Saturday, June 2, 2012

Everybody gets robbed at least at one point in their lives. At least here in the country this figure is generally true. Whether you just found out that your cellphone is missing from your bag or you were held at gunpoint in some dark alley, I think it's safe to say that everybody has a story to tell by the time they're 80. Apparently, I was not an exception. 

For everybody's information and security (so that if you travel by the same route you'll know the strategy of these vile lowlife criminals), here's a detailed description of what happened to me yesterday as I was commuting from work.

So I was on my way back home, about 10:30PM to 11PM, traversing the Marcos Highway stretch from somewhere near Anonas to Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall. It was raining and there were more than a handful of commuters waiting for a ride. My iPod Touch was in my right pocket and Maroon 5 was crooning about being at a Payphone (Mistake #1). It's a fatal flaw, I know. I cannot be in a moving vehicle without music in my ears or else I'll go insane from boredom.

That said, I managed to hail a jeepney close to bursting with passengers and squeezed myself in the only space available, somewhere between the middle of the vehicle and the exit. At my right was some guy I didn't even got a good look at although he was 20-something-years-old by my estimate and at his other side was an unsuspecting couple. Across me were a bunch or random men with generic features I didn't bother to observe because they didn't look at all suspicious nor did they seem to know each other. 

As we passed the LRT2 Santolan station, the robbers declared a hold-up. At least that's what I think they did because I was practically deaf at that time from the pop music blaring in my ears (Mistake #2). All I knew was that pandemonium broke loose inside the jeepney as about 3 men across me began yelling and yanking people's bags and the guy at my right started grabbing for my iPod in my right pocket. I didn't try to stop him. He did this uncontested for about 5 long seconds before he finally got the device out because a) he was obviously an amateur and b) his other hand was holding a knife at my face as I was leaning away from him.

I knew I should be terrified but all I could think about was how loud Katy Perry was wailing about rumbling thunder and crumbling castles in my left ear as one earphone fell off and I heard him frantically threatening me "Gusto mong masaksak?" and I remember thinking 1) Oh God, I'll be one of those Direct OR Stab Wound patients and wouldn't it be ironic if I get rushed in the very same hospital I work in, in the very same operating room I just scrubbed in earlier, 2) This  Katy Perry song definitely doesn't suit the situation and 3) Why is that knife not glinting from the (albeit, dim) jeepney lights?

Before I made up my mind that the knife being waved at my face was indeed fake and we were surrounded by a bunch of cowards who didn't even bother procuring real sharps, they started jumping off the (slowly) moving vehicle somewhere in the Ligaya area. I thought that was the end of it when the robber in front of me suddenly grabbed my bag which was still hooked on my shoulder. I managed to get a hold of the strap but not the actual bag itself (Mistake #3) and pulled as hard as I could as the robber did the same. Apparently, my bag decided it wanted to run away with the criminals and the strap that I was clutching heartbreakingly ripped off from its body. 

I watched helpless and kind of dumbfounded as the robbers sprinted away with everything that I had that night pursued only by a brave and terribly pissed off male passenger who was sitting beside me and managed to get out the window and run after his bag. The jeepney kept on moving the opposite direction without stopping and I remember feeling helpless, not knowing what to do, whether to: 

a) get off the vehicle and run after my bag, but then I knew I stood no chance of catching up and I'll look pretty stupid running in all white uniform in the pouring rain,

b) get off the vehicle and report it to the police, but then since the jeepney didn't stop nor even slowed down, we were then in a dead area between Ligaya and Robinson's Metro East and I didn't even know where to find an officer in that downpour, much less know what to report since, out of shock and my brain's inability to memorize faces, I didn't remember what the robbers looked like, and

c) stay inside, get home as fast as I can even though I have no money left and immediately call my banks' hotlines so that I could get my ATMs and credit card blocked as soon as possible.

Needless to say, I chose letter C. All in all, only my bag, the pissed off guy at my left who took pursuit and the couple-beside-the-exit's bags were stolen. All the passengers near the driver cowered together and formed this sort of Passenger Bond that prevented the robbers from attacking them. And since I was one of the chosen ones to have been surrounded by criminals both on the side and front, I was not as lucky.

There was a slight commotion after the robbing incident inside the jeepney where we, those who have been robbed insisted that the driver should have stopped the vehicle while those who escaped with all their things intact argued that if the driver stopped, the criminals might have come back, a reasoning which I thought was a very large pile of horse manure.

I arrived home with only my umbrella (which I was unknowingly holding the whole incident), my earphones (which managed to loyally stay stuck in my ear minus the iPod) and just the strap of my bag. It was a depressing sight, that strap. I would have gladly handed over my cellphone and other gadgets if I can keep the bag and all the non-resaleable but important stuff in there. 

So kids, what have we learned today? Right now, in my still catatonic state of mind, all I can think of are these things:
  • Keep cellphone inside pockets.
  • Sit close to the driver.
  • Do not use iPod when commuting at night. (Although I doubt not using the device would have made any difference since my whole bag was taken.)
  • Robbers operate after pay days and before important money-requiring events (i.e. first day of school).
  • Contact number and iPod backups are lifesavers. Don't forget to backup!
  • BPI customer support for lost / stolen cards B L O W S.
  • Changing of passwords is a must if cellphone/s and/or iPod/s linked to social networking sites and emails are stolen.
  • Wide Awake by Katy Perry is a crappy robbery background music.

UPDATE (06/02/12)

I've talked to somebody earlier when I was getting my Affidavit of Loss typed and notarized that there was a similar incident that happened not too long ago. Same strategy, four or five men declaring hold-up inside a jeepney on the Marcos Highway stretch, grabbing bags and taking off in the Ligaya area. I'm convinced they are the same persons and/or part of the same syndicate. None of the passengers in our jeepney went to the police because of the mentioned factors but hopefully, with this post, people will be more aware of these kinds of strategies and be more careful the next time they unsuspectingly board a public utility vehicle. I sure will.

UPDATE (06/06/12)

I remember now the PLATE NUMBER of the jeepney I rode at the night of the incident.

Red Jeepney with Plate Number DVL 183

Route: Cubao - Angono Hi-Way / Tikling
With Yellow Light at left side and Red Light at the right side of the exit doors.
With loose Pull The String To Stop cables on the ceiling.

Upon hindsight and talking with a co-passenger that night, I'm convinced that the driver and  conductor was a part of the whole robbery plan.

First, because he didn't stop the vehicle during or after the incident nor did anything to attract passing cars' attention. One of the reasons why we, victims, didn't have the chance to go to the police was that the driver didn't even stop when the criminals took off and before we even got the chance to gather our thoughts and decide on what to do, we were already in near Sta.Lucia and definitely farther from the robbers than ever.

Second, he was traversing the dead and dark area between LRT Santolan Station and Ligaya on the side of the street (where darkest and least likely to attract attention) in a consistently slow manner even as the criminals declared a holdup.

Third, the driver and the conductor didn't even seemed surprised by the incident nor at least shaken by having knife wielding robbers aboard their vehicle. It as like nothing happened and they continued their route like nothing at all happened.

So, how did I know / suddenly remembered the plate number of the jeep from 3 days ago? Because I boarded the same jeepney just yesterday, same time same place, and everything came back. The lights, the interior, the seats. I stared at the driver for about half of the whole trip and he seemed to recognize me, and I him. I was seated near the driver this time and he seemed fidgety the whole time staring left and right like he was uncomfortable as I was trying to stare into his soul. 

I know none of these information will hold in court that's why I'm posting it here in order to at least share awareness to commuters near the area. Be safe, everyone.

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