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Ica Policarpio and the missing rich young woman syndrome

In the United States, they have what’s called the “missing white woman syndrome” which refers to the extensive attention the media and the public in general gives to missing beautiful and upper-to-miccle class white women. Parenthetically, missing people who don’t fit this description like African-Americans and Latinos doesn’t generate as much news, if at all. It is also referred to as the “missing pretty girl syndrome” or the “damsel in distress syndrome.”

Keep that in mind as we discuss the disappearance of Ica Policarpio, a 17-year-old woman from Parañaque City. Her disappearance attracted the attention of local netizens, celebrities, as well as major media outlets for the past two days. She was supposedly found Sunday morning.

Every single day, there are lots of missing persons all over the country. We know this not just because of social media posts but also through posters and flyers distributed by their respective families. Notice that missing people who are teenage boys, senior citizens, and those with physical and mental disability do not get as much attention.

Why did the case of Ica Policarpio get more attention than those that preceded it? The main reason is that her family, particularly her older sister Bea who’s also a blogger, knew how to utilize social media effectively. We also cannot discount the fact that people would be more inclined to notice an appeal for help if the missing person happens to be a beautiful teenage girl.

It must be noted however that the opinion toward Ica Policarpio and her family took a sharp turn shortly after she was supposedly found. First, there’s this revelation that she was actually spotted by a concerned citizen in a coffee shop in San Pablo, Laguna. Then, no less than National Capital Region Police Office chief Oscar Albayalde himself said that there is no indication that the teenager was kidnapped.

ica policarpio missing

Ica Policarpio was reunited with her family on Christmas Eve (Photo by Bea Policarpio)

The family has not issued any official statement so far. Their silence has prompted netizens to engage in speculations. Some said Ica Policarpio merely went out of their house due to some family issues. There are also those who said that she may be experiencing mental issues, while others suggested that she may have tried the so-called 48 hours Facebook challenge. According to the Detroit Free Press, the game “instructs teens to hide out from their parents for as long as possible to rack up likes, comments and shares on Facebook.”

Here’s the thing: Asking netizens for help is a double-edged sword. On certain cases, some social media users can really provide valuable information, like in the case of Ica Policarpio. However, that has some downsides too.

Like for example, since Ica Policarpio’s family publicized her supposed disappearance, you cannot blame the public if they would like to know what really happened now that she has been “found.” When people ask for more details, it’s not because they feel entitled to it or they are being chismoso, as others claim.

The news of her disappearance alarmed the public for a good reason: How many times have we heard of stories of teenagers suddenly disappearing only to be found dead in a remote location? If this is really a case of attempted kidnapping, then the public has the right to know how the modus operandi worked out so that they can better protect themselves.

Of course, we cannot expect the Policarpio family to do so immediately. They need time to recover from this emotionally-wrenching ordeal during this holiday season. Nevertheless, we have to know more from them soon enough.

PS: This entire Ica Policarpio episode shows us that all families, whether rich or poor, can possibly experience the anguish of having a missing loved one.

I hope it becomes an annual tradition for all media networks to have a telethon dedicated to missing people nationwide.

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