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25 - Closure

Journey 24

The trouble for me was that the default image I had of Mayen, the Mayen who I felt in my being, the one left as my residual reality, after my brain had quietened down - was always the good Mayen - the girl that I had fallen in love with.
No matter how much suspicion entered my head, no matter how much seemingly incriminating evidence came my way - if it was only circumstantial and not irrefutable - I would always be left with the glow of this good Mayen in my heart.

Admittedly, this image was no doubt due to a combination of wish fulfilment on my part and Chameleon-like behaviour by her - which resulted in the creation of a Mayen that felt perfect for me - but that was the image that had developed from the start of our relationship - it was through the veil of that image that I met and spent ten days with her - in the flesh.
The bad Mayen had no tangible reality as far as I was concerned - even though it was starting to look as if this version were nearer to the truth than the good Mayen.
So, in my mind, I would try to combine bits of the bad Mayen with the bulk of the good Mayen - in search for possible explanations - trying to make my shade of grey from the black and the white - but I just didn't know enough about her.

I don't think that we can easily contend with only partial impressions of people - it's as if we need, as soon as possible and often prematurely, to create a real, whole person out of the tiny fragments of information we receive - especially when hope is involved. I think Mayen was experienced enough to know that I would do most of the work in creating her as my perfect beloved. Our early communications certainly bear that out.

So - Mayen had taken herself off to the province - the paradise we had visited together in June. Perhaps on instructions to bait me away from Sir Francis, to deflect the heat from him - perhaps to get herself out of the spotlight - the only real proof was to be found on her stomach.

How different it all seemed now.
From my initial ignorance about the Philippines - with my vague notions of sun and surf, coconut trees and beautiful young women - I was now being educated - my exploration online had uncovered a Philippines of a different colour - corruption, cronyism, racketeering, bribery and of course the extent of the crippling poverty that gives birth to all these darker characteristics.
I felt I'd had enough - more than a gutful of this. I suppose the eyes eventually get used to the dark - the nose accustomed to the smell - but I had barely scratched the surface and I felt I'd had enough. Uncovering the extent of this network of corruption - how easy it must be to purchase people's honesty - whether by threat, by favour or by pesos - wherever we turned - the fog of lies rose up in clouds ahead of us - concealing the truth.
How simple it is - the temptation to turn to the internet - why marry one husband when you can promise marriage to a hundred - and reap the rewards.

Mayen told me that she had done two years of a graduate course in Mass Communications in a college in Surigao. Now I don't suppose they studied the art of letter writing or telephone manners - no - I'm sure the main thrust of the course was in becoming internet savvy. Mayen told me that she felt great shame at not finishing the course - that she felt indebted to her parents who had paid for this education.
Well - that seems to fit the pattern perfectly - and accounts for my treatment by her family - as no more than a cash cow - the golden goose - a fish on a hook.

There was a sudden flurry of SMS between us - I can't recall who started it -
it could well have been me - but I ended up, after toying very briefly with the idea of continuing in a romantic vein, listening to the voice of reason - I just couldn't dislodge my suspicions.

SMS from Mayen 10.38 27/08/07
timmy, go on w/wat u r doing .. go on w/wat u r planing &
after dat ask urself . . Am i hapi? i luv u but it hurts. someday
u wil realised hw much u hurt me.

SMS from Mayen 11:04
I am now in province, w/my family.ill be back when evrything heals.
I thought i cn 4get u. but evrytime I
cn see d big swimmingpool we were swimming, it hurts.

SMS from Mayen 11.21
i dnt knw if i wil belive in u. u broke ur words once.
r u worth believing?
i dnt knw . . im afraid2 trust u again. its realy hard

SMS from Mayen 11.50
timmy wat ur planing? r u not satisfied
of accusing me? why? please dnt hurt me
anymore. for Gods sake..

SMS from Mayen 12.16
watever u r planing timmy, its up to u . . one day
u wil realise.. God knows evryth!ng..

What was I planning? A lot depended on the evidence that came in, if anyone I had asked for help came up with something that could be seen as conclusive. Only then could I turn either way - to apologising profusely to all I had insulted with my insinuations and cursing at my stupid overcautiousness that resulted in losing Mayen - that would haunt me for a long time to come.
Or - setting to work exposing the whole team that had corroborated in this despicable extortion - in an effort to warn others and make it difficult for this particular group of people to be able to continue.

I was getting very tired - this was all having an impact on my life - sleep patterns disrupted - not feeling my old self at all.
Jim and I were in constant communication - sifting every newly arrived email or text for inconsistencies - illogicalities - or emotional responses that didn't ring true, given the "alleged" situation.

On Tuesday 28th August I wrote an email to Sir Francis - inviting an explanation - that we patch up our relationship by a candid acceptance of the truth - no blame, no shame attached - simply truth for truth's sake.

Dear Sir Francis,
May I refer you to my very first email to you in which I state in the clearest possible terms that I was willing to honour my obligations to Mayen - provided I had unequivocal proof that I was not being cheated or lied to.
It is blatantly obvious from all the evidence that I have been sent, all the SMS messages, emails etc. that you, in collusion with the hospital and with Mayen's consent and full knowledge - have been trying to extort money from me.
With this in mind - I must re-evaluate the trust and friendship that I gave you all.
If this is how you conduct yourself when dealing with people from the west then everything I have written in my journal of events will stand tall - as a warning to others.
How can you be so incompetent to make a simple event appear like a scam? - because you were trying to stretch the truth - and you tripped yourself up in the process.
This simple fact casts doubt over everything - I have lost my trust in you, the hospital system in the Philippines, in Mayen.
If there are any scars resulting from this event - then they be on your conscience.
Through your deviousness in trying to make more money from me - blatantly taking advantage of a highly emotional situation - through your bullying approach, complete lack of understanding - total lack of effort in getting the truth to me over the distance between us - a beautiful relationship has come to an end.
I was sincere in everything regarding Mayen.
Through your greed and avarice and despicable behaviour - you have destroyed any future we might have had.
This whole event is a metaphor for relationships with the Philippines and the west.
You have not done yourself proud - nor have you been a shining example to your country.
Unless I am informed of the absolute truth - including motives, reasons, dates, names, facts, figures - of the events that have happened - the investigation that is under way will continue - it is out of my hands - and my words will remain as a reminder of what you have done.
Absolute honesty - and I mean absolute - could restore my trust - my faith in humanity.
I will not extend my hand with this opportunity again.
Yours in sincerity and truth.
Tim Cumper

Needless to say - I received no reply - Sir Francis had exited the arena.
Mayen however had obviously got word of the email I had sent - I imagine that it
sent Sir Francis into a rage.
She sent me an SMS.

SMS from Mayen 15:35 28/08/07 (Tuesday pm)
I dnt knw why is ds hapening.I want 2 hav peace of mind..
I told u b4 but u nvr listen 2 me..
I wil try 2 stop h!m..oh my goodness timothy.

I followed up with a letter of closure to Sir Francis.

Wednesday 29th August
Dear Sir Francis,
I offered you an honest hand - it was not shaken.
It is therefore time to draw this whole business to a close - it has been a costly business - the price I have paid emotionally being the highest. To have lost the most sublime and glorious love that I have ever felt in my life.
With that cost came the financial expense of it all - and considering that I was lured into the whole affair with false pretences from the beginning - perhaps our costs more or less balance out at the end of the day. There was the first flight in June - £675.00 - my spending money for the trip - which was eaten away by flights to Tacloban, cab drives to Pintuyan and back, all the presents, paying for the food in restaurants and at the barangay, Mayen's new cellphone, the fact that she used my cellphone all the time I was over there to receive her other business calls and SMS, the cost of the Grami Hotel - we cleared about £1,400.00 between us. Then there is the £100.00 sent via Western Union for the health checkup 09/07/07- the £160.00 sent via Western Union for Mayen's new rooms 02/08/07 - the £480.00 sent via Western Union for our pre-engagement ring 08/08/07 - the 2nd Flight £625.30 - which was a complete waste of money, my cellphone calls and landline calls to the Philippines - my time (which is priceless) - the longstanding help given to me by my people, setting up the Tierra Maria UK website £20.00 for the domain name and hosting for the short duration, the cost of having all those wonderful photographs developed and put on to CD's £75.00.
A grand total of £3535.30 if my sums are correct.
I think you can see - the overall loss is already mine - and enough is enough for all concerned.
Ah well - faint heart never won fair lady - is the saying we use over here, nothing ventured - nothing gained.
I would love Mayen to send me a photograph of the scar, if she would take the trouble - as a lasting reminder of my ungallant behaviour - I wouldn't want to make the same mistake again.
I shall put the whole episode down as one of life's myriad of experiences - and learn from it - and now consider the whole journey closed.
You will hear no more from me.
One positive note - I have discovered a strength of sincerity, honesty and loyalty in my beautiful wife that I had not realised - and perhaps that relationship is being re-kindled.
Yours in sincerity and truth.
Tim Cumper

I didn't mention the £300.00 lost because of the exchange rate when cashing in the travellers cheques from the aborted second trip, the international telephone calls - over £300.00 - the interest on the bank loan that I took out, anticipating the sale of the house.

Again - as expected no reply.

But - I didn't really want to lose touch, I was still desperate for the truth. It was only by keeping track of the little inconsistencies, as they appeared, that we could detect that there was a great deal of make-believe going on - so - yes - I did stoop to a rather low level here - did you spot it?
There is a bogus entry - the £480.00 sent by Western Union - allegedly two days before the hospital business occured.
I was interested to know if this might torment someone into resuming contact at some time. They would think that all they needed was the transaction number - to allow them to collect the money from the WU office in the Philippines.

Fortunately - as it happened - on reading through the final chat session we had before the hospital fiasco - I had made a point of asking her to check her email on the Thursday 9th August. I also had a telephone engineer visiting that day - I mentioned it because we were having trouble at home with the telephone and internet service - so I would possibly not be available for a chat session that day.
Both those facts gave some credibility to me sending the money and for her not receiving my email with the transaction number (and wishes for her to buy a pre-engagement ring - and be wearing it when we were to have met again - on the following Wednesday.)

Apart from chasing up various loose ends in the UK - things went very quiet - I began to adjust my life.
Yes - I missed the emails - the chats - having Mayen there to focus my love - someone to dream about - to weave my fantasies about - but I started to accept that life would probably not have been the glorious technicolour dream that I might have hoped - even if our relationship had continued and all of our plans been realised - I had read the Philippine Family Code - all two hundred and fifty seven acts - in many more paragraphs - dealing with everything from the ownership of buried treasure to how to share the family herd of goats - and of course the acts on prenuptial agreements and communal property. I had read the Philippine tax laws, all the protocols and red tape required for immigration, marriage, purchasing property, investing money, banking etc. It is a fact - virtually every conceivable transaction or completion of paperwork requires a payment of some kind. Hidden costs in the Philippines probably amount to more than the advertised ones.

I started to breath a sigh of relief - but nevertheless - a sigh that still had the unmistakable pain of an aching heart.

On Thursday 30th August I despatched four emails to members of the board at the Medical Center Paranaque - not holding much hope that they would actually get through the narrow opening into what had begun to resemble an impenetrable fortress.

Respected Sirs,
I am writing to you as the outcome of three weeks of severe emotional trauma and anxiety as a result of the gross unprofessionalism of some members of staff in your hospital.
I am humbly pressing you to urgently look in to this matter in search of an explanation.
[I went on to list all the events that had or hadn't happened, concluding with:]
It was the duty of the hospital to get in touch with me urgently on the Monday 13th August.
They failed to do so - and as a direct result of this inaction, they corroborated the evidence that there was a fraud taking place, preventing me from flying to the Philippines.
How dare that same hospital detain the patient further than was necessary simply as a consequence of their own inaction.
Words cannot express my displeasure nor express the frustration I have experienced due to the behaviour of the people concerned.
I cannot tell you how grieved I am to have had a beautiful relationship destroyed through the hospital's apathy - complete lack of understanding or concern for the wellbeing of one of your patient's and myself who accepted responsibility for her at this time.
I have been in a living hell for 3 weeks trying to get to the bottom of this, trying to get honest answers from honest men - it seems I have not found any yet - which is why I am hoping that writing to you may bring a change to my fortune in that respect.
I shall take this much further - to the highest authority - to get a satisfactory answer.
I sincerely hope that you treat my questions with respect and ensure that each of them is answered honestly - with full knowledge of all the facts.
Yours in urgent need of a thorough explanation.
Mr Timothy E Cumper.

I had given up expecting any reply - when on September 10th I received this - as an MS Word attachment to an email sent using the hospital's email account - no means of reply to the actual "Legal Counsel" himself - I wondered whether he knew himself that he had written it.

(more on this topic - see Tim Cumper - Change of Mind)

September 6, 2007
Dear Mr. Cumper:
We write as Legal Counsel for Medical Center ParaƱaque (MCP) of which your e-mails have been very critical.
At the very outset, to the hospital, you were and still are a complete stranger. It dealt with Ms. Ma Ana Samson Betita as a patient. It was not at liberty to circulate information about her; the hospital treats its data in confidence. That explains the brevity of its messages to you. For whatever it might be worth, your name has not been mentioned in her medical records, let alone the reason for you as the source of payment for her hospital bills.
Moreover, most of the matters you have e-mailed are personal among Ms. Betita, your colleagues and you. The hospital is absolutely alien thereto and has understandably nothing to do therewith, i.e., your intended migration, marriage and travel which, after all, you could cancel at will.
Most importantly, Medical Center ParaƱaque is a humanitarian endeavor, not a vehicle for the illicit gain that you suspected. The Philippines , while not as advanced and as upright as your country, also has regulatory bodies that do not countenance the practice that you have concluded. Throughout the three (3) decades of its existence, MCP has not engaged in any unlawful financial scheme whatsoever. And it is definitely an illusion that it could prey upon a stranger like you who is half the globe away and whose funds are not within the country's shores. The hospital is run by doctors who seek to heal, not to steal.
It might interest you to know that the hospital let go of Ms. Betita even despite her non-payment of a substantial portion of her bills.
This writer is a lawyer and, by the culture in his milieu, encourages those who have been wronged to air their grievances before appropriate fora where, in your case, you might ventilate your "three weeks of severe emotional trauma and anxiety as a result of the gross unprofessionalism of some members of staff in your hospital."
Thank you.
Very truly yours,

A few paragraphs from the Philippine Patient's Bill of Rights - which emphasise the right of the patient to waive any confidentiality issues.
Considering that Mayen states that she enquired of the hospital - requiring them to communicate with me, after my continued insistence - it is odd that the hospital would not oblige her request.
It is also stated that no deposit is required in an emergency situation.
Also itemised are many other articles of paperwork, that should be available to act as proof.

You will notice that the letter was not sent to me straight away - obviously it took four days to collect approval. There is no address to reply to, identifying the firm of lawyers - and more importantly - what lawyer worth his salt would ever expect an unsigned "official" letter to be convincing? There was ample time in that four days to scan the image and sign it - they didn't even bother.

I discovered that Efren C Carag writes articles for The Philippine Enquirer amongst other newspapers and found him registered with various Philippine Bar Chapters - and I asked at one of them if they would forward an email to him, urging a personal exchange between us, bypassing the hospital, but nothing came of it - no email address was forthcoming - although I was given his work "street address" - but that I had already unearthed online.

Click the flags to read about all the alarm bells.

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