MANILA- Over a week ago, a pickpocket stole my wallet from my bag and used my credit cards. The aftermath has not been fun: calling credit card companies and banks, filing security reports, narrating a police report in Tagalog, going to three LTO’s to get a replacement driver’s license (my luck LTO was offline that day), and the multiple conversations with frustrating credit card phone agents.
Details…. You don’t forget details: The woman in the escalator, who staged a collision with you, while you didn’t know her comrades took the wallet from your bag, the last purchase you made, and that that call to credit card company that took forever to block your card. Thankfully, I was not hurt. I later learned from the mall’s CCTV that there were five people who did this crime to me. When I received that news, the hair all over my body stood.
I shared this pickpocket incident on Facebook to warn my friends. The result was an outpouring of similar crimes happening all over Manila from Robinson’s Galleria, to Shangri-La Mall to Trinoma Mall, to Fishermall, to Mall of Asia. A friend’s aunt experienced a pickpocket in a posh church in Makati opening her bag, while she lit a candle in prayer. Another friend experienced her wallet stolen shortly after she withdrew money from an ATM in the hospital. There were others sharing cases of their helpers using their credit card without their knowledge. Another friend told me, “It’s a good thing they didn’t do what they did to me. They spat on me.” Her long locks had something like mucus or spit, so her fellow commuters on the jeepney pointed to her hair. Grossed out, she got tissues from her bag and wiped it. Three men left the jeepney, and her wallet was gone. Even the bathroom is not safe. A friend’s sister-in-law went to the mall’s toilet. She hung her bag in the hook provided inside the stall and peed. When she finished peeing, her bag was gone. Someone from the other stall somehow managed to fish her bag from above! Insane!
The past few days taught me so vividly that crime is rampant in Manila. They have become extra creative in finding ways to distract you. It is time to be fully alert of your belongings and surroundings when walking in public places. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by people giving out flyers. Be wary of people dropping their towel or coins, or tying their shoelaces, or refusing to move out the escalator or elevator. You have to be extra careful in tight spaces like escalators, elevators, entrances and exits. Always close your bags and keep the zipper visible to you at all times. Don’t bring your credit cards with you, if possible.
I am aware though that this crime is not unique to Manila. An Australian friend told me this morning, his Visa card was stolen a few years ago with $10,000 spent on flights, another time purchases were made in China. The same friend also suffered from pickpocket stealing his wallet in Rome last year.
When something like this happens to you, you don’t forget easily. It is fresh in your mind. You tell the story over and over again. But at one point, you no longer want to talk about it. You want to move on and change your story.
I have done what I have to do to fix the situation. But I don’t want to keep living the story of the victim to this crime. Admittedly, I am still afraid of that mall, and stay away from malls. My guard is up. I now walk mindfully, clutching my bag close to me. Yet, it is time to move on. Life goes on. It is time to change my story. Don’t remain a victim. Change your story. Do something that makes you so happy. Be the hero in your own tale.
So yes, shit happens. But that is not who you are. You are greater than that!
Maida’s Touch: Feeding Restless Appetites