my right knee usually shakes. uncontrollably. when im nervous and giving a speech. it would do this so much that i learned to make speeches/publicly speak regardless if my knee was shaking so long as there was a podium in front of me. this time, before i gave one of the most important speeches i would make in my life, my knee started shaking in my seat.
when he walked into the court room, i missed it. my cousin had to tell me, and i turned first to my father who was holding back tears, then to my mother who looked stern, and then to him. haipe. he looked the same, just years added to his face. yet instead of the proud, young, intellect i remember, he was worn, tired, in handcuffs.
i was slated to speak first. to open the long series of stories of trauma, turmoil, and tears. i kept staring at him and i couldn’t get my knee to stop shaking. the thoughts were endless, “whose great idea was it to wear heels? will he remember me? will the judge hear my knee shaking against the podium? will haipe even react to me?” there were thoughts and revisions and videos and recounts and rebuttles and then finally, my name.
i slowly walked up and stared at him. i tried to muster every angry stare i had within me and glared into his eyes. i wanted to remember every detail of his face, sitting there in his orange jumpsuit. i wanted the complexity of my strength and chaos to collapse onto his soul. i wanted to reclaim every piece of unrest he had caused.
i stated my name and started speaking. my knee started shaking and for the first part of my speech, i let every insecurity, fear, pain, and sadness i had ever felt wash over me and into that room. i let it all out. i let myself be free and vulnerable and real to everyone in that court. every person had to know that death is a part of my everyday, every person had to meet the little girl that left me 15 years ago. there were moments where i had to breathe, pause, repeat. i looked straight into the judge’s eyes as he put his pen down and leaned into my stories unfolded. it was the biggest performance in my life. the most important. after the first part of my speech, i took a deep breath, told my knee to stop shaking, and turned to haipe.
the moment of truth.
i dont know if anyone could tell but i physically and mentally switched gears. i conjured up every makibaka, huwag matakot, pinayspeaks moment i had within me to stare at him coldly and tell him how he ruined my life. how his activism is worthless. how i am an overcomer. i looked at him often, again mentally remembering his eyes, the tears he held back, his nods of agreement. he listened intently, followed my words, and looked defeated. interestingly enough, i saw sadness in his stare. i saw the man who had the right beliefs, but the wrong execution.
when i was done, the nervousness finally had left my body and i felt empowered, exhausted, and relieved it was over. i watched 12 more accounts of sadness and trauma and each one opened a new wound, healed others, and created community between those of us who had been kidnapped together. my aunt spoke and jill after her, picking up the pieces she had lost in her tears. my mom spoke and while i was nervous for a rant, she unloaded her thoughts profoundly and perfectly. bringing together peace and prayer, she spoke to haipe with the grace of God and the wisdom of a mother.
my dad was last. he had been befriended haipe while we were kidnapped and had the most insight to him as a person. my dad who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, walked stronger and more confident to that podium than i have ever seen him. my mom and i walked with him and stood with him as a family to face haipe. it was one of the most empowering and redeeming things we had ever done. my dad’s speech was brilliant. he opened with “hello again my friend” and touched on his own strength, struggle, and love for the country that saved us. poignant and powerful, we turned the pages for my dad so he could find healing for himself and for his family.
at the end, haipe spoke. his looks may have changed, but his voice did not. as he spoke, i recalled moments of sitting beneath him, listening him talk for hours in the rain forest. he apologized, accepted the peace and prayers of my parents and truly sounded like regret was at the forefront of his thoughts. in the end he was sentenced with 23 years in a high maximum prison, 23 hours a day will be spent in isolation.
at the end of the day, our prosecutor and fbi agent were needless to say, giddy. they had been working on this case for many years and had caught one of the 30 most wanted terrorists in america.
i, was exhausted. overwhelmed in all interpretations of the word, but most of all blessed. blessed by those who worked so hard to find him. blessed that i had finally turned victim into survivor. blessed that i saw haipe and saw him reap what he sowed. blessed that i was surrounded by family that could support me. blessed that God has healed me and brought me such …blessings.
blessed and overwhelmed, we walked back to our hotel – heels, snow, and errthang – and toasted. to forgiveness. to favor. but most importantly, to FREEdom.
TFC coverage of the trial. we didnt want to talk to reporters but i guess this stuff becomes public after appearing in a US court. and yes thats me, prepubescent bien with her big glasses (some things never change huh?)