By Alex P. Vidal
What happened to Virgilio Orquiola early morning on August 31, 1996 or 18 years ago will forever be etched in his memory.
“I have forgiven my shooter but I can’t forget (that incident), of course,” sighed Orquiola, now 64 and network comptroller of the Philippine News Agency (PNA)-Iloilo.
On his way to buy coffee at around 3:15 o’clock in the morning, Orquiola left his boarding house and walked going to Iloilo Terminal Market popularly known as “super” in Iloilo City.
While passing by a popular nightclub on Quezon St., City Proper, he heard a gunshot from an unknown caliber.
Minutes later, he was grimacing in pain. Orquiola, a resident of Brgy. Mansilingan, Bacolod City, was hit on the right foot.
Another civilian, Ricardo Cang, who happened to be in the area, was slightly wounded.
“I only realized that I was hit when I felt pain and when I saw blood on my wound,” recalled Orquiola, father of eight-year-old girl, Daniela Cathy.
The bullet came from the gun fired by a prominent Iloilo City politician who chaired a city hall task force against lewd shows, prostitution, and drug addiction.
The team was patrolling at that time and was reportedly doing “inspections” inside the nightclub when the commotion erupted.
The politician reportedly got enraged and fired his gun when he was unable to find a female entertainer working in that club.
Orquiola was rushed to the St. Paul Hospital.
When the story spread in media, the politician refused to comment and did not make himself available to reporters.
Due to pressures from media, Mayor Mansueto Malabor persuaded the politician, one of his most trusted allies then, to help Orquiola settle his hospital bills through an emissary.
Orquiola’s boss then, PNA-Iloilo chief Neonita Gobuyan, and some members of the city hall press corps, sought the mayor’s help.
The mayor did not fire the politician who held on to his post while at the same time serving his term as an elected member of the city council.
Orquiola positively identified the politician but did not anymore file a case against him.
“I know it was not his intention to hurt me,” Orquiola said. “I just happened to pass by in the area when the commotion ensued. He did not know me personally, so he had no reason to shoot me. I heard he has also done many good things for his constituents.”
Orquiola said he never saw the politician again since the incident. Because of what happened to him, Orquiola became an instant sensation in media.
News about the shooting and the follow up reports landed on front pages. Because of the personalities involved, it became the talk of the town—especially why the politician fired his gun and who was that female entertainer.
Eighteen years after the incident, Orquiola said he would only smile each time he recalled what happened.
“It’s good I was only hit on the leg. God still loves me,” he said in jest.
Orquiola showed the scar of his wound and confirmed the bullet was still inside his foot.
“I feel pain during cold weather,” he disclosed. “Doctors did not remove the bullet.”
Orquiola said he did not attribute the pain he experiences from time to time caused by his diabetes and high blood pressure to what happened 18 years ago saying “it is probably related to my age.”
He was recently hospitalized for seven months due to tuberculosis. Orquiola said he is satisfied and happy working under a new boss, PNA-Iloilo chief Annabel Java-Petinglay, and is only waiting for the mandatory age of retirement at 65.
“I’m happy with my life and my achievement, and I considered that experience as a bad dream,” Orquiola stressed. “I have no rancor in my heart against my shooter whatsoever, and I have long forgiven him. But I can never forget.”