June 24, 2002

Getting Mugged

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06/13/2002 :: Small World

How the hell?

I got mugged this afternoon, and this isn't the first time.

I got off the MRT station at Taft Ave., and was waiting for a bus to Baclaran when it happened. My instincts were screaming at me to get away, but I knew I couldn't. A man accosted me. "Friend, could you help me out? It's like this...," he began, telling a sordid tale of a relative getting mashed and a few disrespectful strangers. I would have ran, I tell you, but something told me that wasn't a good idea. "It's not that I'm accusing you. I need your help," he said, his voice with an edge to it. "Don't be like that idiot. I was only asking his help and he ran away, so my buddies beat him up."

I was dead scared. At that moment, I could have run away.

But I didn't. There was something in his voice that told me it really wasn't a good idea to test his threat. After all, it would be better to err on the safe side, I cautioned myself. So I went along.

And he duped me. He duped me, and I was a fool to get duped. But it's all over now, and I'm a little wiser.

"Pare, leave your cellphone..."

You should understand that this was Pasay. This isn't New York. These are the backstreets and alleys of Metro Manila. This is life at street level. Killed or be killed. Survival of the fittest.

I should have been smarter. I should have given some lame excuse to weasel my way out safely from such a trap. But I wasn't, and I didn't.

"Pare," he said, "the men who disrespected my niece had one of those small cellphones. Do you have a cellphone?— they might think it was you."

Yeah right, I told myself.

"So, let me see." I hesitated. "Pare, it's not like I'm going to take it!," his voice rose several decibels louder. I showed it to him, reluctantly.


Oh, but this wasn't just one man, mind you. He had people in cahoots with him.

Another man, supposedly a stranger, was with me. He was also approached, and he played along. He even handed me his cellphone when it was his "turn" to face the victims and get an identification.

He had another man who helped him, and he knew several people who knew him.

Of course, he might have been telling the truth.

Right. And my sister is 20-feet tall.


What really got me is fear. I was scared out of my wits. I didn't know what to do. My head whirled in pain as I tried to figure out a way out. I couldn't think. My mind was clouded by each paranoid thought that sparked in my head, each scenario grim and terrible.

My fear paralyzed me, and I didn't know what to do.

He left me. "Wait here," he said. "I'll fetch you when it's okay." It was a moment I needed. To hell with the phone and the watch, which he took afterwards from me. Same reasoning— suspects had a watch just like mine. It figured. Small minds think of small things.

But it was my fear that made me go along. I hate myself for it, but that's the story. Fear forced me to this position, and when he left, I waited a few minutes, trying to believe his farfetched story. Then, I made a decision.

I retraced my steps. I had left the other two with my phone, and they were gone. I knew it, I told myself.

I left, and I found myself on a bus home, without a phone or a watch. I wanted to punch a wall. Stupid, I berated myself. I could have handled it better.

Then again, life's full of these things, isn't it?

Maybe next time, I'll be on my toes.

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