Saturday, September 05, 2015

Queen’s confessions

FROM slippers to shabu. Hers is the story of Cinderella that went wrong.

Last Sept. 5, Daryl T. Jabil reported in Sun.Star Cebu about the arrest of Badian’s “queen of shabu”. When Jerami Matugas, 49, was arrested in her new home in Poblacion, Badian, the operatives caught her repacking the illegal white crystals for selling. On the streets, the packs might fetch P1.3 million.

Minus the substance, that domestic scene would have complemented the self-reliance stamping the story of Matugas.

According to Jabil’s nuanced report, Matugas once sold slippers made in Carcar. In November, an acquaintance introduced her to shabu so she could “send her children to college”.

Matugas has five children, aged four to 21. She told Sun.Star Cebu that, even without a father, her children “never went hungry under my care”. In February, the family moved from Barangay Awayan, Carcar to their newly constructed and “more comfortable” home in the town center of Badian.

The story moved to a different vein last March, when a warrant for her arrest was issued. Metamphetamine is concocted from several chemicals and then crystallized. Known also as “ubas,” “siopao, “sha,” and “ice,” “shabu” is smoked, snorted or injected by about seven million Filipinos or 10 percent of the population. It is the illicit drug “most used” in the Philippines, reports the United Nations.

Once associated with big cities and corruption, shabu has made inroads in new markets. Queen said the police have yet to catch other “big fishes” in the illicit drug trade in the south, which curves from Carcar City to reach as far as Alegria and Badian on the southwestern side of Cebu.

The day before Sun.Star Cebu reported Queen’s arrest, I climbed to the fourth-floor Capitol office of Vice Governor Agnes A. Magpale to get our copy of the Badian and Alegria town histories. From 2008 to 2011, my husband Roy and I were part of the team of writers, researchers and editors tapped by the Cebu Province and the University of San Carlos (USC) for the landmark Cebu Provincial History Project.

Last month, the 55-volume set of books narrating the local history of Cebu—the province, the Provincial Capitol, nine cities and 44 towns—was turned over to the local governments.

Roy and I met first in Badian. He was tapped by the USC for a research project. I was a development communication worker with the government. One rainy night in 1987, we met at a farmer leader’s house. I escorted a group of Manila journalists interviewing farmers about the impact of a World Bank-funded project.

Presuming he was the farmer’s son, I was surprised when he answered the journalists articulately in English. This bias shamed me, which worsened my ill temper with the journalists, who dawdled in our trip and kept the farmers waiting. Roy thought I was one of the rude visitors, who demanded the farmers be roused from their sleep so they could have their interviews before flying back to Manila.

Despite the checks imposed by all disciplines, from journalism to research, no discourse is ever complete. The shabu trade in the south is not in the town histories I co-authored. The Queen’s confessions reveal a gap that has to be addressed in the threads of “sugilanon (story)” interwoven one night in 1987.

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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s September 6, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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