Friday, May 09, 2008


School children as young as those of elementary age were the victims of choice. More than 1,000 scar-faced students were found in about a dozen schools in Tondo, Manila, including Andres Bonifacio Elementary School in Tayuman which I had attended. The mysterious scarring on their faces were apparently inflicted with a razor blade.

To make matters worse, the police were frustrated by the refusal of the many victims to speak out, which led them to work on the following theories:

1. Extortion – the marks are inflicted on children who have paid their “dues” to a gang of mulcters.
2. Dope addiction - peddlers of drugs mark prospective addicts among the school population.
3. Just a fad - the marks are symbols of children’s gangs.
4. Communist subversion - these are marks of membership in juvenile Red cells.

I'm not certain if the police had actually solved this case but the scare went on for a couple of years until I was already in high school. In fact, before boarding a jeepney on my way to school, I would first check out its passengers. Should anyone appear suspicious, I'd wait for another jeepney. Neither would I sit next to the driver. I was afraid that a slasher would grab my head and cut my face from behind.

I had totally forgotten this horrific moment of my youth until I came across Simon's post on his Video 48 blog site, The Case of the Scar-Faced Children, a Manila Times article about it is also included.

I must point out that Simon's Video 48 blog site is uniquely entertaining. His posts bring back a lot of fond (and frightening) memories.

And although he features mostly local films of old and their stars, every now and then Simon manages to dig up vintage true crime stories that involved some personalities of our local cinema's golden era.

* * *

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I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:19 AM


Blogger Video 48 said...

Also in the 60s, several action stars were gunned down in night clubs, i.e. Jess Lapid and Alberto Alonzo, incidents of which were like scenes from a movie, played again and again. How about the celebrated Lucila Lalu, the first chop-chop lady and Maggie de la Riva rape case, both happened the same time this scar-faced children case surfaced. Those were the days that you feel defenseless and unprotected and thinking that you will be the next victim.Thank you for the post and link, Eric!

May 09, 2008 8:49 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, this is very shocking. I remember too, during the late 70s to early 80s, there was the needle-stabbing scare kaya I avoided being caught in crowds lest someone from my back might stab me with a needle and then I'd go unconscious.

Fad? For kids as young as first graders - I don't think so. Something must be lurking somewhere.

May 09, 2008 9:19 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I was at a dinner party last week, Simon, in which the topic of conversation were screen idols involved in crime -- both from Hollywood and local cinema. And I must admit that I was able to contribute to this lively conversation on account of some information I got from your blog.

Also, your entries remind me of some features -- on the golden age of Hollywood, as well as personalities convicted of crime -- in Vanity Fair, my favorite American glossy.

As I said, you have a unique site. I wish you well and please keep up the good work. I do not know how you dig up the material you use in your posts, but thanks much for sharing them with us :)

May 09, 2008 9:40 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That needle-pricking scare happened in New York, too, during the time when not much was known about AIDS. Most victims and cukprits were school children.

It was very scary, Rhoda, especially for the chidren.

May 09, 2008 9:48 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't recall any of such crime during my time, Senor!

The only figures that terrorize us were the priest and nuns at the local high school...hehehehe

Imagine, sino ba naman ang gustong magprom ng tanghali!!

May 09, 2008 4:46 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Jeez ... high school prom can be traumatizing enough for some without it being held in high noon ... hehehe.

Where was this parochial school, Mandaragat?

May 09, 2008 5:57 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is tragic when children are exploited and brainwashed at such young ages. I hope the police had broken this gang and its sinister activities for good :(

Nowadays the drug subculture is the new menace and young kids are becoming easy victims to the addiction :(

May 09, 2008 7:32 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

St. James po!

May 09, 2008 9:01 PM  

Blogger escape said...

now that's something we really need to be aware of. i think this case is isolated but we cannot tell. anything can happen.

i usually go home late night. really need to consider this.

May 09, 2008 10:33 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

These days, BW, many kids in both public and private schools are often forced to join a gang for protection from other kids. Some had told me that not joining one leaves you vulnerable to violent attacks or extortions.

May 10, 2008 6:03 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Ang lupit naman ng mga pare at madre sa St, James, Mandaragat :(

May 10, 2008 6:05 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

This indedd very frightenong for school kids back then, donG. Jeeez ... hopefully nothing of this sort ever frighten/victimize them ever again.

Yes, always excercise some caution when coming home late at night. Ingat!

May 10, 2008 6:08 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the VIDEO 48 blog you sited here in your blog as way toooo cool. hahaha. it's like a goldmine of vintage philippine cinema ads. am having so much fun digging through it.

thank you again eric!

May 10, 2008 1:16 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm telling you, Daniel ... Simon's Video 48 is really something else! I'm simply in awe at the abundance of his material -- all very interesting even though I'm didn't see most of those local movies. But it's nonetheless an integral aspect of our culture.

Kudos to Simon for doing such a fine job!

May 10, 2008 2:43 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

those face slashing cases, needle sticking incident on the street did happened but they were isolated cases. the media and some people just exagerated the exact damage of the events for rating and drama effects. This is the same with the urban legend regarding a persone or a child who was found dazed and has a long surgical scar on his /her side which ponted to one of the kidneys being surgicall removed. In real life there are a lot of blood works especially tissue matching which takes time for the result to come back before one can donate a kidney.

May 10, 2008 3:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm sure you're right, Leo, but it scared the heck out of me back then. There were also pictures of some victims in Manila Times (check out Simon's post).

By the way, a New York model, Marla Hanson, was once a victim of face slashing (an isolated case). In June 1986, she rejected the sexual advances of her landlord, Steve Roth. Roth hired two friends to attack Hanson. During the assault, Hanson's face was slashed with a razor blade, leaving wounds that required surgery and 100 stitches to close the three cuts on her face. All three men were found guilty of the crime. Judge Jeffery Atlas gave Roth the 5 to 15 year maximum sentence.

May 10, 2008 4:00 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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