INSIDE STORY: The tweet that led to finding Ica Policarpio

MANILA, Philippines – It was early evening of Saturday, December 23, when a group of college friends was hanging out at a coffee shop in a mall in San Pablo City, Laguna. Little did they know that their usual meeting would lead to the finding of 17-year-old Ica Policarpio.

Danica Bragado, 19, told Rappler how she and her two friends from Laguna College were seated in a coffee shop when she spotted Ica reading a book outside, just near the glass window.

Bragado said she already noticed that the girl looked like the missing person in the news. She tried to tell her friends about it, but at that time, she was the only one aware of it.

Bragado also doubted herself. After all, the girl was wearing a "drawstring bag," contrary to earlier reports that she left her bag, including laptop and mobile phone, at a café in Sucat.

"Ano po bale nasa loob po kami ng Starbucks (sa SM San Pablo). Napansin ko na parang kamukha niya 'yung babae na nasa news na nawawala. Sinabi ko po sa mga kaibigan ko pero 'di po nila alam. Pinagmamasdan ko po siya kasi according po sa news ay iniwan niya bag niya. Pero may bag po siya so hindi talaga ako sure kung siya talaga 'yun," Bragado told Rappler on Sunday, December 24.

(We were inside Starbucks. I noticed that the girl looked like the person in the news. I told my friends but they did not know about it. I was looking at her because according to the news, she left her bag but she had a bag so I was not sure if it was really her.)

As most teenagers these days do, the 3 friends decided to snap selfies of themselves. One of their photos captured a girl behind them, looking like Ica with the jacket and bonnet – her last known set of clothes.

"Tapos nag-selfie po kami. Noong una ayaw ko po talaga kasi malabo 'yung cam ng phone ko tapos ayun. Napa-ilag ako tapos nakuhanan siya," Bragado said. (We took a selfie. Initially, I did not want to because my camera's phone is blurry. I moved, that's why she was seen in the photo.)

Bragado said Ica left the coffee shop when a couple took her seat, then she went inside the mall.

It could just be coincidence, Bragado thought. But upon arriving home, one of her friends, Yra Reyes, saw the news and suspected it was indeed Ica they saw.

"Tapos n'ung nakauwi na po kami, si Yra po friend ko nakita 'yung post about nga du'n, at sabi niya parehas daw 'yung damit tapos minessage niya po. Tas sinuggest niya sa 'kin na tingnan ko, baka nahagip du'n sa phone ko si Ica, and then yun nga," she said.

(When we already left, my friend Yra saw the post about it and told me that they have the same clothes. She suggested that I look at my phone just in case there is a photo of Ica there and there it was.)

At past 11 pm, Bragado decided to post the information and photo on Twitter, after trying to contact Ica's mother on Facebook to no avail. Ica's sister Bea saw the tweet, with the mother contacting Yra for details.

"Kaya po tinweet ko gawa po ng ayaw mag-reply ng mommy sa Messenger; gusto po sana namin ipakita 'yung picture. Pero pagkatapos ng tweet tinawagan po si Yra, nagpakuwento," Bragado said.

(That's why i tweeted about it because the mom did not reply on Messenger; we wanted to show her the picture. After the tweet, they called up Yra and asked for details.)

Asked how they feel, Bragado said they are more than happy that their information led to finding Ica.

“Masaya po. Masarap po sa feeling,” (We are happy. It is a nice feeling.) Bragado said.

SIBLINGS. Ica (middle) with sister Bea and brother Miguel.

Photo from Bea Policarpio

As for the Policarpio family, there's no better Christmas gift. They already found it in San Pablo. – with reports from Rambo Talabong /

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email