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Apo sa tuhod

          Five years ago, I picked up my 15-year-old niece Joy and 12-year-old nephew George from Newark Airport in New Jersey. They emigrated from the Philippines to join my brother in Washington DC. It was the grand finale of a family re-unification. Both of them looked tired, shy, and quiet. I knew they were very bright students and that was the reason they came to start a new life in America. They made me feel old by ending their responses in "po" and "apo." They only stayed for a few days, as they were eager to join their father (my brother) in Maryland. They saw the New York City skyline from our window and I told them that they would have the chance to see the Broadway of America when we drove through the New Jersey Turnpike. When we did I offered them personal observations of this country. How safe the roads were. What the people were like. We passed the Penn Turnpike, which was the first superhighway constructed at a level where within a mile there are just few inches difference in height. My niece studied hard and worked during her off days  

She was only a high school student in St Mary HS in Dupax, but when she came here, she found the US school system too slow for her. She was full of confidence that she challenged the system to just give her a GED test. She passed and continued on to college to become a physical therapist while working in a nursing home. This was the beginning of her American experience.

I went down to see them several months later and found Joy full of ambitions, dreams, and energy. I knew she belonged in America. Because she rarely had time off, she never did get the chance to see the Big Apple.

from the Associated Press
Thursday, October 9, 1997

ADELPHI, Maryland (AP)

An irate bicyclist bumped by a car turning at an intersection in this Washington suburb Wednesday shot and killed its driver, police said. Alejandro Jose Grant, 26, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was charged with first degree murder in the shooting about 4:15 p.m. near the University of Maryland campus, said Prince George's County police spokesman Michael Montgomery. Police said the driver, Joy Estrella Mariano Enriquez, 19, of Oxon Hill, Maryland, had pulled over after bumping Grant's bike. Grant approached her, the two argued and then he pulled out a pistol and shot her in the head, police said. Grant fled on foot but was apprehended several blocks away, police said

from Reuters News
Friday, October10, 1997

"Road Rage" Bicyclist Shoots Driver Dead

WASHINGTON - A bicyclist enraged at being knocked off his bike by a car outside Washington D.C. got up, pulled out a handgun and shot the driver to death, police said Thursday. The bicyclist killed 19-year- old Joy Mariano Enriquez, a college student, with a single shot in the head. He ran off on foot but was caught 10 minutes later, a Maryland police statement said. "It was senseless... He wasn't even hurt. He was just mad," said a witness, quoted in the Washington Post. Police said a suspect, named as Alejandro Jose Grant, 26, had been charged with first degree murder and remanded in custody. The shooting took place Wednesday in Langley Park, about seven miles northeast of central Washington. The victim's father, Eligio Enriquez, said his daughter had been headed for class when she was killed. "She was such a peaceable person," he told the Post. "I just want to say, my baby is an angel, she's one of the best daughters ever.... It's unbelievable. Why, why, why?"

She was only 19, beautiful, intelligent, and full of life. Because gun control has been a hot issue, the news circulated worldwide. The shooting happened inside the Capitol Beltway so it became a front- page story of the Washington Post last Thursday. It was later learned that the suspect has a long record of drug abuse, aggravated assault, and probation violations.

Why would a 6 foot man use a handgun against a little girl? Friends from Canada, Europe and Philippines offered their condolences as TV and Internet Coverage unfolded the story on their screens and newpapers. Yes, one day last week the world media was in front of my brother's house. I came later and answered a telephone call from CBS news who seemed very apologetic for not knowing much about the girl who was shot. I should have told them that she was from the highland of Nueva Vizcaya in the Philippines, proud of her mother's ancestral line who built the great Rice Terraces and father's bloodline, the Apo Palugod of the region.

I opened the door and was surprised to see a Recruiting Navy Petty Officer offering flowers and condolences. He tried hard to recruit Joy, but she wanted them to guarantee her an education. If she did become a pilot, she might still be alive today. Or maybe if she just stayed in Nueva Vizcaya. Many of us will spend more years of our lifetimes in this country. She had five years and a dream. One point blank shot ended that dream.

Her story will generate awareness. The failure of the legal system. The new meaning of rage. Filipinos from Canada, Europe, Asia, and America saw her faith. On the corner where she was gunned down caring people dropped flowers, put up signs, US and Philippine flags to remember the tragic day while the nation was discussing gun control and our probation system. It is ironic to think that she might contribute more to society by dying at such a young age.

I also have two daughters like Joy, in the same situation, young, ambitious and away from home. (one at Georgia Tech and the other at the University of Chicago.) I still have memories when we went on vacation in the Philippines and the cousins were frolicking in the longest River (Cagayan/Magat river) of the Philippines.

Yesterday we buried her and it was only fitting that it was on the day America was discovered.

from The Washington Post
Tuesday, October 14, 1997
Page B03

Traffic Slaying Victim Mourned by Friends, Strangers

by Susan Levine
Washington Post Staff Writer

    The pews, filled almost to overflowing. The young people, so many for a funeral. And the prayer, "for parents who grieve over the loss of their children." All were unmistakable clues to the mourning yesterday at St. Columba Catholic Church in Oxon Hill.
    But what the priest left unsaid during the 50-minute funeral Mass for Joy Estrella Mariano Enriquez, Anna Enriquez did not. Standing only feet from the cross-draped coffin of her only sister -- "my baby sister" -- she talked about the senseless way the 19-year-old was allegedly gunned down last week by an angry bicyclist in Langley Park.
     "She was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Enriquez, her voice choked by emotion. "I leave my anger in God's hands and hope justice will prevail."
    Joy Enriquez died Wednesday afternoon after her car bumped the cyclist in front of her as both turned left onto University Boulevard from Riggs Road, witnesses said. They told police the Wheaton woman immediately pulled over and was getting out of her car when Alejandro Jose Grant walked up, started cursing and then drew a handgun. He fired a single shot, police said.
    The incident ended the life of an aspiring physical therapy student who had emigrated with her parents, Paulita and Eligio Enriquez, from the Philippines five years ago. They came to provide a better life for their children, working multiple jobs to turn dreams into reality.
     "They're a typical immigrant family. . . . They wanted to become part of the American mainstream," said Mencie Hairston, who was among the many members of the Washington area Filipino community who came to show sympathy and solidarity even though they had never met Joy. Other mourners were students at Montgomery College, where Joy was taking classes, or employees from the neighborhood McDonald's, where she worked for a time, or colleagues of her mother, who frequently told them about Joy and her studies.
     "She always talked about Joy, that she was in college and doing good. She was very proud of her," said Tyrone Felder, who works at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill and drove with three other members of the local hotel-restaurant employees union. As much as the pointless loss of Joy's life, he and his friends shook their heads over the criminal justice system that allowed her alleged killer to be out on the streets.
    &nbspGrant, 26, who remains in the Prince George's County jail without bond, has a history of violent outbursts, drug use and criminal assault. The Silver Spring resident was free while awaiting trial on assault charges in the District and Montgomery County when the fatal shooting took place last week. He has been charged with first-degree murder in Joy's death. Investigators say Grant told them he killed her because she had endangered him and "he wanted her to know how he felt."
    &nbspHer friends are certain that Joy would have apologized to Grant for the accident had he given her the chance. "She was a friendly person, with a nice personality, someone you didn't mind talking to," said Nicole Travers, 17, one of the McDonald's restaurant contingent. "She was so different from everybody else," said Kristine Mariano, 15, a neighbor of the family in Oxon Hill.
    &nbspJoy was bid goodbye amid vibrant sprays of gladioluses, daisies, carnations and roses. The Rev. Godfrey Mosley quoted Saint Paul in reminding the mourners of "the grim reality that life has a sorrowful dimension."
    &nbspYet the sadness never gave way to emotion until Anna Enriquez offered her own goodbye. Turning to her parents and brother, she struggled to finish. "Let us all remember," she said, "there's an angel looking over us." Then she fled to her father's arms and sobbed.

  Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Year Later, the Court Verdict and the Twist of Events-Click to find out
Even in America , there are land mines.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez