Last August 31, 2013 (Sat), around 10AM-ish, I decided to visit my hearing aid specialist for some adjustments. So, I took a 04L multicab. The illustration below is what the passenger seating looked like. It’s not entirely correct (I have terrible memory), but it should give you an idea.
Upon getting in, I wanted to sit beside B (the seat was vacant), but he cautioned me to sit elsewhere. The look and the gesture on his face told me there was something wrong with the seat to his left. I couldn’t see anything strange, but I decided to sit at A. I stared at B (he was wearing a sunglass) and looked closely to the empty seat beside him while squinting my eyes. I saw spit on the backrest. That must be why he wanted to move, but a lady sat on it a little later, and he cautioned her about the spit.
As the jeep neared towards the overpass in Salinas Drive (going to IT Park), D, wearing a white shirt and a gold watch on his left hand, told me, “Isulod na sa bag imong cellphone. Maraming magnanakaw doon.” ([In Bisaya] Put your cellphone in your bag. [In Tagalog] There are many snatchers there.)” I found his statement weird. First, he spoke in Bisaya, then suddenly changed to Tagalog. It was clear to me that he was not a local. Second, this was a road I crossed far too many times I can count. I walked this road. I ran this road. I biked this road. I ate in nearly all sidewalk carenderias (sort of like a caferia), and have even gotten a 30-peso haircut in a nearby barbershop. In short, I knew this road, day and night. So, why would he tell me about snatchers in this area?
Against my better judgement, I decided put my phone in my messenger bag. Nearing Cebu I.T. Park, D decides to pay a 20-peso bill to the jeepney conductor, who was near the entrance. B hands over the loose change to C, and manages to drop a coin or two. I decided to move my feet so he could see the coin. He picks it up, and gives it to D. However, he decides to go down again moving his hands forcely towards my feet, as if trying to retrieve more coins. It took too long. So at this point, I knew this was a laglag barya (drop coin) modus operandi. So I held my bag closely. Then, I looked towards E, who was trying to talk to me. “Gikuha imong cellphone” ([In Bisaya] Your cellphone was taken). So, I opened my bag, and found my cellphone gone.
Then, C goes out of the jeepney. I asked around who took my cellphone, and the people (including B and D) pointed to C (in red polo shirt and green bag). So I told the jeepney driver to stop. As I went out, I also told the jeepney conductor (an acquaintance) not to let the jeepney go. I approach C and asked him if he took my phone. He didn’t say anything. Confused, I looked back at the jeep, trying put the puzzle together. Then much later, somebody approaches me with my cellphone; it must have been one of the bystanders who was observing the commotion. And oh, the useless security guard from the under-construction Filinvest Cebu Cyberzone did not bother to mediate. I don’t blame him; it’s not his job, but the fact he didn’t call for police makes him useless. With my cellphone in hand, I let C go, while shouting loudly that he was a thief. Then, a habal-habal (a public motorcycle transportation) driver approaches me to get on his motor so we can look for a police nearby.
As C heads for The Walk, the driver finds two policemen near a restaurant. I hop into the police car, and we go around The Walk, but don’t see any trace of C. We drive towards the main road, but still don’t see C. So, I tell the police to just give it up, since the thief could have already taken a jeepney. They ask if I wanted to report it to the police station. I said no, since I couldn’t remember what they looked like (I have a terrible memory). So they just write down my name, so they could report it to the station. I get out of the car, still shocked by what just happened.
In the end, I’m glad I’m safe and was able to get back my phone, but I still defeated for not getting B, C, and D caught and jailed. I don’t know where the cellphone came from, but I assume witnesses inside the jeep confronted D, made him give it up, and had the bystander give it to me. As the laglag barya happened, I wished I had a Google Glass (or a hidden camera) right there and then. I could have taken a snapshot of those pickpockets, and shown them to the police. I could have used my cellphone, but that could have been inappropriate (and I was busy holding on to my bag).
To E, whoever you are, THANK YOU! from the bottom of my heart. Please drop me a note; I would like to treat you to lunch or dinner, or at least thank you in person. Or if you were one of the passengers on that jeep, please let me know whatever happened to B and D.
To the rest of you, may this serve as a warning that laglag barya is back. Be wary of people who wear sunglasses inside jeepneys and act strange. As for cellphones, I think it wouldn’t have mattered if you took it out or not, although it would reduce the chances of being pickpocketed if they hadn’t seen it. In your hand, you’d have more control with your phone, and you’d know right away if somebody tried to snatch it. I think the front pocket of a polo is the best place to keep it. But, a pickpocket will always pick something. If he couldn’t get your phone, he’d still reach for your pocket or your bag. So, your best protection will be vigilance.