On the dawn of 23 November 2016, I and my two small boys were a few kilometers nearing Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Both were still fast asleep while I had been wide awake throughout the 8 hours of our bus ride. Exhausted but the exhilarating feeling of finally being physically free from the abusive hands and mouth of my Turkish ex-husband was priceless and overwhelming. It felt like the first breath of fresh air in years. It was past 8 o’clock in the morning when we finally arrived at the bus terminal in the capital. Then we headed straight for the Philippine Embassy which was gladly barely 15 minutes from the terminal itself. By noontime, I and the kids got settled in a hotel a few blocks away from the embassy. Putting together my argument and all of the necessary evidence I needed to begin the process of traveling outside of Turkey along with my children, all I could do was to keep in constant communication with the embassy while trying so hard to keep my sanity and good physical and mental health as I had my children to rely on me on everything while we were in the hotel during this thing I called ‘transition’. A week passed, getting my children a passport was still on the process. Due to the fact that their father had their IDs and refused to sign a travel document for them, things were very difficult. During those waiting days for feedback and progress, we’d normally get through the days either in our hotel room or at the small department store nearby. Sometimes I’d go to the embassy and let the boys play at the day care downstairs.
On 04 December 2016, we joined the Lantern Festival party together with the Filipino community coming from Istanbul and Ankara. I and the boys had a great day enjoying the Filipino food and company of everyone present. We felt welcomed despite our story. A couple of hours after lunch, we went back to our hotel and both kids spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. Most probably they were spent due to running around playing with a bunch of other children at the party.
That evening of the same day, past 7 of December 04, I took the boys downstairs for dinner. It was a Sunday evening. For the shift were a female at the reception, a couple of waiters and one at the concierge. The boys settled in their seats. Dinner ordered. My eldest toddler is a handful most of the times. You can’t make him sit in his chair for long. However, when dinner came, I managed to make my youngest (2 years old) to sit still and get fed while his brother was hanging around at the adjacent foyer. While we were having dinner, all of a sudden my ex-husband came in with a friend of his, then they both began to carry the boys. The shock hasn’t begun to register yet when he urged me to go up, pack up, leave the hotel and go back home to his hometown with them. Panicking, I told him briefly, “What? No, that will never happen. Put the kids down, please. You and your friend can leave now.” My eldest let go of his friend’s hold, and went back to the table to eat. Then realization suddenly hit me when I saw my ex slowly slowly approaching the door, still carrying my youngest and he was talking to his friend telling him to go on pick up my other son. Very quickly while picking up my son I phoned someone from the embassy and told him what’s happening …and I hurriedly tried to hide my son behind the bar counter. Before I could even finish the call with the embassy, in the blink of an eye the three of them were already gone. AND THAT’S WHEN I LOST ENZO.
When he took away my son Enzo out into the cold of that night, my son had eaten barely 5 spoonfuls of his dinner, wearing no winter coat, no breastmilk. I was still breastfeeding Enzo.
Three personnels from the embassy arrived at my rescue and we all went to the nearest police station. We reported the incident. However, there was no way for the police to retrieve my son from my ex due to the following reasons: 1) The police couldn’t take actions unless there was an order from the prosecutor’s office. 2) Enzo was born in Turkey. 3) He is the father of Enzo.
Christmas came. No Enzo.
New Year’s Eve came. No Enzo.
His brother’s birthday on 29 January came. Still no Enzo.
Those were the saddest and most painful important days to ever remember.
Two months passed. There’s not a single day that my eldest misses to say “I miss him. We will get him back, Mummy.”
YES, WE SURELY WILL.
Each waking day fills me with steadfast hope that ENZO will be with us very…very soon. And then he can finally unwrap his Christmas gifts that’s been on top of the closet waiting for his return.