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When marriage ends in tragedy

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CEBU, Philippines — Like a scene from the movies, Mailyn “Mai-mai” Sinambong, a timid girl from a small fishing village in northern Cebu, awkwardly placed her arms on her Swedish groom’s shoulders as they made their first dance as husband and wife in front of ecstatic neighbors on June 6, 2009.


More than nine years after, a grim tragedy ended the fairy tale.

Then working as a househelp in the city, Sinambong was 18 years old when she first met Steve Abou-Bakre Aalam – by chance.

A naïve girl from Barangay Kawit, Medellin town, about 125 kilometers north of the city, she found herself lost inside the mall one day, leading her to ask help from Steve, who was 22 years older than her at that time.

Steve had just taken a break from his filming career in Sweden and worked as a producer in a big film company situated in Lapu-Lapu City.

“It was a love at first sight,” said Maria Fe Buhayan, 33, when asked to describe the meeting. Buhayan, Mailyn’s bestfriend, served as the maid of honor in the wedding.

Mailyn and Steve became lovers, and she soon bore their first son a year after their meeting.

According to Buhayan, the two sometimes argued over things but managed to just settle them.

“They quarreled from time to time, but they were more of word fight. Sometimes, the door gets slammed but I did not see them reach a point that they were hurting each other. Yes, they fought, but after a while, they were sweet to each other,” Buhayan said in Cebuano.

“One time I saw bruises on her arms but I dismissed it. I thought it was normal for a woman who was having her period,” she added. Mailyn, she thought, was suffering from anemia that may have caused the bruises.

Episodes of Violence

Two months after the wedding, the family moved to Sweden.

Mailyn’s mother, Maria Conde Sinambong, 48, said the man was a caring and loving husband in the beginning. But the fights became more frequent.

The mother revealed that in 2011, Mailyn reported her husband to the Swedish police authorities for alleged domestic violence not just against her but also their first son (they had two children). Then again, both were able to settle their issues and got back together.

“I asked her: ‘Are you okay there? Are you being loved?’ She replied: ‘Nothing, ma.’ She wouldn’t tell me,” Sinambong recalled of her conversation with her daughter.

Angelo Monato, 24, Mailyn’s younger and closest brother, said his sister never mentioned anything bad about Steve and their marriage.

He had always pictured out her sister being happily married to Steve.

But their mother suspected one day that the couple was still not in good terms, especially when she found out that Steve left Mailyn confined in the hospital alone just last month. Mailyn had lupus.

To cheer Mailyn up, the mother made sure to communicate with her daughter via video chat online. The last one was on September 23, Sunday, the day when Mailyn was already discharged from the hospital.

“She grew morbid. She told me that no matter what happens, she loves me. ‘I love you so much, Ma.’ But I would cut her short. I told her not to say bad things like that. But she said she could not bear the pain anymore,” said the mother.

While in the middle of the conversation, Mailyn cut off the conversation and promised to do a video chat with her.

Mailyn never called again.

“She never called back. I was waiting. I had been calling her, but there was no response,” the mother said, wiping her tears.

On the same day, Angelo received a message from a certain Leonor, a Filipina neighbor of the Aalam family in Stockholm, Sweden, informing them that Mailyn had been killed by her husband on Sunday night.


The Philippine Embassy also confirmed to them the tragic news.

Details of her murder remained unclear, but it was believed she died of choking. The Department of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, said the husband admitted to the killing.

Buhayan said that based on some news reports in Sweden, Steve must have got angry as Mailyn wanted to divorce with him and go back to the Philippines.

Mailyn, although unemployed in Sweden, received allowance from the Swedish government (for being unemployed) and was sending home some of the money for his parents and six siblings.

Mailyn was the eldest in the family and supported the studies of her younger brother, Angelo.

Despite the husband’s reported admission, the family is still crying for justice.

Aside from the repatriation of Mailyn’s remains, the bereaved family also wants full custody of the two children of Mailyn, ages nine and four, who are now temporarily in the hands of the Swedish government.

Migrante Central Visayas coordinator Connie Regalado said they will ask the Swedish embassy how to go about certain processes like getting the children from the custody of the Swedish government so they can return to the Philippines.

“Pwede kaming mag-approach sa Sweden consulate para matanong sa kanila kung ano ba ang mga policies nila – halimbawa, Swedish nationals ang mga bata. Paano ba, or is there a possibility na madalaw man lang ng lola o ng mga tito yung mga bata, kahit ganun lang,” Connie Regalado, regional coordinator of Migrante Central Visayas, said.

Regalado admitted that it can be difficult since the two children are now part of the ongoing investigation since both allegedly saw the incident.

She also said repatriation of the Mailyn's body would normally take one month based on previous experiences with similar cases.

On Monday, Consul General Ma. Elena Algabre said she will be assisting the Norway-based maternal aunt of Mailyn in making arrangements for the repatriation of her remains and in gathering more information about her death from police authorities.

Algabre will also talk to the lawyer appointed by the Swedish government to handle the murder case against Mailyn’s actor-husband, who remains in custody. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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