On Global Filipinos: Letty Lanuza: A mother’s love conquers death (Part 2)

The author and Letty Lanuza answer questions from the FilAm media in a press conference. Photo by Troi Santos

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

I always knew that when the going gets rough and a kababayan is in dire straits, Filipinos would always come to help, assist, give food, donate money or whatever is needed, and would do it generously. This is our God-given, unbreakable Bayanihan spirit.

And so it happened — $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 started to pour into the bank account of Letty Lanuza (for Philippine peso deposits), and into the bank account I set up in New York with MetroBank, which accepted my affidavit that “Save Dondon” would go towards the Blood Money demanded by the family of the slain Saudi.

I also knew that for big donations like $5,000 or more, I had to personally approach and call my high net worth friends to donate. And they did so without any hesitation! Judy Araneta Roxas, mother of former Senator Mar Roxas, Tessie Sy-Coson of SM Mall, investment banker JJ Soriano, Quintin San Diego, and of course the Lewis Family — they all helped us raise funds for Dondon.

In the meantime, I called the Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia  Ezzedine Tago  to ask if he could try and seek help from the King. We were praying they would have mercy, and perhaps help us with the Blood Money, too.

The campaign to set Dondon Lanuza free.

Amb. Tago gave us hope that sometimes, a member of the Royal Family would help with the Blood Money if the convicted person was worthy of saving. Abdulhannan Tago of Arab News shared what we were doing for Dondon with the local Saudi media, and said that he also knew one of the princes in the Royal Family.

In due time, the total amount of the contributions slowly but surely added up to $100,000. True to his promise, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario authorized the deposit of the matching grant of $100,000, giving us a total of $200,000!

Then, a miracle happened. Dondon excitedly informed his mother that he was going to be released — because the Saudi Arabian Royal Family filled up the balance of $600,000, to reach the total of $800,000!

I guess the Royal Family was observing all the efforts being made to raise the Blood Money for Dondon — and saw how fellow Filipinos and the Philippine Government came together to try and save him. All that was left to do was for the Saudi family to forgive Dondon, receive the Blood Money from their Court, and — after 13 ½ agonizing years in Death Row — Dondon walked out a free man.

* * *

Months later, Dondon and his new girlfriend visited me at my apartment in Rockwell, Makati City. When he saw me, he gave me a long and grateful hug.

Miracles do happen!
A mother’s faith, hope, and love work in the end.
Praise the Lord!

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