For more than a month now, the whereabouts of Filipino national Lyka Bernas, 29, remains a mystery despite the recent impassioned plea by her aunt Amelia Bernas Salvador from the Philippines.
The young woman, who had been living here in Trinidad for the past three years earning her keep as a nanny, disappeared in Belmont on December 13, last year.
At the place she once called home in Jerningham Avenue, Kevyn Barcelon, her roommate, was still trying to fathom how and why her friend had vanished.
Her room at the apartment remains intact. A red mini backpack sits in her room; Barcelon said she never left home without it. Her cellphone, iPod, stuffed toy whale and her prayer book of novenas with the picture of Jesus plastered on the front is still in her room.
Despite a $20,000 reward offered by a group of Bernas’ friends for any information about her, the trail has gone cold and no information has been forthcoming.
Calls to her cellphone went to automated messages on Friday.
Her family in the Philippines and in the diaspora are holding out hope and praying for her safe return.
The shops within a stone’s throw away from Bernas’ apartment where they believed she had gone were closed when the Sunday Guardian visited Tuesday evening.
Barcelon said, “When I came home there was no sign of forced entry or abduction, there are always neighbours home, you have to pass through the locked gate and security. The only things missing are Lyka’s house slippers, bank card, driver’s permit, cellphone and house keys. If she intended to stay out for long, she always had her backpack, even the neighbours notice that, and her shoes.”
“I don’t know if she just went up the road, she went to the Savannah side. I asked people if they saw her, if she willingly went out.”
She said she didn’t know what to think, and did not want to believe Bernas was kidnapped, or if it was done by someone she knew.
Barcelon related that she informed her roommate’s family after she made a missing person’s report at the Belmont Police Station on December 13.
She disclosed that the last time she saw Bernas was when she went to a party on December 10 for her (Barcelon’s) birthday and left her at home because she said she was feeling sick and did not want to go out.
Barcelon described Bernas, who was from Cavite city in the Philippines, as not the type of person to go out, and if she did she would tell her and it was most likely by a Filipina girl in St James.
Bernas had a boyfriend in Trinidad, she said, but they had parted ways amicably.
Barcelon, who is from Manila City, said that Bernas did not have many friends, she worked as a housemaid and nanny for a family in Cascade.
On the day she went missing, she messaged some of them, some she had not spoken to in weeks and years on Instagram.
Barcelon said that her friend was quiet, she used to go to a poker club in Cascade, but the members told her that they had not seen her in two years.
She noted that as with many Filipinos, she was Roman Catholic. Barcelon said she did not know if her roommate went to church but knew she prayed in her room.
Barcelon said she met Bernas in 2018 at a Filipino sports day.
It was the first year she (Bernas) came to Trinidad and they became close friends.
She explained that Bernas’ job entailed her staying by her employees, so “she rented an apartment by Chancellor’s, but because she didn’t have her own vehicle and rent was expensive so she ended up staying by me.”
Barcelon said that Bernas wanted to stay longer in Trinidad and earn enough money before returning home.
She revealed that she was saving up money to buy her own vehicle. “Her driver had taken her in the past to Sea Lots to view a vehicle to purchase from a police officer but it never materialised,” said Barcelon.
The ordeal has been traumatic for both family and friends of Bernas during the Christmas season and into the new year for over a month with no updates forthcoming from the police. Bernas’ family created a group chat on Facebook where they can post messages or updates on her status, Barcelon said.
She said the system did not have proper protocols in place when it came to missing persons. Barcelon said she did not feel any sense of urgency by the authorities regarding receiving updates or being appraised of where Bernas’ case had reached.
According to Barcelon, the police told her that the CCTV cameras on the avenue were not functioning and there were also no cameras at the nearby telecommunications company.
Barcelon was also dismayed that after Bernas’ family had downloaded an app that tracked the location of her cellphone to Bombay Street, St James and informed the police about it they did not action anything further.
The Hunters Search & Rescue Team contacted her a month ago but there was also no feedback.
She was also contacted by the Philippines embassies in Trinidad and Washington along with the media for help.
Barcelon said she was numb from the disappearance of Bernas, but she and her family were not giving up hope.
She appealed to her friend as she broke down in tears, “Lyka, wherever you are, please give me a sign to let me know you are safe and okay.”
Sunday Guardian contacted the Belmont Police Station on Friday and was told they cannot comment on the case. The Anti-Kidnapping Unit could not be reached for comment.
Anyone with information can contact 999, 555, 911, 800-TIPS or any police station.