Women’s advocate Pilar Pilapil survives stabbing attack

Photo: Noel Celis

By Ludy A. Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Actress-beauty queen Pilar Pilapil’s voice rang loud and clear on April 14 as a well-known advocate for abused women. Yet, her voice was unheard several hours later as she cried “help” as she was being stabbed repeatedly by two armed men.

That same date, paradoxically and woefully, Pilar joined the ranks of the abused. Sights and sounds of peace and order failed to come to her rescue in suburban Antipolo reportedly the victim of a heinous crime, bearing multiple stab wounds.

Pilar Pilapil is not an unknown. Already, having reached the apex of her career as an international beauty and contributed meaningfully to the reel industry as a star, however much time she had to give, she never failed to bring alive her passion for advocacy: how to fortify the defense on battered women and children.

This is the latest on the crisis that a metropolitan center like Manila is confronted with. So very wanting in peace and order and safety for the innocents, they who attempt to do what can be done to efface the insecure atmosphere that has long dogged not only the celebrity world but the population in general. And, what do such incidents reflect on the nation as a whole? What happens to tourism? What happens to calls from other governments warning their nationals to avoid the Philippines owing to a tragedy such as what befell Pilar Pilapil?

How can the homeland attract visitors from abroad should the word go around, like what the U.S. sends out to its citizens that there are certain spots in the world that should be avoided owing to lack of security when life and limb are threatened?

It was learned that the actress was allegedly abducted by a pair of armed men, stabbed “at least half-a-dozen times,” who cruelly dumped her on a grassy lot in the above-mentioned suburb’s Piedra Blanca Subdivision, Barangay Luiz. Moments before, per a statement from Senior Superintendent Manuel Prieto, the Rizal provincial director, it was confirmed that Pilar, in the company of her driver, Rossel Rossalem, was in her parked car at the Marikina Riverbank when the two armed men hijacked them. The police concluded that Pilar and her chauffeur were driven around the area “to many places” by their captors before they decided to abandon her in Antipolo. Mercifully, according to more police reports, “a concerned citizen” saw the beleaguered actress and contacted the Antipolo police force. An ambulance arrived on the scene and rushed her to a local hospital.

At press time, the whereabouts of the kidnappers are unknown. Likewise, Pilar, the victim’s condition, is unknown.

In the meantime, there are words of comfort that speak eloquently about Pilar Pilapil.

'Ang Alamat' in the 1970s starred Pilar and movie legend Fernando Poe Jr. Photo: Video 48

She was scheduled to be one of the women participants of the renowned “The Vagina Monologues,” already with a performance date: April 29-30 at the Teatrino, Greenhills. In line with her philanthropy, Pilar had agreed to waive her talent fee in conjunction with the celebration of V-Day.

The Philippines has been described as “one of the 130 countries that will be part of the V-Day global activist movement.” So prominent is Pilar’s role in the movement that at the aforementioned press conference, her advocacy for abused women and children was revealed. She made the brief announcement that although her movement commenced in 1998, she had it registered five years after.

More on Pilar Pilapil in her own words: “I’ve just been working quietly. We have training for women and we help abused children whom we send to schools to give them spiritual enlightenment. We also have feeding programs for the poor. Everything is ‘quiet lang’ (translated: no publicity.) If I’m not busy with showbiz, I’m busy with the foundation. I am the one who looks for provisions for the people managing the foundation. I’m the founder, but there are members of ours who are managing the foundation.”

According to Pilar, her movement has not been limited to Luzon. “We also build churches in very depressed areas like Baseco or some parts in Cebu and we use that church as a service area for Sundays and we use the same as a school from Monday to Friday.”

Continuing to describe why the cause is “close to her heart,” Pilar disclosed: “I have had a lot of experience with abused women in this country. I am also able to counsel them since I am a woman and I’ve been through things in life, too.”

Pilar’s last disclosure, according to those who know her well, is tied to a fact about her love life. She has a love child whose parenthood has been traced to one of the country’s most powerful political families. However uncovered that chapter of her life has become, something rare happened when her child’s married father passed away. That child’s father had a spouse who, like her in-laws belonged to Manila’s elite. Eventually, that spouse authored a book which did not fail to mention that resignation toward her erring spouse was hers.

It is hoped that with what happened to Pilar Pilapil, that same understanding and compassion will be extended. The sense of forgiveness is in line with the times as Lent continues to remind Christendom that any human failing, even the greatest, can be forgiven because God’s mercy is infinitely greater than the transgressions of human beings.

Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D., is a product of two educational systems: the University of the Philippines (public) where she earned her bachelor degrees (science and arts) as a college scholar and the University of Southern California’s Graduate School (private). Her professional career in journalism started at the Manila Bulletin in her native Philippines. “Forty Years of Writing in America” published in 2009 is a compendium of her life in the U.S. as a writer, teacher and mentor.

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