Recently here in the Philippines, a United States Peace Corp Volunteer was murdered, her name was Julia Campbell. Julia Campbell, 40 years old, was from Fairfax, Virginia. Campbell had been teaching at an Albay College on the island of Luzon since September 2005. She was fluent in Tagalog. I saw her do an interview on TV, and was very impressed with her ability to speak Tagalog, she was very fluent. Apparently, during Holy Week, Julia Campbell took a mini-vacation to Ifugao Province. Ifugao is the place where the famous Banaue Rice Terraces are located. It was Julia’s intention to do some hiking in the area of the Rice Terraces.
Campbell was last seen on April 8 when she rode a tricycle to the area where she planned to start hiking. She was not seen again until her dead body was discovered some 10 days later. In the interim, a massive search had ensued to find her, hopefully alive. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. How did she die? She was murdered, no doubt about that. She was found buried in a shallow grave. People who have accidents don’t end up buried, after all. What was the motive for the killing? Nobody knows yet. Maybe it was robbery. Maybe it was a political killing (NPA?). Whatever it was, she was just as dead.
What can we learn from the death of Julia Campbell?
- If you are going out to hike, explore or whatever, it is best not to do it alone. This applies in the Philippines as it does anywhere in the world. If you have an accident and get hurt, you need a partner to assist you. It’s just better if you go out in pairs.
- Let people know what your plans are. What route will you take? What time do you expect to return home?
- Even though Julia was fluent in Tagalog, she still got killed. If you don’t know how to speak the language, or at least enough to get by, you are more of a target. Know the language of the area where you intend to visit. Speaking Tagalog may not be much help if you are in Cebu. Knowing Bisaya is worthless in Northern Luzon, or even Manila. At the minimum, carry a phrase book so that you can say things that are at least the bare minimum.
These points are important no matter where you go, even outside the Philippines. The area where Julia went hiking is a relatively safe area too. All the more if you are visiting an area that is not so safe. I, myself, tend to go to places where few foreigners venture. I have visited nearly every province in Muslim Mindanao (only missed one so far). Honestly, the death of Julia Campbell does make me stop and think about my own safety. I will probably continue to visit out of the way places, but I will take additional precautions in doing so.
I’ll end this with a phrase that a Filipino friend of mine always tells me. KEEP SAFE!