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Traumatic San Juan experience

By VERA Files

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THE feast day of St. John the Baptist last June 24 turned into a traumatic event for a group belonging to a Catholic congregation, among them a priest, who happened to pass by San Juan City in Metro Manila on their way to a retreat that day.

In a letter to his friends, a copy of which was sent to VERA Files, Catholic missionary Daniel Drum of the Verbum Dei congregation said his group became victims of a mob attack by revelers in San Juan who stopped the van the group was riding. The group consisted of religious sisters, brothers and a priest.

"Not content with spraying water on the outside of cars and any open windows, they opened the passenger side door and began to throw buckets of water into the car," Drum said.

The incident left the driver's hearing aid damaged. The driver, Drum said, had reached over to help two women passengers just as the revelers opened his door, threw water into the van and damaged his hearing aid.  The driver is hearing impaired.

"Not content with the havoc they had already wreaked, they proceeded to open the back door and pour buckets of water on the four Chinese religious sitting in the back seat," Drum said. "Eventually we managed to fight them off, not before the jacket of one of the Chinese sisters was stolen and the attackers had attempted to steal the flowers meant for mass, from the trunk."

Filipinos in various parts of the country celebrate St. John the Baptist's feast day by dumping water on each other and on visitors. The practice is more pronounced in San Juan, the city named after him, and especially on main roads that outsiders pass through. Each year, unsuspecting travelers fall prey to revelry that gets out of hand.

Drum said this is the third June he has spent in the Philippines but the first time he passed by San Juan on its fiesta.

"We felt very violated and intimidated by this attack," he said. "We do not believe that this is in the spirit of John the Baptist and we hope it is not representative of the way most people who live in that area celebrate their fiesta."

He urged greater police presence in future celebrations to prevent a recurrence of the incident.

( VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

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