Wednesday, Oct 24

Short of the gates of hell, a former thief sees the light

May 12, 2018 | Jonas Trinidad

Vicmar Casil's hands, once used to swipe a smartphone, are now used to carry a box of packed meals. In this photo, one of his buyers happens to be one of his colleagues back in his days of crime. Both are now leading more honorable lives within the Great Love City, never to return to thievery again. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

Story Highlights

  • Once a thief driven by desperation, Vicmar Casil repents for his past sins by living a simple but more virtuous life at the Great Love City. The money he makes for his family no longer comes from stolen valuables across the country but from their mini market close to home.

 

Before a crowd of over 2,000 people, Great Love villager Vicmar Casil shares his past life on the verge of tears. Beside him, his loving wife Dayline and their son Mar Vincent gaze at the audience urging them to listen. It was during the first half of the three-in-one celebration on May 13 at Ormoc Great Love City.

Vicmar was repenting for his past transgressions.

Over two decades ago, Vicmar lived a life of crime as a member of the Ipit Gang. This notorious crime syndicate thrives on the number of gadgets and other valuables they steal using a simple trick. While one goes for the valuable in the victim’s pocket, the rest of the group huddle around the victim to prevent his or her escape. This modus is used to great effect in densely crowded places like the metro’s railway network.

Desperation drove him to resort to such a life. The lucrative job saw him earn Php8,000 at the bare minimum for his family back in Ormoc. He was often away in big cities like Metro Manila and Cebu where the dense population worked to the gang’s benefit.

“I wasn’t willing to see my family succumb from hunger,” Vicmar narrates.

But karmic retribution soon caught up with the band of thieves. One by one, his colleagues were either nabbed by the authorities or killed in action. His wife, who had been in the dark regarding where the money was coming from, finally knew of Vicmar’s secret life when police arrested him in Kananga.

He tried changing his ways, but it wasn’t easy. His family took the brunt of the negative image, namely his son Mar Vincent.

“I was bullied [for having a thief for a father]. More often than not, I’d exchange blows with the bullies. I wasn’t about to let them talk ill about my father. He’s still my father,” says Mar Vincent, now a grade-12 student.

Along came Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Their former residence at Barangay Tambulilid was just as affected as the rest of Ormoc. Through barangay officials, the family applied for the housing program that would give birth to the Great Love City. Since then, the family earns through food peddling and mini market in their prefabricated abode. They earn less now, but at least it isn’t dirty money.

“If not for [the Great Love City], my husband might never have changed for the better. We would still lead a miserable life, quarrelling day and night. Here, we learned a lot about what’s right and what’s wrong,” says Dayline.

“Who would’ve thought that, in a long time, the image of my husband and my family would improve?” she adds.

Vicmar adds that one of his colleagues in the Ipit Gang has also changed his ways and is one of his neighbors. They agreed never to return to a life of crime for as long as they live.

This story of repentance is aligned with the theme of this year’s Buddha Day, Mother’s Day, and Tzu Chi Day celebrations in Ormoc. The teachings of Dharma Master Cheng Yen state that any person, once led down the fires of hell for his or her wrongdoing, is almost impossible to rescue. Before he or she lingers any closer, he or she must be guided back to the correct path. It’s for this reason that Tzu Chi volunteers work to educate their neighbors.

Some might still speak ill of Vicmar for being who he was. But he would simply shrug them off.

  • The Casil residence is part house, part mini market. Their products range from fresh produce to condiments. They also sell home-cooked meals. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Vicmar's wife Dayline is in charge of cooking the meals to be sold. Here, she rinses noodles to be cooked into pancit. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Vicmar points to the highest extent of the flooding during Tropical Storm Urduja (Kai-Tak) in December 2017. Heavy rainfall inundated much of the Great Love City, which was virtually next to a creek. Tzu Chi raced to the aid of the villagers. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Freshly-cooked pancit is put into plastic bags to be sold. The family earns less with their business compared to Vicmar's stealing spree, but they're proud that they don't have to earn dirty money anymore. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • By the time Tzu Chi Philippines deputy-CEO Alfredo Li knew of Vicmar's past, the latter was already well-known among the community. Li urged him to share his story to inspire others to turn from their wicked ways. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】

  • Before a crowd of over 2,000 people, Vicmar tells his past life as a member of the infamous Ipit Gang. As soon as his fellow gang members started falling one by one, he immediately sought to change his life. 【Photo by Jonas Trinidad】