the Healing” rally on Edsa.
“Joining Rise Up opened my mind. Before, I was just a simple mother who did not care about anyone else so long as my children were safe. Until this happened to me,” she said.
“We’re grateful there’s an organization like this that we can run to because we would not know what to do since none of us knows anything about the law,” she said.
Her new life as an advocate against the drug killings and meeting other families who shared common experiences greatly helped her cope and process the trauma and pain of her loss.
“No one could understand us more than we who have lost someone,” she said.
On Christmas Day, she said she would light a candle at her son’s tomb at Manila North Cemetery. She will pray not only for her peace of mind but also for justice for Aldrin and the thousands of others who have fallen victims to the government’s deadly crackdown on illegal drugs.
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