December 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Soliciting money by going door-to-door has been a practice in Metro Manila communities especially for basketball teams trying to raise funds for their uniforms in an upcoming league. Nowadays, however, the method of showing pieces of paper with the text of one’s “story” seemed to be enough to get the message across.
Around Quezon City, I have encountered street children getting into public utility jeepneys as soon as the traffic light goes red or when it stops in the middle of heavy traffic. They then put pieces of white envelope on the lap of passengers, waiting for money to be slipped into it (essentially “begging”). Some older ones approach you during a meal in a restaurant or while hanging out in a mall and hand you a piece of paper while they carry goods that they sell like Yema, Polvoron, or some handicrafts. Just earlier this evening, though, I encountered something different.
Since it was a generally cool evening, my friend and I chose to dine al fresco in one of the restaurants along Maginhawa St. in U.P. Village. We were the only ones staying outside and so children frequented our table with their Christmas Carols. At one time, I did hand a twenty-peso bill to these three young boys just so they would stop. They did the usual “Thank you” carol. On all other occasions, we would say, “Sorry, next time.” Or just do the SHOO!-Go-away! hand gesture without looking at them.
Now this guy, around his mid-twenties, comes to us in white rubber shoes, cargo shorts and a jacket colored black around the arms and shoulder, white from below the breast down to the waist and outlined with yellow [I didn’t get to read the yellow text at the back of the jacket and don’t recognize its association]. He showed up with pieces of paper at my left whereas the kids normally approached us from the right which is along the road. I immediately said no with the similar hand gesture. I looked at the front page he showed. It said something about basketball which seemed to fit his profile but I didn’t bother to read any further. He kept on lightly waving the papers just a few inches above the table as we continued to say no. He didn’t utter any word. As I have the habit of securing my stuff when strangers invade my personal space, I decided to move my things at the corner of the table at my left side. That included my wallet and mobile phone both of which are mounted on my tablet. To my surprise, when I tried to blindly grab my phone from under the sheets of paper, it was no longer there and I caught it in the hand of the stranger! All I could do while getting my phone back was say, “Gago ka ah!” He smiled at me, walked away, hopped into a motorcycle standing by five meters away and left with a helmeted rider.
It was a good thing that I was alert but DAMN I swear I could have given him a blow to the stomach with my elbow. Well, my initial feeling was shock and couldn’t really bother to think of any way to stop him. I thought soon after the incident that I could have given him a beating since he was thin and just a few inches taller than me and I’m pretty sure I could handle him. We could have sent him to Camp Karingal for a lesson. It was too bad that he got away and he may do the same thing with other innocent people.
At this point, though, I cannot do anything but write and be mindful. Most establishments would warn “Do not keep your things unattended.” However, this may not be enough especially if too many people move around your area. So I’d like to leave a few reminders:
1. As much as possible, put your belongings (gadgets and all), in front of you. If you’re not using them, store them in your bag or place them on a chair that you will hide under the table. Bag hooks are perfect for these times, ladies.
2. Keep your stuff away from the traffic. That prevents it from being intentionally taken (wherein it will disappear in a matter of seconds) or accidentally nudged off the table by passers-by.
3. When approached by strangers, move your valuables close to you. Although it may seem a bit discriminating, even a nice-looking and neatly dressed person may be up to no good.
Anyway, I’m glad my things are complete and I am intact. It wasn’t that bad but it is a reminder that some people can do us harm. Take care of your stuff but more importantly, take care of yourself. Christmas is coming soon and some people will find ways to get resources for the season.