Plot for a spy novel | Inquirer Opinion
Human Face

Plot for a spy novel

My imagination has been on overdrive and getting ahead of myself. Is Bamban, Tarlac Mayor Alice Guo a clone fertilized in a Petri dish? Was she an in vitro baby? Was she born of a surrogate mother? If so, who was the woman who carried her during gestation? Who are her biological parents? Where did all these take place? Why no birth records? Why can’t her birth mother be located? Why was her birth registered only when she was 19 years old? Why can’t she remember scenes and events that happened in her childhood that, according to her, was spent in a pig farm? Why was she homeschooled all her life? Who raised her?

Fact could sometimes be stranger than fiction, so the saying goes. The tales that Guo spun about herself before the Senate investigating committee on her background and alleged involvement in the raided Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) complex just a spitting distance from her office was straight out of a mystery thriller, if not a spy novel. Her answers to questions about her childhood and parentage (father Chinese, alleged mother a Filipino household help who abandoned her), her growing up years in “a farm,” “a farm,” “a farm,” ad nauseam (which got Sen. Loren Legarda all riled up), her birth registration at 19, and citizenship—all these were baffling, to say the least.

So many other basic information she “cannot remember, Your Honor.” All these storylines have elements one might have read about in spy and mystery page-turners. Was this Guo raised and trained for a purpose? “I am not a spy, Your Honor,” she told the Senate investigating committee. If not a spy, what? A young Chinese businesswoman turned mayor? Guo’s citizenship, parentage, and provenance, if I may use the term, are still under scrutiny.

In my head is a jumble of stories by well-known authors, stories that say anything is possible in one’s imagination. Guo’s tales fit in certain genres—mystery, espionage, cloak-and-dagger, even sci-fi. As to the missing years in her childhood, I think of Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” which is about humans cloned and raised in a facility and falling in love as young adults, until their time is up. I think of Margaret Atwood’s spine-tingling “A Handmaid’s Tale” set in dystopian United States of America. (How about “A Farmgirl’s Tale”?) Stephen King, whose weird characters rule, might find Guo’s narrative grist for another bestseller. Spy novelist John le Carré of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” fame might have to raise an eyebrow for “Orphan Farmgirl Mayor Spy.”


I watched again on Netflix the documentary “Girl in the Picture” (96 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes), and was convinced that true-to-life stories and mysterious happenings, when pieced together, could indeed be stranger than fiction. A retired spymaster might say that Guo’s sticking out her tongue like a Komodo dragon every time a word she uttered ended with the letter L or N could have been a signal to her handlers, whoever they are. On social media, TikTokers are having a field day with her tongue, perhaps thinking that she just has weird mannerisms. Think again, the spymaster says. Watch the facial twitches, the body language. (A journalist watches out for these, too.)

But just as baffling is how the farm girl who had little education became so wealthy (investing in real estate and businesses, owning a helicopter and a fleet of cars, etc.) and powerful (elected in 2022 as Bamban mayor at age 36). Her father, she said, would regularly send her oodles of money from China, P1,000,000 one day, half a million some other day. So why didn’t rich Dad send her to an expensive school? She was kept in a farm, Guo said, as if to insinuate something was not right. Such is one Alice Guo’s story that culminates in the seven-hectare restricted area that she admitted she once owned and is now the site of the Pogo complex and other facilities now run by Chinese nationals and raided some months ago because of suspicious goings-on.

As of this writing, Guo and two other Bamban executives have been suspended. The Office of the Ombudsman noted “strong evidence showing the guilt” and said their continued stay in office might prejudice investigations against them. Guo also faces tax evasion charges (Inquirer banner story, “Pogo probe: Guo, 2 other Bamban execs suspended,” News, 6/4/24). Her insistence that she is not a spy but an ordinary Filipino now falls on deaf ears because she could not thoroughly explain her Filipino citizenship and her links to shady operations by Chinese nationals. Chinese from China continue to fly in and have all but taken over shady operations in the country that are related to gambling, drug dealing, kidnapping for ransom, human trafficking, smuggling. Name it.

From Bamban in Tarlac, shift your gaze to an island province in Southern Luzon. Yes, even while China continues to claim areas in and intrude into the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea. That is the big context. The plot thickens.



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