Something terrible has been spreading and this time, we’re not talking about COVID-19. We’re talking about multiple tales of alleged catfishing of transwomen by Sam Morales.
The tea spilled on the evening of March 30, when @JzanVern posted this on Twitter: “I got catfished: a (really long) thread.”
Since then, more victims have spoken up, telling their stories as well. “Sam Morales” and “#SamMoralesIsOver” trended on Twitter.
If you don’t have a Twitter account (girl, why not?), if all the threads confuse you, or if you simply don’t have the time to read the thousands of tweets (who can blame you?), here’s the scandal in a disturbing nutshell:
The alleged perpetrator
This is Sam Morales, a young, up-and-coming photographer and videographer from Orani, Bataan, who has worked with a few fashion brands. She has now deactivated her social media accounts but many fake ones have sprouted like mushrooms.
The modus operandi
Sam Morales allegedly uses Facebook or Tinder to meet her victims, most of whom are transwomen. She pretends to be a guy, using photos of men she knows, and makes her victims believe they’re in a relationship. She gets them to fall in love, stringing them along, texting them every day, sending gifts, helping them with school projects, arranging meetings that rarely pan out (guys actually do show up in a couple of cases but it gets weird—you’ll see). Tales of deaths and accidents are often used as an excuse for not being able to meet. She would come up with elaborate lies and make use of her photo-editing skills to make the catfishing victims believe that their boyfriend is real.
Sam would usually introduce herself as the guy’s cousin, talking to the girls as well, becoming their friend, validating the relationship and consoling them when the romance hit inevitable road bumps. There are others complicit in her scheme—guy friends, a sister—but some claim that they were just manipulated into participating as well.
JZAN TERO (@JzanVern)
Jzan, an interior design student based in Cebu, was the first to tell her story. She met Bill Iver Reyes on Tinder. But he turned out to be Bilko Argana from Laguna, who assists Sam on shoots and models for her stometimes. Jzan and Bill/Bilko’s relationship lasted for eight months but she had no idea it was Sam Morales she was actually texting and emailing with and that another male friend of Sam was the one calling her on the phone. “He really made me feel like I was special… He saw the woman in me,” Jzan wrote on Twitter.
She admits that she was gullible. “Marupok ako,” she said about herself again and again.
Jzan flew from Cebu to Manila twice to see Bill/Bilko. The first time they met, he abandoned her at Jollibee at the airport when she landed, and the second time they met, he refused to kiss her but initiated sex instead before admitting that the whole thing had been a scheme cooked up by Sam. “Dinamay nila ako… Si Sam lahat,” he told her, claiming he just went along with it because he didn’t want to lose his “raket.”
According to Jzan, when confronted about the catfishing, Sam said, “‘Di ko talaga inexpect na aabot sa ganito. I’m f*cked up. Natakot ako na sirain mo ‘ko dahil I just started growing. I just landed these deals with big brands… ayoko masira yun.”
Jzan wrote, “I just wanted to love and be loved. I DON’T DESERVE THIS. NO ONE DOES.”
ISH COLDURA (@ishsexi6)
Ish was just 16 when she met Jae or Jake Jasper Reyes on Facebook. “Na-fall kasi batang bakla sabik sa love sabik sa jowa,” she wrote. Their relationship lasted for more than three years. At one point, Ish was so in love with Jae and to prove that to him, she got their anniversary tattooed. Jae was also supposed to get tattooed but he claimed he couldn’t because he had “blood cancer.”
Jae also turned out to be Sam. Jae/Sam would send Ish gifts, really long messages and would claim to be suicidal so Ish wouldn’t break up with him.
This was a photo Jae Reyes sent to Ish. He sent nudes as well.
Ish went to Sam’s house in Bataan (Sam’s sister even picked her up from Cubao) supposedly to meet Jae who, according to Sam, had ran away from home because his parents refused to accept the fact that “he was dating someone gay.” When Ish got there, Jae wasn’t there. She waited and waited and eventually, Sam and her sister booked her a room in a seedy motel nearby.
The next night, Jae finally arrived—the Jae Ish had been seeing in pictures. But he was acting weird, she said. He wasn’t sweet, it was like he didn’t know her. He stayed for less than thirty minutes and then left.
Ish was so mad that she started crying and who was there to comfort her? Sam, of course.
Eventually, she discovered that Jae was actually Justin Villanueva and after posting about her experience on Twitter, Justin’s wife sent Ish messages, claiming that Justin was also just a victim in this whole mess.
This was Justin’s alleged conversation with Sam Morales after Ish posted her Twitter thread.
JOSH DELA ROSA (@illuminaticurls)
“Yes I’m the latest and the last victim of this evil, my ex-friend, Sam Morales,” wrote Josh who, like Sam, is from Bataan. “She was my friend so I can’t understand why she did this to me.”
They had known each other since 2015, she said, and they had worked on projects together.
In February 2020, Josh matched with a guy named B on Tinder. She wasn’t used to talking to guys, she said, it was her first time, but he was really nice so they kept talking. He refused to do video calls and to add her on social media, saying they should wait until after they met.
He would send her nudes and ask for naughty videos in return but she refused, sending only non-explicit pictures.
Josh knew Bil’s real social media accounts, she had recognized him from Sam’s photos. The last time she and Sam had chatted was in 2016 but one day, Sam reached out to her.
Josh had developed feelings for Bil but weeks after she met him, she received a warning from a friend who wants to stay anonymous.
“This destroyed me,” Josh said. “I can’t believe she did this to me. Naging kaibigan niya ako.”
She continues to wonder why Sam was asking her for explicit videos. “For what purpose para ba pang blackmail?”
Josh had plans of confronting Sam but she hasn’t had the chance because of the lockdown. “We learned na nagawa niya din ‘to sa gay best friend niya for for years. Nag-lie siya sa health ng mom niya to get a job. She’s so sick and manipulative… Now we are seeking our options as to how we can get justice and be over with this nightmare asap.”
She posted on Twitter: “I WILL MAKE SURE I AM YOUR LAST VICTIM.”
SOOD ALI (@soodvianzonali)
Sood found out that she was being catfished when a friend messaged her after the other women’s threads went viral.
Sood posted, “In shock pa din ako… I knew her. We spoke about doing a job for my friend weeks before she did that to me. I messaged her mom na din. I just want my photos deleted. Parang wala naman kasing remorse un. High school pa lang pala sya ganun na.”
AN UNIDENTIFIED STRAIGHT GIRL
The woman and Bill/Bilko also made plans to meet so she left her office early but he didn’t show up. Twitter user @serusingma shared screenshots as proof.
SAM’S FORMER TEACHER
There are stories about how Sam supposedly catfished a gay teacher. According to @lahingpalaka, Sam was student council president and she asked the vice president to use his phone to seduce a gay guy who turned out to be their high school teacher.
According to former schoolmates, Sam and the student council VP were suspended from school for catfishing their teacher and she was asked to seek professional help.
Steph Santiago was just 15 when she was catfished by Sam posing as a guy named Jake Reyes. “Nagflashback lahat sakin naiyak ako til now,” she said in a message that Twitter user @lahingpalaka shared.
It’s not clear if the 15-year-old girl who sent the messages below is Steph as well or another victim.
But it’s the same story, with the girl falling for a guy named Jake who Sam claims is her cousin. Jake never appears, it’s Sam who’s always there to give a message or a ring.
Another anonymous victim
@deedeeholliday_ shared another story from a victim who wishes to remain anonymous. “I guess it is time I faced this demon of my life once and for all,” the person wrote.
Like Ish, she met Jake Reyes on Facebook. She had a teaching stint in Pampanga when they started talking but by the time they became a couple, she was already back in her hometown in Davao. This victim moved back to Pampanga and eventually Olongapo to be closer to Jake who was calling himself JJ. Sam, then only 15, was introduced as JJ’s cousin over Facebook. This victim would chat with JJ and Sam all the time.
JJ never showed up for any of their scheduled meet-ups, coming up with crazy excuses like he was being kidnapped by the gang of an ex’s boyfriend. She did get to meet Sam multiple times though, even going to their house in Bataan. She treated Sam like a little sister, she said, and even met Sam’s friends and schoolmates. Sam also created another persona, this one named Marco, supposedly another cousin who started flirting with this victim.
Not real people
Completely by chance, the victim ran into the guys whose photos Sam had been using, confirming her suspicions that both JJ and Marco were not real people.
In 2015, she said that Sam told her “Babawi siya sa ginawa ng Kuya niya sa akin.”
When she read about the other women’s experiences, she said, “Hindi pa rin pala niya tinigil kakaganon… This has to stop!”
There are other stories—of someone’s uncle, someone’s best friend, former classmates being catfished. @lahingpalaka also posted about how Sam manipulated her mother who is a cancer survivor by telling her that her own mother had cancer and that she was raising funds for her. So far, people have counted at least 13 victims.
When Jzan found out the truth, Sam called her to explain why she did what she did. Jzan wrote, quoting what she remembered Sam telling her on the phone. “It started when she was young. She was bullied by gay people all the time. That’s where her hatred towards the gays started. Later on, her homophobic uncle found out about the bullying and wanted to (get) revenge for her so nilandi niya yung bakla. He made the gay fall in love with him. He did it for a while until nagsawa siya, and asked Sam to continue it. In her words ‘It became an addiction.’ They would target gay/trans people, make them fall in love and then ghost them. That’s how it started with me. When they found out I was trans.”
Former trauma is absolutely no excuse to inflict pain on other people. And people claiming to know Sam Morales have said there’s no truth to her bullying sob story.
What is the motive?
People are wondering, “What was Sam Morales getting out of catfishing?”
This is unclear. It wasn’t money. In fact, an anonymous victim said that JJ/Sam was insistent that she never give him any gifts or cash “because he didn’t want to be tagged as nanghuhuthot by his friends.” And it was Sam who was actually spending on gifts. She even hired a graphic artist so she could pretend to help Jzan with the plates she had to submit to school.
Is it really revenge? Does she just enjoy hurting people? Does she get satisfaction from being the shoulder to cry on?
People think she’s mentally ill but we’re not about to turn into armchair psychiatrists. We will leave that to the professionals.
Is Bilko an accomplice or a victim?
Josh wrote on Twitter, “To Bil and to other guys that she might have used… have the balls to say no!”
There are a lot of theories on the Twittersphere.