By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Beneath the silky haze of a glittering city where dancing lights invite visitors and locals to try their luck in the gaming tables and slot machines, is the reality that life can be tough, really tough.
This toughness often explodes in violence.
At least 30,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans (some say the number is actually as many as 100,000) make their living here, a burgeoning community that is now heavily courted by politicians and wooed by business owners.
Most work in the casinos as card dealers, slots machine techs, cashiers, cocktail waitresses, and in the healthcare industry as doctors, nurses, and caregivers.
Each is trying to carve his or her own American Dream, but still truly rooted to Philippine traditions, including what could be the worst in Filipino culture.
Close family ties help Filipinos cope and survive in a foreign land – and also triggers animosity and bad blood even among the nearest of relatives.
In October, a 31-year-old Filipina given shelter by her brother at his apartment stabbed to death her sister-in-law, also killing the 9-month old baby in her womb.
In January, a 40-year-old former chef used three knives to cut up to death his 28-year-old wife, a nurse, in their Las Vegas apartment.
“These are horrific crimes,” said Rozita Lee, a long-time Las Vegas resident and known Filipino-American community leader. “You can only cringe in disbelief.”
If convicted, Richard Magdayo Dahan, the chef who killed his wife, and Elinor Indico, who stabbed to death his sister-in-law, could get the death penalty.
The case of Dahan is particularly appalling. He and his wife Daisy met in Bohol and married in 2011 after living together for a while. They moved to the United States shortly after getting married.
Trouble started right away in the marriage because Dahan, then employed as a chef at Mandalay Bay, maintained his relationship with an ex-girlfriend and his two kids with her.
Friends of Dahan said she began asking for divorce, which Richard said was unacceptable, and the abuse, mostly verbal, began.
He said he took a large knife out of their dishwasher and then walked up behind Daisy and stabbed her in the base of her neck.
Daisy began fighting with him but he forced her to the floor. He then began trying to saw at her neck with a serrated knife, but the knife became tangled in her hair.
Dahan next used a meat cleaver. He struck her several times on her head. After that, he stabbed her in her abdomen and placed the knife in her mouth, cutting outward from the corner.
Indico, who has a history of drug abuse, was asked to moved out from the house where she was temporarily staying with her brother’s family.
According to the charge sheet, Indico stabbled Ashley Indico after the two had a fight in the North Las Vegas apartment that they were sharing.
Ashley Indico sustained stab wounds in her neck, the back of her arm and her ankle, police said. Indico, who was found bleeding from minor wounds, claimed she acted in self-defense when her sister-in-law attacked her.
At the time of the incident, Ashley Indico’s two other younger children, a five-year old son and a three-year-old daughter were home. It was the boy who called neighbors, telling them his “mom was bleeding,” police said.
The presence of the children in the house during the killing forced prosecutors to add the charge of child abuse, neglect and endangerment to murder and manslaughter.
That also prompted Judge Linda Bell to hold Indico without bail.
Indico is represented by her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Norman Reed.
While the community seems to be mired in sin in Sin City, a ray of virtue cleared the deteriorating Filipino reputation.
A taxi driver from Mabalacat, Pampanga and Silay City became literally a hero and became the toast of Las Vegas.
On Christmas Day, Gerardo Gamboa found $300,000 in cold hard cash left behind by a passenger in his taxicab.
The 54-year-old Gamboa, a 13-year veteran of Vegas streets, said even briefly he did not think of keeping the money, and instead turned the money over to his supervisor at Yellow Chcecker Star.
With police help, they were able to trace – and return – the money to the owner: A professional poke player quite popular in the Strip, but asked to remain anonymous.
The poker player rewarded Gamboa $10,000. His taxi company awarded him another $1,000 and a steak dinner for him and his wife.
In addition, Nevada Senator Harry Reid and Nev. Gov. Brian Sandoval wrote letters of commendation to Gamboa, hailing him as an example of honesty and good citizenship that must be emulated by Nevadans.
“I’m happy that we can show to the world the Filipino is a good person, and can not be easily dazzled by money,” Gamboa said.
The good and the bad can all be mixed in the pursuit of dreams in a city where fun seem to have no end.