I was off to fulfill my last obligation for my training in a certain research institution and I personally felt it nnecessary. But then, as have always been the case, one can never say No to the boss (Yes boss, I’ll be there, no problem!).
And so I boarded a jeepney just like always. I now had a book by N.V.M. Gonzales (Grammar of Dreams) to keep me company for the travel. Also I felt it was unnecessary since for the past days I have managed to travel to and fro without getting too much bored. In fact it seemed that I am no longer used to reading while traveling because it gave me quite a headache.
But since I eventually got hooked up with the story of Layas (read the book! You won’t regret it!) I decided to finish it. We just passed UP Open University and I could say that we were around the place where there were a number of roadside vendor of buko juice, kropek, etc. when a big man in polo got it. He had an equally big bag pack and was drinking his buko juice.
As to the scene inside the jeep: I was on the left side and was second to the last and there a big space to my left. But this big man shoved me to the left and so I ended up being third to the last and he second. Just then a second man, a young man, got in and sat just opposite me. Then another man just got in again and sat beside the young man. And another one got in again who idled at the jeep’s tail for some time but eventually sat beside the big man. And so I ended up being fourth to the last.
Up to that time I was concentrating on my book but this young man opposite me started looking for something below my seat! I was quite annoyed because he kept pushing my legs to one side while he was looking underneath. What’s more annoying about that thing is that I didn’t remember anything falling under me. If there was, I’d surely notice it. But hey, this young man just seemed so determined to find what he was looking, if there really was any. Just then, the most surprising thing happened. I felt my wallet moved! And I looked to find a hand slowly pulling away from my wallet (the big man’s) and so my wallet was left half pulled out from my right pocket.
Have you ever felt the sensation when you get to solve a difficult mathematical problem? As if every thing in the world comes to you in full bright light? I in fact felt that right at that moment! Man, my wallet was being stolen by the Laglag Barya Gang! Having realized that, I immediately put my wallet in my pouch bag and this young man stopped pretending (ggrrrr). I then felt a punch in my face – the kind of punch that is not really intended but definitely shook my face. I can never forget that! And no thanks to that big man! “Kitang hinahanap ‘yung pamasahe eh!” commented the big man, obviously referring to my hesitation to the pushing of my legs. And then the big man and his now obvious accomplice to the right switched positions. Heck, they will try another attack. Whatever it was, direct assault or the same trick or whatever, I had no plans of seeing it. And so I abruptly shouted, “Para!” and just got off the jeep. I was a bit shaky but was quite proud of myself for getting away from those crooks clean. I just had to suffer the walk to the corner leading to our university which was about a kilometer, perhaps more. I just had to do it as I was not really in the mood to board again another jeepney! Whew. It was a small-time triumph for me and a big lesson punch for me to be more careful. I really haven’t experience anything of that sort in my four years of stay in the university and I realized it was not a guarantee that it will not happen to me in the future. Whew talaga!
I boarded a jeep home feeling a bit uncomfortable but certainly more alert than ever! What a country! I cannot disown my place of origin because it’s not actually different from other countries. They also have such things and sometimes even worse.
Maybe the good thing about the semi-harrowing experience is to put solidly in our minds that trust indeed is a valuable thing to give away easily to people, even to fellow Filipinos. Although I have become keener now on issues of poverty, I cannot really say that poverty is their driving force. Some people are just flat crooks! And worse, of criminal minds. And in this world that’s becoming more and more crowded and complicated, one should really expect bumping into such people. I was wrong in discarding their presence in the past. But not now. We just hope that the law will soon catch up to them and sip the punishment deserving of them.