7:34 p.m., January 16, 1987, San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines
“Close your eyes!”
“Nobody moves, screams, or looks at us — or I’ll blow his head off!”
My family had barely finished asking the blessing on a Friday evening meal when we were faced with four masked, shabby-looking men brandishing handguns, an M-16 rifle, and a dagger.
How did these people get in here? What do they want?
“I said shut your eyes!” the leader barked, pointing a revolver straight at Dad.
Dad glanced at my two little sisters, my mom (almost nine months pregnant), my three brothers and me, and said…
“Just bow your heads and pray…”
“Yes, you better pray,” the leader mocked. “Because this will be your last!”
My eyelids trembled as I tried to keep them shut.
My knees were shaking. I wanted to do something, but if Dad was powerless right now, what could a 13-year old do?
I prayed that my five-year-old sister wouldn’t open her eyes or cry.
“We need cash, jewelry, and guns — and we need them right now!”
We didn’t have what they wanted, and Dad told them so. All the money he had was 300 Philippine pesos (about six U.S. dollars), which he gave them.
“You liar!” the leader shouted as he spat on the floor.
He pressed the knife on my Dad’s throat and demanded that he tell the truth.
While the two men stood by, the other two searched every inch of the house. Finding some drawers locked, they came back furious. I cringed as I heard one of them whack Dad with the butt of his gun.
“Give me the keys! You’re making things difficult for us!”
With the gun against the back of his head, Dad led the man to his study. The thief grabbed the keys and brought Dad back to his seat.
After more than two hours of vain searching, the men settled for other valuables: VCR, camera, radio, power tools, camping gear, watches — even my brothers’ and sisters’ savings.
They grabbed our suitcases and stuffed them with the loot.
“We need the car,” the leader said.
Dad offered him the keys, but the leader said, “No, you are driving us.”
Dad explained that the car had little gas left and that there were no gas stations open that late.
“That’s no problem — we’ll hold one up if necessary.”
Dad had no choice. He glanced at his family, not knowing whether he would see us again. We weren’t even allowed to look at each other to say goodbye.
We comforted ourselves thinking Dad wouldn’t have to drive them too far. Dad didn’t have his wallet, driver’s license, or any identification. He could easily be dumped anywhere and no one would know who he was. We’d read about similar cases where the victim never returned alive.
We prayed Dad would be an exception.
The leader stuck a gun against Dad’s temple while another held a dagger to his throat.
Dad was told to look straight ahead, not to pass by friends or the police, and not to stop at military checkpoints. He was not to make any signal or operate any communications equipment. He was even scolded for signaling a turn.
The men took turns guarding Dad while the rest ate or slept. The leader told my Dad that he could go home if he took them safely to their destination. But he threatened to finish us all off if anything ever went wrong.
After two hours, Dad mentioned the gas tank was nearly empty.
The leader directed him to an open gas station, and after the attendant pumped about four gallons, they took off again.
While driving farther and farther from home and sources of help, my Dad prayed.
He recalled God’s promises and the many miracles in the Bible. Dad asked God more than once to intervene quickly. He expected a drastic solution, such as the car being swept away in a flash flood or zapped by a lightning bolt with him as the lone survivor — anything that would get these men off his back.
When it didn’t happen, my Dad briefly entertained the idea of running the car off the road to “end it all.” He then thought about his wife and children, now potentially fatherless. He asked God to hear their prayers and to take care of them. Helpless, he entrusted everything to God.
After five hours of driving, the gas tank was nearly empty again.
As the desired destination was still about five hours away, Dad suggested they choose a place to stop for the night.
Finally, on a lonely stretch of road, the leader ordered Dad to make a U-turn and park.
Dad sensed impending danger.
As the men started to get out, the leader turned around and cocked his gun.
He ordered Dad to get out and lie facedown on the roadside.
He reminded the leader he had promised to allow him to return. Dad was determined that if he was going to die, it would be in the car so there would be evidence. Having prayed and prepared himself the whole night, he wasn’t afraid to die.
The leader lowered the gun and started to walk away.
Dad then requested some money for gas…
The leader threw the stolen money on the back seat and closed the door.
Dad jammed his foot on the gas pedal, flinging dust in the air. As he headed home he gave an audible prayer of thanks and a loud cry of relief!
It was now 3 a.m., and he knew no gas station would be open for miles. He also knew that to travel all the way back on a drying gas tank would require nothing short of a miracle. But his priority was to get as far away from the men as possible.
So, on a full tank of faith and an almost empty tank of gas, he sped toward home.
Back at home, it was already sunrise, and Dad still hadn’t come home. We hardly slept — we worried, prayed, and waited for any sign of Dad. But about two hours later, I heard the car’s familiar horn. We all rushed outside.
It was Dad! With tears streaming down our faces, we hugged.
Through that experience, I have learned that God does hear our prayers, though, in His perfect knowledge, He doesn’t always answer in the time or way we expect.
Sometimes, we cry out to God and wonder why help doesn’t come. If only we had the eyes — the eyes of FAITH TO SEE… to see Him lovingly hovering over us, always in control, making sure that nothing happens beyond what He would allow.
(My mom gave birth to a healthy baby girl, my youngest sister Meryl, the day my dad returned. She’s now happily married, and turned 34 this year.)
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. ~Psalm 34:17-19