It was around four in the morning in Philadelphia, USA. Filipino lawyer John Albert “Jal” Laylo and his mother Leah were riding an Uber on the way to the airport. The two were to catch a flight to Chicago to visit the grave of his dad Albert's father. On Facebook, Leah writes that she and her son had been enjoying a “well-deserved vacation” since June 3rd.
But before their vehicle can reach the airport, out of nowhere, gunshots were fired—six of them—and one bullet hit the 35-year old lawyer Jal straight in the head. Meanwhile, his mother Leah sustained three shrapnel wounds on the leg and shoulder.
After a few minutes, the University of Pennsylvania police arrived in the scene. Atty. Jal was rushed to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center while Leah was brought to the police station for investigation. Jal underwent surgery between 8AM to 9AM but at 10:33 the following morning he was pronounced brain dead. Ten thirty-three AM was also declared his time of death.
As of this writing, there is no information yet on the suspect, according to Jal’s youngest sister, Althea Laylo. “Hindi namin alam ang motives,” she says in between sobs. “There were theories na hate crime siya, but walang confirmation kung yun nga talaga ang nangyari.”
Ten minutes before
Speaking to ANCX Monday morning, Althea still could not wrap her head around what happened to her brother. Ten minutes before the incident, she and her Kuya were messaging each other. “I was teasing him on Instagram stories,” Althea says. “He stayed up all night to party with my cousin sa house.”
She knew Jal and their mother were having a great time in the US, where both got to meet a cousin’s new baby. A few days ago, mother and son were in New York to watch the Broadway musical “Moulin Rouge.”
The US trip was originally set for August or July but for some reason Jal suggested to move the trip earlier. Leah welcomed the idea as she was excited to see her mother, Jal and Althea’s lola, who has been away from her for over two decades.
Mrs. Laylo posted her most recent photographs traveling with her son in the US on her Facebook account. There was the one where they posed in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. There was a photo of them on the famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York. There was one where they were standing against an I Love Philly sign. “Before he left, he made sure we had fun!” Leah writes in her caption. “But never did I imagine or dream that the end of our vacation will be like this! We travelled together and we are supposed to go home together! I will bring him home soon in a box!”
A few hours before, she posted a photo of her hand holding his son’s hand on what looked like a hospital bed. She was telling her Facebook friends “my son is still ALIVE & hanging on!!! What ever news you heard or read it’s all false!!!! Just wait for my post! Ako ang tunay na nakaka alam ng lahat!” And then she requested for prayers.
Who is Atty. Jal Laylo?
According to his LinkedIn profile, Jal Laylo finished Political Science from the University of the Philippines. He took up Law at the De La Salle University and passed the bar in 2014. He later took up his Masters in International Business Law at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and graduated in 2019.
“He was a scholar almost all his life—scholar sa law school, scholar sa Masters,” Althea offers. “While he was studying in UP, he was working part-time to save money for law school.”
Atty. Jal was working as legal manager at Desarrollos Terrestres, a multinational telecommunications infrastructure company in the Philippines. He was also teaching business law subjects in local universities.
Althea says her brother has already applied for a post at the Department of Migrant Workers because he wanted to serve his country. “Even when he was working as a corporate lawyer, he goes out of his way to help others,” shares Althea. “He would take pro bono cases.”
Mrs. Laylo describes her son Jal as a “good, smart, generous, loving, caring son.” On her Facebook note, she says he still had a lot of dreams, hopes, and plans. “He’s gone now. I can’t explain the pain the heaviness I have in my heart. It took me hours to post this because still I can’t believe this happened!”
Althea, the youngest among the three Laylo siblings, calls her brother “my hero.” The two have a 14-year age gap but they were very close. “He was not the typical brother na sweet, super maalagain,” Althea says. “He gave tough love. He wouldn’t comfort you by saying nice words. He’d make sure that I hear what I needed to hear [even if it hurts]. If there were steps that needed to be taken, he always guided me. He showed his love through his understanding and support.”
When Althea told Atty. Jal she wanted to pursue directing, it was Jal who convinced their parents to allow her to study in the school she wanted. When he found out Althea was passionate about photography, he bought her a camera. “He pushed me to just follow my dreams,” says Althea.
Althea, 21, was also touched by her brother’s selflessness. “When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1, Kuya was the first person I confided in,” she says. “He was planning to work in Europe for a few years, pero hindi na nya itinuloy kasi kailangan ko daw po siya. He needed to be by my side.”
In a Facebook post, Althea wrote a poignant message for her brother: “I think it is every little girl’s dream to find their true love; to be with a prince charming and live happily ever after. But growing up, it was never like that for me. While others spend their whole life searching for true love, I met mine the moment I was born: my brother.”
[Photos courtesy of the Laylo family]