IT was past 5 p.m. when we arrived at the house of Lane Michael White in Parañaque City on Saturday, November 14, 2015.
He had just rolled out from a nap, apparently taking advantage of all the available time to rest as he deals with excruciating schedules of hearings and meetings with lawyers. Not to mention the terrible traffic in their area.
His predicaments brought about by the alleged tanim-bala [bullet-planting] scam at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) had indeed taken quite a toll on his energy.
Lane is a 20-year-old good looking lad who is supposedly enjoying the time of his life.
Nonetheless, he opted to leave his good life in Florida, quitting his job and selling his property in a bid to build a church in Coron, Palawan.
Unfortunately, things did not go well when he landed in Manila on September 12, 2015 – his first-ever overseas trip. Airport officers found a .22-cal bullet in his luggage and allegedly tried to extort P30,000 from him.
For his refusal to cough up the enormous amount of money, he was charged with illegal possession of ammunition. And the next thing he knew, he was already sleeping on a thin mat at the detention area with insects biting his fine fair skin for a horrifying six days and five nights.
“Inside the jail, it was weird. I couldn’t leave the room. It’s my first time going to jail. There are mosquitoes everywhere and there are so many bugs out there. It was very hot. It was hard to sleep. I was just surprised that this actually happened,” Lane relates. “I tried to beg a guard for a bed but he laughed in my face.”
As much his parents–Filipina stepmother Eloisa and biological father Ryan, a preacher–wanted his immediate release from the nightmare, it took them nearly a week to post P40,000 bail.
“He was begging, ‘Please let me out here!’ I was telling him, ‘I know. I’m sorry, honey. We need to come up with money first so we can get you out.’ It broke my heart whenever I see him inside the jail.
“He was sleeping on the floor and you can see a lot of insects. Ang dami niyang kagat [He had a lot of insect bites]. Of course, it’s a facility not to sleep on. He can’t even take a shower. It broke my heart that from the States, he was all dressed up and here, kawawang-kawawang bata na nasa sahig [he’s a poor kid sleeping on the floor],” Eloisa recounts.
The situation, nonetheless, did not only strengthen Lane’s faith–deeming that they are in a situation where they can inspire other people to stand up against corruption–but bound their relationship as a family.
Note that Lane, who grew up with his biological mother and stepdad, reconnected with Ryan only few months prior to the missionary work. The latter massively influenced his child’s belief and transformed him into a “true Christian.”
It was then that he decided to go with his father for missionary work in Palawan.
“I just did a lot of searching for random things and Coron kept showing up on the search engines. And for whatever reason, all people have been talking about the Philippines. And I think God is showing us the Philippines,” Ryan says.
Eloisa says, “And when he googled ‘Calvary,’ it showed ‘Calvary, Coron.’ And then he was like, ‘Is this the place where the Lord wanted us to go? Maybe we should sell our things and move to Coron?’”
Another “sign” that brought them to the Philippines was when they met via social media an American pastor, namely Matthew Patrick Winfrey, who also built a church in Mindanao and gave them an inspiration that they could indeed do a missionary work in the Philippines.
The whole hullabaloo in the country, according to Lane, never had an adverse effect on his faith nor on his good perception about the Philippines.
“It definitely gave me a new chance of patience. Surprisingly, I didn’t get mad at people and I only kept calm,” he says. “The people here are so nice and sweet, besides the few people who were trying to extort. It’s a beautiful place. I actually took many pictures. So it was still a great experience to come here.”
The family believes the Lord is with them throughout the journey, noting that they were fortunate to have the videos at the airport and prosecution office; the court granted to reduce the P80,000 bail to P40,000; and now, there are people who want to send them financial help.
Ryan expresses gratitude that the senators are seemingly on their side, boosting their faith that Lane’s case will be eventually dismissed.
“This is a golden opportunity that I hope the Filipino people would see. We heard stories from almost every Filipinos we’ve met about different levels of extortion that run throughout the different facets of the government.
“And you can see that the Filipinos have enough of [corruption]. They are sick and tired of corruption but they feel powerless. But we are now here, standing up and saying no. We want to give other people an inspiration to exactly do what we did instead of living in fear,” he states.
For security concerns, Lane went back home on December 15, 2015 after the court dismissed his case. He promises to definitely book his trip back to the Philippines when the tanim-bala scam is gone.
Ryan and Eloisa pursued the missionary work in the country.
Eloisa concludes, “If we will be able to fix this scams and corruption, I truly believe that our country, especially Palawan, is gonna be the number one tourist destination in the world.”
This article appeared in The Manila Times on November 15, 2015.