Thievery in the Philippines – Guest writer – Allen Moretsky

image I just completed hanging the wet clothes. Man, this rainy season doesn’t leave much time for the clothes to dry. I don’t mind the rain all that much, it seems to rain at convenient times. Mostly during the night, but still there are enough showers off and on and it is so moist and wet all the time that it takes days and days for the clothes to dry. Then there is the brining them in and out of the house. No one leaves their clothes hanging at night, too many petty thieves. I now have a fond appreciation of the fences and other bulwarks that are around houses. The thievery is more a nuisance then anything else. These stupid people don’t have the balls to break into a house and most houses have megare locks indeed, but they take what is not nailed down outside. A pair of sandals or a knife. Perhaps it is the children. Well enough of that, just a minor aggravation.

That’s pretty much the way it is in the provinces. In the city things are a bit different. I have been pick pocketed twice in Cebu. I have not lost much because I never carry too much in the city. First of all I wear a waterproof money belt under my clothes. I keep my passport, my credit card, and cash of my home country denomination and large peso bills in that. I never expose my Debit card to my wallet. If I go to the ATM machine I drop my pants and pull out my money belt. I’m careful, but I have never lost my debit card nor my passport. Sometimes I carry and ATM card, but never a Debit card in my wallet. I did lose my ATM card once when I was pick pocketed in a Jeepney, but no problem because without the password it was useless. I never even reported it gone until I returned to my country.

I think the Jeepneys in the city are the worst places. You are squeezed next to your neighbor and the most unlikely looking person next to you might be a pickpocket. I must not be very aware. One friend who lives in the city and has never been pick pocketed told me that he always is on guard in the jeepney and he watches his fellow passengers and can often spot a pickpocket and will loudly call out for people to be aware when he spots one.

Other bad places in the city are the public markets, Colon Market in Cebu has an awful reputation, but I have never had a problem there.

Many of the guys I know have been mugged in the city. The story goes that they are accosted by a group of men, five to ten men. There really is nothing you can do with these numbers. I firmly believe that I have never had these problems because I don’t go to the disco’s in the city nor the bars. Most of the men who lose things are drinkers and when imbibing they are often seen and acted upon as targets.

The Philippines is one country, right? You would think the people would act accordingly, but that is not the case. When you talk to people from Luzon they are untrusting towards the Cebuanos and say disparaging things about them. The same when you go to Cebu. And everyone things Mindanao is full of terrorists and bad people. Where ever you go people will tell you about NPA “over there” at that place. That it is dangerous there. Even when talking about the small islands, people voice suspicions and distrust. Basically the way it goes is that the Filipino is very neighborhood centric. His place is always considered safe and peaceful, but over there is doubtful. My personal experience is much different. I find all the remote places extremely friendly and relatively safe. I build kayaks here and often take one out to remote islands. I will just pull up to the most remote place and be offered up wonderful hospitality. I have slept at remote places and eaten at different places where I knew no one.

Another rumor that Filipinos seem to bolster is that of poisoning. I don’t know where this started, but I have often been warned not to eat at that village or on that island.

I just returned from a visit to Surigao del Sur from Surigao del Norte. Prior to my leaving a number of different sources told me of rebel activity. They told me specifically that the rebels often stop the bus, make everyone strip and take every item from the passengers. This was frightening news and I was mentally preparing myself for days before. Indeed when we went through one section of the territory that was considered the “critical area” a military man, fully armed, got on the bus and rode with us for a while. Later when I was in Cantilan I asked my friend, Pete the Pirate about these rumors. He told me that perhaps there had been some issue like that quite a while ago, but he had not heard of any such thing since he had been

living there. I think what happens is that the rumor mongers in the Philippines spread these stories and embellish them. So listen, be prepared, but don’t change your plans based on them.

Hotels are questionable places. Keep in mind that you are probably carrying what amounts to sometimes a life time of earning capacity for a Filipino. Your camera, your clothing, your bathroom accessories are all desirable commodities. So be careful with everything. Even your shoes. I recently left a pair of sandals outside my house. Islander Sandals that I found on a boat. Sure enough. Gone! Sandals are a common item. The petty thievery is rampant. My Filipino friend left his door open while he was sleeping. Someone came in and stole his rice and pots. This was a big loss for a poor Filipino. The point is there is nothing too small to be stolen. Most Filipino households, even in the provinces, are locked up every evening. The locks are flimsy and the gates are often only of bamboo, but people seem to respect these boundaries. Nothing is left outside. Not shoes, not clothing. Be Careful!