When you are in the mountains, the peasants welcoming arms and the beauty of the surrounding more often than not gives you the feeling that you are absolutely safe. This should be true for Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell considering especially the wonder offered by the lovely rice terraces. Thus, she failed to reckon with a lost soul in the sea of good ones in Banaue, where his body was found on April 18.
I can identify with Campbell having organized the farmers in the hinterlands of Cebu City and Bohol for seven years. Unlike Julia, however, we were more conscious of our security and constantly assessed the temperament of individuals. For like in other places, the truth is not all people, even Filipinos, are good.
I once met a Peace Corps volunteer, also a woman though younger, who was assigned in my home place in Poro town in the Camotes group of islands, Cebu in the 1990s. I was told about her good deeds, but what caught my attention was the interest of some of the young men in her. The last time I saw her, she was dating the aide of the town mayor in one of the nightspots in Cebu City.
That just shows that Peace Corps volunteers are human, in much the same way that the people they are dealing with are not saints. I am sure the United States government gave these volunteers enough orientation before they were deployed to the Philippines. The killing of Campbell should prompt a reassessment of this orientation process.
As a journalist, though, I am saddened by the publicity generated worldwide by this incident. More so because several days later news of the beheading by the Abu Sayyaf of seven hostages in Jolo also caught international attention. These are not flattering to the image of this country.
–Candido O. Wenceslao, April 21, 2007