This is the lament aired to a Consulate official by a Filipino victim of hate crime in the San Francisco Bay Area when they finally met a year after the incident.
Pablo Villavicencio finally had his grievances heard recently at a meeting with Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco (PCGSF) Deputy Consul General Raquel Solano who is also in charge of assistance to Filipino nationals at PCGSF at the Consulate.
Villavicencio shared that more than a year after a violent incident at an East Bay Bart station he is still feeling the trauma that remained with him and longed for the day when he would feel normal and safe again.
“I still have to constantly look around before he can feel seated comfortably inside a bus or train. The mere sight of black people, regardless whether they are male or female, young or old gives him the chills,” Villavicencio related. “I long for the day when he would feel normal and safe again.”
Villavicencio was looking forward to spending a happy Memorial Day weekend with his friends and relatives in Los Angeles as he took the BART train when at the West Oakland Station, a young twenty-five year old African American girl suddenly dashed in front of him carrying a piece of 2 x 2 wood and took a swing that targeted Villavicencio’s head.
It was good that he had quick reflexes, was able to duck a bit to his right protecting his head and the impact of the wood hit the backpack he had on his left shoulder instead. He didn’t feel hurt then and was about to run after the girl who sprinted upstairs to the train platform.
It was good that the station agent advised him not to go after the girl as it was not safe for him to do so. Instead, Villavicencio was led into the station booth which then was safer place to be in.
The station agent then called up BART police to seek assistance and policemen, together with a medical team, arrived minutes later. They went up to take custody of the girl who Villavicencio and the station agent were able to identify.
“I still cannot recover from my trauma. Whenever it is talked about, the psychological wounds and sad thoughts it left are still fresh in min mind,” Villavicencio remembered. “When I posted it on social media and was subsequently reported on Filipino media outlets, I received a lot of sympathetic messages that asked among others how I am doing, am I still able to go out on my own, they are still asking if the Philippine government has helped me or at least gotten in touch with me. I said no.as time went on I still carry the emotional and psychological hurt in me. It is very hard to be a victim of a hate crime especially when you live alone with all your loved ones are back in the Philippines. Ang hirap maging biktima lalo na kung ikaw ay nag-iisa.”
Villavicencio admitted that he felt very bad that even got to the point that he blamed the Philippine government for not even learning what happened to me although it was in the printed news and even online.
“Where are you when I needed you most? A victim like me needs medical, legal, financial, shelter assistance, among others. Emotionally, he would need a psychiatrist or psychologist,” Villavicencio believes. ”He would also need spiritual guidance as I felt so alone I was also thinking of taking my own life because of mental torture and fear.”
These were part of what Villavicencio told Solano at their meeting where he also suggests that the Consulate has someone in charge because there many being victimized but many of the victims may not know where to turn to, go or call.
Villavicencio added that victims may not have enough courage to come out and report these things being at a loss on how he will get medical and legal assistance that can be taken care of by someone from the Consulate that supposedly his home away from home.
“We should always be monitored as we also have a lot of things we need to do. Life does not stop when we get victimized,” Villavicencio stressed. “I want to reach out to you so I can tell you what are needed by victims like me. Now that I have told you and nothing has been done, only then can I blame you for doing nothing. You really need to look for Filipinos who have been victimized so you may know what else are needed by them.”
Solano, for her part, admitted that not every news on victims reaches the Consulate and was happy that she and the victim are having this conversation so the Consulate may know Villavicencio’s thoughts and complaints.
“I am speaking out in the hope that this does not happen to anyone else, for anyone to fall victim and get hurt. I am thankful to God that nothing worse than this happened. To all who may have suffered like me, do not be silent. Don’t suffer in silence. Say something so this may no longer happen to anyone else,” Villavicencio advised.
Villavicencio’s appeal was echoed by Solano who asked Filipino victims to report to them incidents such as what happened to him.
Victims of hate crimes and incidents are advised to first call law enforcement authorities for immediate response, inform the Consulate of what happened so appropriate assistance may be extended subject to evaluation by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Victims can call 415-2692090 or 415-7489888 to reach the PCGSF 24/7.
Solano added that they are not being given information by the police that easily mainly due to privacy laws in California. Victims usually have to go through to public records route and had to undergo legal proceedings and that victims have to give consent before Consulate officials have access to records.
“When it comes to the need of Filipinos we have a section here in the Consulate that attends to assistance to nationals that provides assistance based on a set of guidelines. We determine first if he is a Filipino national (not American citizen), does he need financial or legal assistance (and if he has the capacity pay considering the limited Philippine government resources so we can help those who really needed help). We have a process we follow. We evaluate what assistance are needed, is he qualified that the government help that may be extended. Only when the resources available within the community are exhausted will we endorse the request to avail of the assistance to national funds from the DFA that will determine and finally decide on the request,” Solano explained.
Solano promised to refer and endorse Villavicencio’s request for the services available if asked and he will be informed of any development.
“In his case, the assistance that we may give him is legal assistance when there is sufficient basis to file a case. Then financial assistance if he does not have the capacity to support himself. On psycho social support, we can refer him to an entity for this,” Solano remarked.