Herlene Budol says was chased by armed men after leaving Uganda hotel: ‘Ito na ata katapusan ko’

Herlene Budol

Image: Instagram/@herlene_budol

Herlene Budol narrated her experience in the aborted Miss Planet International pageant in Uganda, where she said she and her team were chased by several armed men after leaving their hotel.

The Binibining Pilipinas 2022 first runner-up opened up on her “traumatic” experience in the pageant in an interview with Nelson Canlas for his “Updated with Nelson Canlas” podcast yesterday, Dec. 1.

Budol recalled that organizers of the pageant did not seem to have much preparation for the competition, as they were not given water or food, and the hotel where over 30 candidates were supposed to stay were not paid when they arrived. She also noted that given this incident, she and her team decided to book a rental space outside the hotel.

The hotel’s management then told all candidates that they should not leave the property until the organizer has given their payment. However, despite not having checked into the hotel yet, Budol was told to stay with her fellow candidates until all payments were settled. It was during this time that armed men and police officers with guns started coming to the hotel for an investigation.

“‘Yung nerbyos po ba na wala ako sa lugar ko, hindi ko sila maintindihan. Baka kung ano’ng mangyari, magkagulo. Kailangan kong makauwi ng Pilipinas,” she told Canlas. “‘Yung mindset ko po no’n baka magkapatayan na po dito. Mababait naman po yung mga Ugandan na nakilala ko pero siyempre hindi ko kilala ‘yung mga tao doon.”

(I was so nervous because I was not in a familiar place, I couldn’t understand them. Something might happen, there might be a scuffle. I needed to go home to the Philippines. My mindset then was people might kill each other here. The Ugandans whom I got to know were kind but, of course, I was not familiar with the people there.)

Budol then tried to beg the hotel staff to let her go to her rental place, stressing that she was not staying at the hotel to begin with.

“Ayaw po nila akong palabasin kahit sinasabi kong ‘Meron po akong sariling Airbnb. Hindi po ako dito natulog. Naging biktima rin po kami ng ganitong kwento na kesyo may ganitong pambayad,'” she recounted. “Ang layo na po ng naiisip ko kasi sobrang dami na pong pulis, iba’t ibang lahi kami. Hindi po kami nagkakaintindihang lahat. Kahit anong pakiusap ko, baka mapikon na sa akin.”

(They would not let me leave despite me telling them, “I have my own Airbnb. I did not sleep here. We were also victims to these stories that everything has been paid.” My mind was already wandering because there were so many police officers, and we were all of different ethnicities. We could not understand each other. No matter how I plead with them, they might just get annoyed by me.)

Meanwhile, candidates who had “no choice” but to stay at the hotel started arguing with staff to get Budol to her own rental place because they wanted to make sure that at least one of them was free to tell authorities about their situation. However, this did not appear to work as well.

It was only Budol’s Ugandan van driver who managed to explain the situation to police and guards, who eventually allowed Budol and her team to get on her ride out of the hotel, but some armed men still followed them out of the property in an attempt to make her return to the hotel.

“Paglabas ko, siguro ‘yung ibang pulis, hindi nasabihan. Hinabol ako ng maraming may baril. Dalawa po ‘yung humabol sa ‘kin na may mahabang baril,” she recalled. “Sabi ko ‘hold on, hold on.’ Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘parang ito na ata katapusan ko.’ Akala ko sa pelikula ko lang mapapanood ‘to.”

(When I got out, maybe other policemen had not been informed. Armed men chased me. Two of them had big guns. I told them, “Hold on, hold on.” I told myself, ‘It seems like this is the end of me.’ I thought I would only get to see that in movies.)

Fortunately, Budol was eventually allowed to go to her separate rental place, but the encounter with the armed men took a toll on her.

“Nu’ng nakaalis na kami, anytime, akala namin may sumusunod sa’min… tapos nahimatay ako sa sasakyan,” she added. (When we got out, anytime, we thought someone was following us… then I passed out inside the car.)

Budol’s manager Wilbert Tolentino announced last Nov. 11 that their team decided to withdraw from Miss Planet International after they experienced “uncertainties” from the pageant’s organizers.

The Miss Planet International pageant no longer pushed through last Nov. 19 in Uganda, and will instead be held in Cambodia in January 2023.  /ra


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