Although I desperately try to organize my thoughts about it and create an awesome and totally deep blog post about the harrowing experience, I just couldn’t get to finish what I was writing even after 6 weeks.
I just finished work on a stuffy April night in Manila at around 11:45 when I realized I forgot my house keys. I called our maid to leave the house door and gate open for me, and then hailed a cab to get me home faster. I didn’t want her to stay up any longer for me.
It’s a 10-minute drive to my house; I needed to go through two roads: a long stretch that connects my part of town and the business district, and the narrow street to get to some of the small boroughs of the city. But it wasn’t like that tonight.
Shortly after I got in to the cab, I began to lose balance and felt like I needed to empty the contents of my whole digestive system. I attempted to tell the driver to stop the car, but I couldn’t see or speak straight. There was a metallic odor filling the car up, and the driver’s window was half open. We stopped near the railroad; I thought it was my chance to get the hell out. I knew what was happening here. I reached for the door latch, but my fingers wouldn’t curl around the handle, and dropped dead on my lap. I knew I was supposed to be panicking, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything, and soon, I couldn’t feel anything. I helplessly fell onto the backseat.
I woke up lying down and sweating into my shirt. I was in a room covered in linoleum and smelled awfully like sewage. 4 men were suddenly around me, and I felt a weight on my right shin…one was stepping on it. They asked me where my money was and I thought, shit, I only have 100 pesos on me. I reached for my pocket, and it was already empty. I stood up, and saw that they already have all my things: bag, phone, iPod, and wallet. My pack of cigarettes lay empty on the floor; they were smoking what was left of it.
They held up my ATM card, and asked for the PIN. I tried to explain that there was no money in that account, because it was a payroll account I empty every payday. They started to get angry and bawled that I was a waste of time, saying that a rich kid with my looks would be loaded. They pointed a small army knife towards my chest and began poking into it. I recoiled in pain as the blade cut. I wanted to scream but one of the men pressed me against the wall and covered my mouth. They kept on tormenting me for 7,000 pesos and where it was. I kept on telling them that there was nothing in my payroll account, they poked into my chest again…that went on for what seemed like a lifetime. They let go my face and all they were asking was my ATM’s PIN. I only had 3 seconds of air so I gave the damn PIN; they told me then that they would know if what I gave them was a fake. I again explained that the account was empty.
I fell to the ground, and begged them to spare me and my things. I promised them that I could get them the money by Friday (payday) if they let me go home in one piece. I then saw that they began pocketing my things; I knew that this was it. I was quivering, sweating, and bleeding. My head was aching, and I felt like I needed to cry, but nothing came. I was so ready for them to end my life, since I knew there was nothing else they could get from me.
But no, one of them started to write a note. Pleased with himself, he handed over the piece of paper and a pen. It wrote:
7,000 pesos sa Friday, April 25 1:00 ng hapon.
They wanted me to come see them at 1:00pm on Friday to give them the money, in exchange for my things. It was a contract they wanted me to sign and, in their eyes I could see clearly, they wanted me to fulfill. I signed the piece of paper with my shaking right hand and thought this was so much better than being murdered.
They let me go with an escort, because some other thugs might get me and throw me into the river nearby if they knew I was walking around their territory empty-handed. I didn’t recognize where I was until I got to a train station, where I began to sob heavily. People were looking at me and looked away like it was something they normally see at 4:00am. Tears still wouldn’t come, but I wiped my face with the back of my hand, and looked at my reflection on a motel’s glass door: my hair in every direction, spots of crimson on my then white shirt, worn by a shivering 20-something boy who looked nothing like I always do. I shrugged it off and went to the sidewalk. I almost hailed a cab, but chose to ride a jeep instead. All I knew is that I never wanted to see that place again, never wanted to remember the feeling of desperation again, never wanted to see myself like that person in the glass door again. I thought living in a small borough of Manila meant living on the ass-end of town, I was dead wrong.
I reached my house with the gate locked. Figures, the maid won’t wait 4 hours. I sat down leaning on the gate, waiting for daybreak.