Mondays and mixed feelings

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After being a victim of robbery twice, I hoped to be enlightened about the meaning of our short existence and the futility of holding on to material possessions. But I had none of that kind of awakening.

“Spartan” was how a friend described my lifestyle, upon seeing the things I kept in the apartment. I explained to her that last year, I decided to sell things I didn’t use anymore – cameras, musical instruments, some pieces of clothing, bags and shoes. Even my air-conditioning unit and air cooler were already transported to Bataan, because I didn’t find them necessary.

What I keep with me are just the things I need: law books, a clarinet, novels and sports magazines, painting materials, framed works of art, my mask collection, clothes, bags, a few pairs of shoes. A blender for the kitchen. A fuchsia-colored corkscrew – a necessity, of course.

There are things I learned from the robbery incidents, aside from how it sucks that while you live the simple life your hard work can afford, others can just steal what you earned.

First lesson: I will now be careful with the words I use when comforting people I care about.

After my bag was snatched on a Monday morning, I immediately posted about it on Facebook as a security measure. More than twenty people told me, through comments and direct messages, that it was already the second time for me to get robbed. I don’t have ill feelings for those who said that, because most of them are well-meaning friends expressing concern. The words were just poorly chosen. Poorly chosen because:

  1. I know how to count.
  2. My memory works well enough.
  3. It shows a tendency to shift the blame to the victim.

As I mentioned, those were robbery incidents. The first one involved forced entry into the apartment I rented at Pasig City. The robbers got two pairs of my running shoes, an envelope containing photocopies of land titles, and two pouches of jewelry. One of the pouches contained the wristwatch my parents gave me when I turned 13 and the rose-beaded rosary my grandmother entrusted to me before she passed away. I rarely wear watches because I’m allergic to metal. I don’t even pray the rosary. But for inspiration, I kept them inside my batch jacket during the four Sundays of our bar exams.

The second robbery involved use of force against a person. I was walking along a sidewalk at Quezon City. It was about 6:20 in the morning. My car was in Fairview for maintenance and I was about to hail a cab to work. I was at the sidewalk and my bag was on the side away from the road. Two persons riding a motorcycle drove along the sidewalk, grabbed my bag. I held on to it for a few seconds, played a dangerous tug-of-war maybe as a reflex. But then I figured out they might kill me. No motorcycle-riding robber would go around without a knife or a gun. So I let go.

A few months ago, while waiting for a hearing to start, I heard a conversation between two accused in a case of robbery with homicide. They were talking about the price of mobile phones, within hearing distance from the family of the girl who got killed in the snatching incident.

I got a bruise on my right arm because of the snatching incident. But I’m alive.

And as long as I’m alive, I will not accept that it was my fault the apartment was robbed. Good friends know how I would walk a few blocks back to the house or office, just to make sure doors are properly locked. Also, I will never let myself be blamed for walking along a sidewalk to hail a cab and start my work week early.

There’s a culture that has effectively surrendered to the whims of criminals by shifting the blame to the victims. It’s a culture of laziness and I’m not going to be a part of it.

The second lesson I learned is this: I need a gun.

My father taught me how to shoot birds when I was a young girl who loved going with him to our little farm. Back in 2004 to 2005, I used to join soldiers at the firing range once in a while as a break from work. At that time “work” included the task of making sure our military pilots and soldiers get enough firepower for their operations. A fun task for a 20-year-old, yes.

My experience and skill with guns haven’t progressed these past years, though. For my 30th birthday last year, I chose between a gun and a gadget as a gift for myself. I was on saving mode and just got myself an iPad mini.

That iPad mini was in the brown leather bag that was snatched, along with my phone, chargers and earbuds neatly arranged in an organizer, and a new copy of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Also inside the bag was my wallet which had 4,000-peso cash, my bank cards, loyalty cards, important IDs, a very useful Victorinox Swiss Card, and thoughtful notes I re-read when stuck in traffic. In sum, it was a lucky day for the robbers.

There were news about proposals by local councils regarding the problem of motorcycle-riding criminals. Until now, no concrete action has been taken. (A former classmate eloquently argued about the validity of making laws focused on these types of criminals. You may read the discussion here.)

After the snatching incident, I had to ask myself: how do you communicate with these criminals who use violence as their language?

I couldn’t tell the robbers to give me back the brown leather bag because it was a parting gift from former officemates. It would be silly to appeal to them for the return of my good ol’ Blackberry. They wouldn’t care if I said it was a pre-bar reward to self after surviving sleep-deprived years as a working law student. Or that they should hand it back because I can’t manage life with two or more phones, so that was the only one I had.

So it’s time to keep a gun within reach, maybe in the blazer when I’m walking and in the car when I’m driving. Some would consider it an instrument of self-defense. I’d like to call it “Tool for Helping Society Save Precious Space by Shooting Motorcycle-Riding Vermin When I Get the Chance.”

It would be pointless to negotiate, to speak, to beg. These criminals don’t care about our lives. They don’t value the efforts we exert to earn what we have. They know nothing about hard work. And I wish I couldn’t say the same about government officials who fail to do anything to solve this problem.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Mondays and mixed feelings

  1. aphazia

    A few years ago, my friends and I attended a wake. It was in Poblacion, I think, and while we were talking outside, (the chairs were outside) two men in helmets in a motorbike passed between us. We came to the wake after work, all ten of us, all women. Around midnight, we walked to the well-lit main road to wait for a taxi. I was wearing my drawstring runner’s bag in front of my body, two straps against my shoulders. Some streetkids asked us if we wanted to ride a taxi and as my practice, I wanted to tip them so I mistakenly backed away a bit from the group and lowered one bag strap so I could open my bag and get my coin purse. Before I could react to what was happening, the same motorbike passed by my side and the wall, and I clearly saw the passenger grab the strap of my bag, the one I was still wearing and drive away with it. I know about this modus but it’s true when they say things happened quickly. I was so surprised they would do that that I wasn’t able to let go of my bag in shock, and my friends didn’t even notice that I was getting dragged like a ragdoll until the motorbike hoodlums revved up and they heard it and screamed. They let go of my bag but by then my arm, stomach and knees were already skinned and bleeding, and filled with gravel from the cement floor. I couldn’t work, or even bathe myself or eat without assistance for months. My fingers were skinned and the scars are still here and swollen. The ironic thing was that I didn’t even have gadgets or money in that bag. My point is, I feel your pain and I hate that I have to work hard and these lazy hoodlums would rather hurt people and steal than work, and I hate that they get away with it. I hate motorcycles more now with a passion, especially when they disobey traffic rules. I wish motorcycles were banned or had more restrictions, or that the government actually did something. I learned Krav Maga recently but I know this might not be practical when faced with this situation. Sigh 😦

    • ADA

      Sorry about what happened to you. That’s the first time I read about a personal account of how this crime is also done in Makati City. Sometimes when I’m driving I do get the urge to sideswipe motorcycles, but of course that’s not the right way to get even. When he was a councilor, a friend of mine authored an ordinance banning the use of bonnets and balaclava while riding a motorcycle. But that was in the province and in that context, it worked to minimize similar incidents. Here in Manila, more restrictions should be imposed. I would be happy if motorcycles will not be allowed to pass through certain roads, larger and more readable plates will be required etc. I do drive motorcycles in my hometown, but only because they are useful in rough, muddy and narrow roads leading to farms. And I still dream of speeding on a Ducati along the tree-lined roads of Subic and Bataan. Hehe. But here in the city where traffic is congested and the crime rate is high, motorcycle use should be subject to special restrictions.

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