Julia Campbell

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Julia CampbellApril 18, 2007

JULIA CAMPBELL: 1967 - 2007

Chance Encounter
I met a mix group of tourists in Mapiya-aw, Sagada last Good Friday, and had a short but pleasant conversation with most of them before I joined my group, UP Mountaineers who visited Sagada for the holidays. I remember Julia. She was the first one I talked to in the group. There was live music at the courtyard and the vibe was festive. I saw her again the following day at the municipal hall but didn't get to talk to her. That was the last time I saw her.

Within the course of the week, word got around that a certain 'Julia', a Peace Corps volunteer who was last seen in Batad went missing. I wasn't able to connect the dots then, but when I went to Banaue to participate in an adventure race the following weekend, flyers were everywhere about the missing tourist. It was only upon seeing the flyer with her picture that I realized it was the same Julia whom I met at Mapiya-aw. I was struck with a heavy feeling but hoped for the best.

Who is Julia?
Julia is one of 137 Peace Corps volunteers currently in the Philippines. A Virginia native who had worked in the Philippines for two years and spoke the local language, she had been teaching English at the Divine Word College in Legazpi City, Albay, since October 2006. She previously taught at a public school in Donsol in nearby Sorsogon province. On holidays for the Holy Week, she was last seen in Batad, Easter Sunday.

The whole Banaue was talking about Julia - tourists, guides, locals, law enforcement officers, etc. It was a shock to the peaceful and friendly village. The Igorots (the indigenous people of the Cordillera) are outraged by this barbaric act.

I heard three versions of what turned out to be rumors...that she was spotted in Kalinga, that she was found but drugged, and that the spirits took a liking for her and kept her.

It wasn't until I came back to Sagada that reports came in about a body found half buried in Batad. It wasn't confirmed who she was, but really, who else could it be? My heart sank. I was hoping all the time that maybe, she was really in Kalinga, oblivious that the whole Cordillera was looking for her. I was hoping it wasn't foul play. If it was, it would be more devastating to everyone - her family, the Peace Corps, and the entire Cordillera for that matter.

Foul Play?
The initial report said she fell accidentally. She was half buried by the earth that dislodged on her fall. Ermita, a government spokesperson said so, and it was confirmed by a text message I got from another Peace Corps volunteer. I was somehow relieved but the heaviness was still there.

The report the following day was shocking - that they have a suspect in the homicide...that a bludgeoned club, presumably the murder weapon, was recovered. The authorities are on a manhunt for a lone assailant. That was a hard one. It was foul play after all.

Ending Thoughts
I'm still processing this. It's very unsettling to be talking to one person one day, find out she's missing the following day and then learn the next day she's dead. Another senseless killing. First, it was Merwin Mendoza, a graduating UP student who was stabbed to death over a cellphone robbery. Then it was Doods, a UP Mountaineer who was a victim of a drive by shooting. Now this. These are all young and promising people who are no longer with us. Life is so fragile.

I pray too that the world sees this cowardly act as a work of one deranged individual and not reflective on the warm people of this picturesque hamlet.

--- TheLoneRider

Comments? Email webmaster@thelonerider.com

Reader Comments:

(May 5, 2007) Nakita ko sa site mo about kay Julia Campbell...nakakahiya! Banaue will be known to the world na ganoon...hay!
(I read in your site about Julia Campbell...embarrassing! Banaue will be known to the world as such...sigh!)

Bernard Van Dieren
(Apr 24, 2007) Julia Campbell is an extraordinary person. During my travel I met her in her house in Donsol. She was trying her best to fit in the local community while giving all she could. Her bright smile is unforgettable. What a shock that her facinating life story has ended this way.

(Apr 23, 2007) I feel this tragedy must lend a certain heaviness to all the people of the cordilleras... whether they'd been brushed with Julia's presence, like yourself, or not. This greatly disturbs the sense of pastoral community that generally pervades in that entire region, one of the very things that makes it so magical. My heart and compassion go out to all her friends/family and those others that have been, or continue to be, affected by her unfortunate demise.

I sincerely hope that a timely, and just resolution to what remains of the situation can be arrived at. And I do hope that people are able to stay mindful that it was one person, with individual malintent, who brought this about. That it is not to say the Philippines is home to, or rampant with, this kind of malicious person, but rather, sadly, like most places, Philippines and even the Cordilleras are not exempt from the possibility of containing them. With compassion and condolences...

Reggie Aquino
(April 19, 2007) Jim, that was a touching piece. It's a beautiful eulogy to a remarkable woman who, in this life gave to the well-being of the community. And although I only knew her from the news, I sincerely believe she must have done something good for this country, specially for the people of Bicol. I feel a sense of loss with her passing and sadness that she has to die that way.

I am also distressed that this happened in Batad, a place I remember fondly for its splendid terraces and cold quiet nights illuminated by stars which appeared bigger, brighter and closer to earth than those seen in QC skies. I have poignant memories of that beautiful community almost unmarred by development aggression and I couldn't place Julia's violent death in that frame.

LoneRider, I have to admit that it was indeed disquieting that you met her before she died and Shanti too. And in those fleeting accidental meet ups with this stranger who was merely passing by (but aren't we all mere passers by?), she came close enough to have touched you. This reminded me of Mitch Albom's Five People You Meet In Heaven, where a character said that "strangers are family you have yet to come to know." So in a grand cosmic design, everyone is connected! Galing!

Jim Ward
(April 19, 2007) I wish that they had just walked by you Julia and left you in your peace so that you would have made it to Batad, made it back to BLISS so we could talk, made it to grad school and a grand old age. But that was not to be. Julia...we will not forget you and every time a new Peace Corps volunteer walks through our door, we will smile and think of you.

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