MANILA – The family of Maribel Alpas thought that the "goodbye" they exchanged last month was just temporary, as the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was about to venture into another two-year contract as a nanny for a Filipino family in the United Kingdom.
Little did they know she would end up dead, her head chopped off and her body still missing as of posting.
Her younger sister Jocebel recalls the sacrifices Maribel made for her mother and other members of her family.
"Masyadong family-oriented. Gusto niyang di mahirapan si mama. Hindi na maghihirap si mama. Nakaabot na siya ng 31 (years old) ayaw pa niyang mag-asawa kasi gusto pa niyang gumanda buhay namin. Yun lang naman ang gusto niya, para sa pamilya niya, para lang sa amin," she said.
Jocebel said Maribel was their family's breadwinner. It was this role she assumed and which brought her to England.
"Siya po ang breadwinner sa amin. Siya nagpaaral sa akin ng college di ko nga lang natapos. Tapos yung lahat ng sahod niya halos wala nang natitira sa kanya, napupunta kay mama," she said.
Maribel worked for one year in Nueva Ecija for the same Filipino family that employed her in England. The Filipino couple, both nurses, sponsored her to England with the promise of helping her become a resident.
"Ang habol ng kapatid ko doon yung maging residente siya para pag residente siya, pwede na siyang umalis, pwede na niyang gawin ang gusto niyang gawin doon. Two years na lang daw po tapos resident na po siya kaya tiniis po niya lahat ng hirap para maging residente siya doon kahit maliit ang sahod niya doon," she said.
THE LAST TIME
The Alpas family last saw her on March 20 when she set out for Manila on her way to Nueva Ecija to pick up some documents from her employer's house. She was supposed to be on a flight to London the following day.
Jocebel said they couldn't reach her on the night of March 20. When days passed by without word from her, the family decided to contact her employer in the UK to ask if she arrived safely.
But they found out that she never made it back to England.
Her employer relayed to them that policemen went to their home in Nueva Ecija inquiring about Maribel.
"Tumawag po yung kapatid ko sa mga kaibigan namin sa Manila at sinearch ang number ng Sta. Rosa police station at tumawag po. Doon po namin nalaman na may pugot daw po na ulo ang nakita," she said.
SEVERED HEAD IN BLUE PAIL
Exactly five days after Maribel went missing, a farmer found her severed head inside a blue pail in a remote area of Cabiao in Nueva Ecija.
The decomposing head was wrapped in plastic bag. A sack containing her personal belongings like her clothes and passport, photo and other documents, was also found.
However, as of posting time, authorities have yet to find Alpas' body.
Last Tuesday, the family filed a murder complaint against two suspects. Jocebel, however, declined to reveal the name of one of the suspects as the investigation into the case continues.
She said it was circumstantial evidence that pointed to the two as the suspects behind her sister's brutal killing.
Jocebel remembers her sister "Inday" as a cheerful person who put others first before herself.
"Laging nakangiti at lagi niyang inaasar mga pamangkin niya. Mapagmahal at malambing pero maiksi ang pasensiya," she said.
She said her 31-year old sister wanted everything in the house clean and organized, to the point that she threw away things of no use.
"Kaya sina mama at papa, laging nakasunod sa kanya kapag naglilinis sa bahay kasi nagtatapon ng di na ginagamit. Malinis siya talaga walang matitira kapag di ginagamit," she recalled.
Family and friends set up the Justice for Maribel Alpas Facebook page in the hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice.
So far, the family has raised P50,000 as reward money from cash donated by friends and supporters. She said P25,000 will be given to the one who can pinpoint the location of her sister's body, the other half is for anyone who may have witnessed the crime.
"Kung may nakakita man po sa pagpatay sa kapatid ko, parang awa niyo na po tulungan nyo kaming makamit ang hustisya para sa kapatid ko," she said.
Meanwhile, the family is still accepting financial assistance. Donations can be coursed through the bank account below:
Account name: Artemio Alpas or Camia Fulleros
Bank Name: Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
Branch: Bacolod-Capitol Subd.
17th cor. Lacson Street, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental 6100
Account No: 1329-0972-73
Swift Code: BOPIPHMM
"Doon po sa lahat ng tumutulong sa amin, lahat po ng kaibigan ng kapatid ko na nagmamahal sa kanya, salamat po ng marami. Wag po kayong magaalala, di po kami titigil hangga't di nakakamit ang hustisya para sa kapatid ko," Jocebel said.
And to the suspects who remain at large, Jocebel has this to say: "Wala kang konsensiya. Gusto ko mapagbayaran niya ginawa niya. Kahit na patay na siya gusto ko magdusa siya habang buhay, hanggang sa kabilang buhay! Hinding-hindi ko siya mapapatawad".