'MISSING'  FIL-AM  CAGER'S BACK  IN  U.S.?

MANILA, February 8, 2005 
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson  -  It was good to hear from former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) commissioner Jun Bernardino again.

Yesterday, he phoned to share information on the Fil-Am cager reported to be missing here.

Bernardino said he got a call from his wife Mimiís former Pan-American Airways officemate Rebecca Rilloza last week asking for help in finding Behn de Ocampo Gerhart.

Rebeccaís sister Nora de la Paz, who lives in New Jersey, issued a round-trip ticket for Gerhart to fly to Manila and back. Gerhart left the US last Dec. 17 to accept an invitation from a Filipino agent named David to try out as a Fil-Am in an unidentified Manila league.

Gerhartís mother Dee de Ocampo Greenfield has never been to the Philippines. She lives in New Jersey. Her Filipino father Miguel was born in Manila while her mother is American. Since Gerhartís father is American, he is only a quarter Filipino.

Gerhart brought to Manila a stack of documents to support his claim for dual citizenship. The documents included birth certificates, his grandfatherís merchant seaman card, photos and letters.

Gerhart phoned his mother only once since arriving here. That was last Dec. 21 from a certain Cherry Blossom Hotel in Malate. Two days later, he checked out of the hotel and hasnít since called his mother.

Not knowing where her son was, the distraught mother called out to friends to find Gerhart. She contacted the FBI and the US Embassy in Manila. She sent e-mails to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the Philippine Basketball League (PBL). Gerhart wasnít playing in either league.

The mother asked de la Paz to track down her son, too. De la Paz contacted her sister Rilloza who in turn called Bernardino.

"Rebecca didnít know anyone from basketball except me so she asked if I could help," said Bernardino.

Gerhartís picture was e-mailed to PBL commissioner Chino Trinidadís secretary Bel Marasigan who forwarded it to The Star.

Rilloza said she learned from her sister that Gerhart told his mother in his only phone call that he didnít qualify as a Fil-Am because neither of his parents is a Filipino citizen or was at the time of his birth.

"Behn also mentioned people kept looking at him," said Rilloza. "Maybe, because heís tall, about 6-2, fair and handsome."

Rilloza said she found it odd that Gerhartís mother would allow him to fly across the globe alone to pursue a dream of playing basketball in the Philippines.

The other day, Bernardino said he got a call from Rilloza who called off the search.

I quickly contacted Rilloza who said her sister told her that Gerhart is now back in New Jersey with his mother. Rilloza, however, couldnít provide details of his surfacing. She didnít know why Gerhart didnít contact his mother for over a month and what happened to him during his stay here.

But Trinidad, who went out of his way to search for Gerhart, said he was told the Fil-Am is still in town, living near the Villamor Air Base. Gerhart is reportedly booked to leave for the US today on a Korean Airlines flight.

"I understand Behn was only six years old when his parents split up and his mother later remarried a certain Greenfield," said Trinidad. "It took a lot of detective work but we were able to trace him to a certain Elena Caridad whose son Patrick became his good friend. Elena was kind enough to shelter Behn in her home near Gate 3 of Villamor."

Was Gerhart kidnapped? If he was abducted, was a ransom paid for his release? Was he taken for a ride? Who is David? What did Gerhart do for over a month in Manila?

Gerhartís story has become even more mysterious.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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