For all law students, the months spent preparing for the dreaded Bar examinations are some of, if not the most, challenging times. For 28-year-old Katrina Veronica “Kate” G. Raymundo, an Ateneo Law graduate (Batch 2014, Block B), the period of Bar review has posed more challenges than usual. Kate had no idea that on 13 May 2014, her Bar review, and her life, would be changed forever. Kate was gracious enough to grant The Palladium this exclusive interview.
P: Can you please briefly narrate in your own words what happened in the incident?
K: It was 3:20 in the afternoon of May 13, 2014, when my boyfriend, Atty. Joseph Banguis (ALS Batch 2009) and I stopped in Bautista Street corner Buendia, across the street from the bank, to withdraw. When he went to the bank to withdraw, I locked the doors and pressed the hazard sign. I had a study schedule that I followed, and at that time my “one hour lunch break” was already done, so I was studying in the car. My book was on top of the compartment between the driver seat and the passenger seat and I was writing and highlighting, so I was seated facing the driver’s door. The radio was on and we left the engine running. I didn’t notice a man looking inside the car through the passenger door window who went around the front of the car and then he went to the driver’s door. I didn’t really mind him until he tried to open [the door]. That was when I honked the horn, to catch the attention of the people outside the car. I thought it would make him run. When I looked at him again, that’s when I saw he had a gun. I just bent my head downwards facing my seat because I already knew what was going to happen next. [This] all happened in less than about five seconds.
Next thing I knew, I couldn’t move my head or body and though I didn’t know where, I just knew that I was hit. Blood was flowing, in my hands that were in front of me, to the car seat, on the side of the compartment where my book was. I could hear my boyfriend asking if I was hit and I heard him crash the driver’s window. I heard him crying and assuring me we were on our way to the hospital. I was able to talk, I asked him what happened and if he was hit, and I told him I loved him because I was feeling lightheaded already. Not long after that I passed out from the massive loss of blood. I kept falling in and out of consciousness in the hospital, St. Claire’s, the hospital nearest the place I was shot; in the ambulance which took me to University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERMMMC) where my sister is a surgery resident; in the Emergency Room, and finally in the Critical Care Unit.
The bullet’s entry was through my right cheek. My right cheekbone was smashed, my right jaw was fractured, and the orbital floor of my right eye was also smashed. It went through my nasopharynx (behind my nose), which was totally destroyed, which was why blood was coming out of my nose and mouth. The bullet bounced on my C1 vertebrae, which was fractured, ricocheted into my esophagus, and finally, I swallowed the bullet.
P: What developments have happened since then?
K: Medically, they performed an endoscopy the next day to see if the bullet passed through or affected any of my vital organs. Thankfully, the result was good; the bullet went to my stomach along with all the blood from my avulsed nasopharynx. Eventually the bullet went to my intestines and I was able expel it on June 13, exactly one month after I was shot.
I will eventually go through facial reconstruction to fix my cheekbone and orbital floor, and along with that operation my ENT doctor will repair my nasopharynx. Before this can happen though, my orthopedic and neuro surgeon have to clear me for the surgery because my neck bone (C1) hasn’t healed completely yet. For this, I was made to wear a body brace that will prevent me from moving my neck. This coming July 13, my two month mark, I will get a CT scan to see if it’s stable enough for surgery. If yes, the surgery will be scheduled immediately, not for cosmetic reasons, but because the injuries in my face are causing shooting pains in my head and in my right ear, which are sometimes unbearable; and since my right orbital floor is gone, it causes me to have double vision.
As regards the investigation, initially they were able to secure the CCTV footage. Eventually, around the second week of June, they were able to match a fingerprint they obtained from the driver’s window. The man had a prior record for drug use and drug pushing, and he was released on a technicality. As of now they are looking for him. The bullet will also be examined to see if it is registered.
P: Did your being a law student (and soon-to-be-lawyer) affect how you look at this incident? If yes, how?
K: At first, I didn’t really think about it. I just thought I was a victim of a random attempted car napping.
After they matched the fingerprint with the guy, though, it made me realize how inefficient the legal system is. The guy’s case was provisionally dismissed despite being caught with drugs, because the police officer that apprehended him failed to testify and the prosecution team handling the case did not bother to push through. It shows the lack of dedication and conviction of some people whose duty is to see that justice prevails, and to prevent its repetition. Because of their actions, or lack thereof, on May 13 I became a victim of a senseless act of violence perpetrated by that guy they released from prison, who was also described by witnesses as “looking high” at the time I was shot.
I am a believer that a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This guy was not proven guilty, this I know. But his case wasn’t even able to move forward because the people responsible for his prosecution under the law did not do their jobs. Ultimately, this guy’s fingerprint made it on the car’s passenger door, and his face is similar to the image in the sketch as described by a witness.
P: How is your Bar review going? How has this incident affected your Bar review?
K: I started studying second week of April. I had to stop for almost a month after I was shot. But on the last week of May I started reading again. I am not able to read as much as I want to, as much as I planned to. But I am not going to let this incident alter my plans completely. I might be reading slower, there may be days I can’t read because of the pain, but I will be taking the Bar this year. I will give it everything I’ve got.
P: How have your friends/family/boyfriend helped you through these trying times?
K: The shock and grief I caused my father is something I will never be able to take back. He has six daughters and I’m his youngest here. I was always the one he tried to keep at home. After all his sacrifices and care, his greatest fear still came true—harm befell his daughter. And I know he still lives with that fear every day—when he sees me sleeping or sitting in my hospital bed, walking with my brace on, and a bandage on my face. A reminder that I was almost snatched away from him. Yet every day he cooks my favorite food for me, makes sure I’m okay, and gets angry when I push myself too much. He doesn’t show me all the fear and anger I know he must feel inside.
My sisters must have felt the most gripping news of their lives—their baby sister was shot. Their faces couldn’t hide their fear and anger at what happened to me. They all make sure I don’t get too sad or depressed. They encourage me to keep on doing what I’m doing. They check up on me all the time. They take care of me in all the ways that they can. My relatives also made me feel all the love in the world.
My friends—I am speechless. Almost my entire block was there the night of the incident. They dropped everything when they heard what happened. My high school friends were there as well. The friends of my boyfriend, my family and my teachers were also there. They talk to me and make sure I have all I need for bar review and they always have willing ears to listen. Even people who I’m not close to were there. I realized how fortunate I am to have so many people care for me and [for] my well-being. I will never forget that. The love and concern they showed me each and every day help me[,] especially through bad days.
My boyfriend, in a haze of shock and terror, was able to keep his head on straight and bring me to the hospital in less than a minute. He called my family, the police and all the right people. Almost every day he is beside me, or calling me, or just letting me know how much he loves me. He makes sure I have all I need… and all I want. This kind of incident shows the depth of a relationship. And although from day one, the day I met him, I knew how in love I was with him, it’s nothing compared to the love I feel for him now. He shows me everyday that he feels the same way. Almost losing your other half puts everything in its proper perspective. I almost lost him that day, too. It wasn’t just him who felt it. Every day I wake up knowing we still have each other is the greatest blessing I have ever received.
You never really know what the important things are in your life [up] until that point [when] you’re faced with the possibility of losing it. Every day I am just thankful for my family, friends, my dogs and all the opportunities I still have. Knowing I was almost paralyzed also made me treasure all the more my health and my mobility.
P: How has this incident affected you/your outlook on life?
K: It totally changed. All I can say is that since then, I don’t ask for anything. I’m just thankful. I became a believer in miracles and it strengthened my faith. All my doctors described what happened to me as nothing short of a miracle – just millimeters away from paralysis or death. They described my [act of] bending my head as divine intervention. I think of it as my second chance to give importance to the things I took for granted… and a second chance to appreciate all that I have. P