US District Attorney Honors Catandunganon OFW for Heroism

VIRAC, Catanduanes, April 29 (PIA) -- “I felt happy because, as a Catandunganon, I was able to show to America that even if we come from a small province, we do have big hearts to help others; that it is an instinct on our part to help because God is always with us.”


Still brimming with gratitude from her kababayan’s online praises for the recognition she got from the Unites States of America Los Angeles District Court Attorney, Nida Arjona Tapel, 52, of San Miguel, Catanduanes, Philippines, counts her resolute faith for foiling a criminal in defense of her 95-year-old client who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. She has been working in the United States for five years now as a teacher and a part time home-care provider.

An alumna of the Catanduanes State Colleges, now Catanduanes State University (from undergraduate to post graduate studies) Tapel was honored by the Los Angeles District Attorney, USA, with the Courageous Citizens Award on April 12, 2013. She, along with three other equally valiant citizens of Los Angeles, USA, respectively received the honor from District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

The District Attorney's Courageous Citizen Award was created to commend those individuals who have acted with courage and at considerable personal risk to help a victim of crime, assisted in the capture of a suspect, or testified in the face of extraordinary pressures.

In the online portal information of the LA District Court, Tapel received the citation for her presence of mind, bravery and heroic act in thwarting a kidnapping incident in Los Angeles.

In its press statement, the Los Angeles District County Attorney hailed the awardees “who have taken extraordinary steps to assist others when they were most vulnerable. They stopped a crime. They made sure that a criminal was prosecuted. They helped a crime victim during a terrifying moment of need. They are vital to the pursuit of justice and our community is a safer place because of them."

Jean Guccione, Director of Communications of the Los Angeles District County reported that Tapel endured a painful pepper spray attack in an effort to prevent the kidnapping of her frail, elderly client in Los Angeles on Dec.19, 2011. "With her eyes and face burning after being pepper sprayed by her client’s daughter, Tapel ran outside, yelled for help and got a passerby to call 911. Tapel then jumped into the suspect’s SUV to protect her client."

The same account revealed that Tapel remained in the vehicle as the suspect took off and led police on a wild chase for several miles before being captured.

The defendant pleaded no contest to charges of attempted kidnap, battery and evading an officer and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 2, the report said.

When asked by this writer what insights she can share with fellow OFW’s, Tapel singled out prayer as her only protection. “As an OFW, my only weapon is prayer. God made me strong all the time, because it is really very hard to be in a foreign land. [There are] plenty of challenges along the way, so embrace God tightly.”

She acknowledges the nurturing she got from her aunt, Dr. Cleofe Buen Reyes, for her resilient spirit. “I was raised by my aunt to call God all the time; nothing is impossible with Him. I did not do it alone; I am just an instrument of Him.”

Tapel dedicates her award to her fellow Catandunganons and to the Filipinos as a whole. “Let us show to the world that our purpose in life is to help others, not to hurt them. We only live once in this earth; let us make it significant. Let us not be afraid of death for God will be always there for us.”

She counts her school, the Catanduanes State Colleges (now CSU) for imbibing in her the value of humility. “The school taught me to be humble; that the higher you get, the more humble you must be. “Saan mang sulok ng mundo tayo mapadpad, alalahanin natin na dapat ang ating mga paa ay sa lupa pa din nakatapak." And if you are to do something, you must ensure it will bring you up, not put you down, Tapel concluded. (MAL/Gerry S. Rubio, CSU/PIA5)