Imagine this scene. The trial for a sensational rape case in the Queen City of the South is ongoing and the next expert witness is called for her testimony.
A forensics expert with long hair, knee-length skirt, and high heels (Hilda Koronel, she says) stands up. The defense counsel looks at her from head to toe, and immediately asks: "Are you a he or a she?" And the judge, bless her soul, snaps at counsel: "Jude Mendoza is here as an expert witness in forensics science.
Her sexual orientation and gender identity should not matter" From childhood taunts to courtroom trials, Jude, also known as Judai Gwapa, has seen them all. As a young child, she often played with walking dolls and ignored the shiny match box cars and toy guns that her father brought home for her She also played jack stones and Chinese garter "In the beginning, my father could not accept me.
He had a boxing stadium with his brother So his image was really macho. When his eldest child turned out to be me, who is different, he was disappointed.
" Not only his father, but his mother was also frustrated when their eldest child turned out to be gay. "I used to take off the clothes of Nancy, our walking doll, when I was in kindergarten.
Swak na swak ang damit. (The dress fit me well).
I fell asleep in the sofa wearing the doll's clothes. When my mother saw me, she spanked me, and then we went to church.
" Judai was also into singing and dancing. She liked to perform Chitty-Chitty Bang-bang, and during the interview, she sings it in a high falsetto voice: "What do you see.
." stopping the customers of this coffee shop at Ayala Center in Cebu in their tracks.
element-invisibleOpinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 But even if she grew up different, her father still taught her boxing. She demonstrates to me the classic moves of a boxer, jab and feint and upper cut, and she is still lightning-quick.
Judai took up Medical Technology at Velez Colleges, and got high grades for the board exams. Her parents let her be when she reached college.
Like many members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, she stayed put to take care of her parents, especially when they got sick. "My parents used to comment about everything I do, from my colorless manicure to my red lipstick.
But all that changed with the years. Later, it would be my mother who would remind me to put on lipstick, 'because you look so pale.
'" Her transition from gay man to transgender was slow, but not painful. She joined the Philippine National Police as a forensics officer She trained at the crime laboratory at Camp Crame for almost one year, and logged in 180 hours in drugs identification at the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Health.
" "I am happy that the PNP accepted me. In the beginning, I used to have long hair They used to comment about it, 'Oy, yang taga Cebu diyan bakit naka long hair' But when I got an award as Non-Uniformed Personnel (NUP) of the Year in 2007, everything changed.
I was also getting invited to be an expert witness in court cases, aside from teaching Forensics Science in different colleges and being invited to give workshops and training sessions all over the country." Delicious is the turn of the tale when she talks about the now-legendary court room cases.
The taunt earlier, on whether Judai is a he or a she, landed on the front page of a daily newspaper in Cebu City the next day. She calls it her "baptism of fire.
Suddenly, people were talking about me, my work in forensic science and how I survive in a work mostly done by straight men." The motormouth defense counsel who humiliated her would visit her many years later, and she would greet him kindly.
"He visited the office a week before he died. I guess.
. it was his way of asking for an apology for humiliating me years before.
" She also crossed swords with lawyers who are masters of the double entendre. One of them looked at her again, her shiny long hair and well-cut dress and her stiletto heels, and asked, "I am sure you already have a lot of experience.
" Nonplussed, Judai told the leering lawyer: "It depends on what you mean by experience. In forensic science, I already have 23 years of working experience.
" The judge could not help but smile and told counsel to "focus your question so the expert witness can give you the answers to clarify the case." Another legal gladiator questioned her knowledge of Legal Medicine, whose books she has devoured.
She would point out the exact pages where an important information could be found, to the astonishment of the counsel. One time, her testimony was being sought but before she could answer, counsel would fire the next question.
It was an attempt to rattle her But Judai is a master of the psy-war She looked at the judge, her fully-lashed eyes, and asked, "Your Honor, may I know if counsel is really interested in getting my answer? Before I could answer, he would already ask me the next question. Like all of you, I am here in search of justice.
" The judge turned to counsel, her eyes turning into slits, and she barked: "Counsel should let the expert witness answer first. You have been warned!" Another lawyer quizzed her on the TLC thin layer of chromatography, saying it is a manual system that has since been discredited.
To which Judai coolly countered: "With all due respect, sir, the National Bureau of Investigation is still using it." She can shoot, of course, and knows martial arts but the Judai I will remember is the one who is loved by her students, former students and friends who come to her for advice.
She tells them to enjoy life and be in love, but that the brain should rule over the heart. A nugget of gold coming from the Charlie's angel of Cebu, in these cold days and nights.
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