In life, when everything seems perfect and going according to your plans, you feel like you have the immunity to surpass everything the world may throw. You convince yourself that nothing or no one can take hold of the momentum of your life’s grand slam. Because why would you think otherwise? You worked hard, from surviving weeks of sleepless nights and remaining full charge without even touching a meal to reach that podium you’re at. You’re that invincible until you hit rock bottom, just like how Karen Bordador used to have an ideal movie star-like life.
Once upon a time… in movies and books usually have a succeeding happy story starring a settled protagonist. Then, a sudden tragedy turns the story upside down, which happens in just a blink of an eye. The part is called the climax, where the protagonist struggles. S/he plays either a fighter or deadbeat role for a while until realizing what works to intensify the scene. Afterward, you can only expect two finales: a redeeming or daunting one.
Karen Bordador on keeping hopes intact amid hitting rock bottom
Before the incident placed her in an indecent situation that lasted for five years, Karen Bordador used to have an ideal movie star-like life. She had attained everything she wanted to do upon clean working, from being a model, TV and events host, blogger, entrepreneur, and celebrity, to being an applauded radio DJ.
What else could she wish for? One thing’s for sure: she did not wish to lose all the fruit of her hard work.
I really worked so hard (and) attained all the things that I wanted to do. However, it’s so true that no matter how long you build yourself, you can just crumble down in just one day.
In the wrong place at the wrong time
It was a casual day in her life. On the morning of August 13, 2016, Bordador worked at a radio station from 2:00 to 6:00. Come afternoon, she hosted an event and decided to visit her now ex-boyfriend for a surprise. Then, thirty seconds after she arrived at her ex’s condo unit, her life had changed: the climax she hadn’t ever thought of happening.
In a buy-bust operation, the authorities from Taguig arrested Bordador and her ex-boyfriend Emilio Lim. That thirty seconds of error concluded bitter and wretched five years of her life. Unlike Lim, Karen didn’t deserve the imposition. In retrospect, she tested negative on the drug test. Still, the authorities charged her with a few violations against the Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002).
Trauma is an understatement to describe the impacts of persecution and embarrassment she had to go through publicly for a false accusation. Little did she know, her highs at that time were in league with the lowest she had to go through in life. Things would not be the same if she wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Basically I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. If I would have gone elsewhere that day or if I was like a little later, like a few seconds, then that would not happen to me at all.
Life behind bars
Once upon a time, yellow shirts deprived Karen of any of the things that many people consider normal. It’s usually the color associated with optimism, energy, and joy. However, for the five years of pent-up living, the color yellow only entailed scarcity and iniquity. There was barely any supply or help, so she and all her inmates had to make the most of that barely anything for the exceeding population of the facility.
She had missed all the special occasions and holidays supposedly spent blissfully with her loved ones. For five years, she only had the same wishes for her birthday: progress on her case, vindication, and that the Lord may tightly brace her with hope.
Five birthdays inside, five New Years, (and) Christmases without my family. It was a very different experience from the life that I’m normally accustomed to.
Life in prison, not just for her but everyone there, is substandard and deprived. She endured her daily tasteless, scanty foods, seated sleeping position, rushed bath schedules with only limited trials of toilet breaks throughout the day, and frequent violent incidents among inmates. It was a completely upside-down world.
Despite the unglamorous situation inside, Karen chose positivity and diligence to make a different reality for herself, her family, and her friends.
Although the incident did not happen at all, Karen accepted that everything that happened to her must happen. Therefore, she could only make a difference wherever she’s at. She tried her best to do things that were very meaningful and purposeful to make each day count.
If you ask her about her sentiments inside, she would tell you that she did not totally lose the five years of her life. Sure those years were difficult, especially during the first months, when she wouldn’t want to accept it yet. She had to ponder about what tomorrow will be like for her. However, after realizing the Lord destined it for her, she would not let a day pass sad or idly.
I made so much progress inside. I really elevated myself, learned so many skills, read 300 plus books or probably more, (and) created a library inside the jail.
To make the place lighter, she would make herself think that she was just abroad and away from her loved ones. So she would call it ‘Kulongbia’ (Columbia).
From afar, Karen’s family and friends are all a part of her journey. They made those years bearable.
Her family and besties did not turn their back on her just because of the accusations. More than any time, Karen needed them all those years. In movies, they are the protagonist’s allies that create their finale.
Despite having their reputation defiled, her family became her support system. They were angry and worried in the beginning. However, eventually, they realized that Karen had nothing to do with anything thrown at her.
Instead of spreading hate to people who caused her family inconvenience, she focused on spreading prayers through her mom’s gathered prayer warriors.
On the other hand, her mornings are a bit different from others. Her best friend Grace gave her a world map to inspire her throughout the day. She would choose a country there and make it seem like it’s the destination for the day. Those are just teeny tiny bits of things that helped her get through the experience.
A miracle worth sharing with the world
The Lord never wanted permanent terrible things to happen to His people. Because He promised great things, but they have to wait it out. By the end of the narrow road, a wider highway will open up for His people because He ensured that a great life is after them.
For all the years she was inside, Karen consistently read the bible every morning. And a year before she got acquitted, she would eyeball a page of the bible, and after many tries, it kept leading her to the same verse, one that really spoke to her was from Isaiah 60:20 saying, “The least important of you will become a powerful nation. I am the Lord, and when it’s time, I will make these things happen quickly.”
It took me a while to really grasp that it’s not just prayers, but it’s also reading the Bible.
By the time her case started moving, it went by so fast. The finale she’s been waiting for turns out to be a new and better start for her.
Isaiah 61:7 says you will enjoy the wealth of the nations and be proud that it is yours. I have ended your shame and disgrace. You will live in your own land and I will double your wealth; your joy will last forever.
Karen finally returned to the outside world. In her YouTube channel, the vlogger shared the day she got out.
On the 15th of June this year (2021), I was acquitted. Yes! I was finally acquitted.
When the verdict was announced, I super cried like sobrang cried. I walked outside so happy… I belong here. I can go anywhere, do whatever I want.
In just a year of liberation, Karen Bordador is now a vlogger and a YouTube silver play button holder, TV Host, Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) advocate, furmom, and a celebrity housemate on Pinoy Big Brother: Kumunity Season 10. Among many things she is now, she plays Ms. Brightside: A motivational speaker the most. After all, she wants you, in whatever phase of your life you’re at right now, to keep your hopes intact and wait for your moment.
The end! Once upon a time, a new story began.
Micas pursues writing and photography as a hobby and as an instrument to feature the life of people often ignored in society. She aspires to be a journalist and an all-around cool girl someday. She's in the process of making herself eloquent in writing and speaking.