Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Part 5 of "Broken and in Pieces" in Angeles City

My friend’s journey back to two-legged wholeness continues to plod slowly and agonizingly along. It will be long and painful.

(To see how this mess started, here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4).

Four of us, all retired military, sat around his hospital bed and cursed the heavens and local powers that be, while discussing the newest clarifications of the “accident.” For the first time I got a chance to actually speak to my friend’s witness, and probably his savior, the drinking buddy who luckily came outside and saw what really happened.

Speaking of which, you are NOT going to believe the very latest development. Actually, it’s good news, although it’s the type of good news that is hard to stomach.

Here’s the deal. My hospitalized pal asked his lawyer to find out what the cops’ intentions are; plus, he wanted to know when they were going to return his drivers license and motorbike. He also wanted to know any "terms;" in other words, what the hell did they have on their crooked minds? So here’s the part you wouldn’t believe unless you live here, and living here for more than a year or two, to us, what we found out makes total sense!

My buddy can have his license and much-pilfered bike back, but ONLY after he signs a statement agreement. This fictional pact will state that yes, he did indeed maneuver his bike into the road without looking, and by doing so, cause a motorcyclist coming from his left to strike him, after which, it careened off into some vendors’ stands.

Of course, the fact that said motorcycle and rider never actually existed is the trumpeting circus elephant in the living room. Not to mention the outrageous fact that this made up police report never even acknowledges the ACTUAL culprit, which was the jeepney operating without lights and approaching from the wrong side of the street. In fact, the cops claim that this jeepney and its murderous driver and his two beefy menacing passengers do NOT exist, at least as part of the incident. Obviously, this is a case of “things that make you go, hmmm?”

Also obviously, it appears that the men involved in this homicidal scam—and it seems there were more than a few—they simply want the whole thing to go away, especially after things did not go as they originally planned. Being foreigners here with no one to look after us, we all agreed with our victimized friend that taking “the deal” is better than trying to exact justice and insist on the truth. In essence, that word is nonexistent here.

Our job as outsiders is to survive the occasional attack by sharing these sorts of lethal con games with as many of our fellow expats as possible. Even so, we know that they, the monsters out there in the dark, will manage to take down one or two of us every so often. Now I know what a whitetail feels like back home during hunting season—just got to keep quiet, keep your head down, and hope they shoot Bambi instead of you.

Another horrible realization is what was probably really in store for my nearly slain buddy, and it ain't pretty. It seems the fact that he had several foreigner witnesses at the scene of the impact so quickly is probably the real reason he is still alive.

Why do I say that? Well, speaking to the primary witness I learned that the driver and two of his henchmen on board his jeepney were exceptionally large and brawny fellows. This was a regular off duty checkpoint jeepney driven by a guy who most certainly was NOT a normal jeepney driver. Guys that size around here are employed as security men, or as “muscle” for endeavors leading to “no good.” According to the witness, as soon as the “knock down” happened these big muscular fellows jumped out and ran to the front of their vehicle looking for action.

Their plan is now plain to see. The idea was to either kill or to so injure their victim that he would be easy to scoop up and throw into the back of their jeepney, along with their victims motorbike as well. Then, they would have sped off into the night to a non-public place, where at their leisure, they would have finished off their prey and taken all his stuff. He would have either disappeared forever or his body would have been discovered in the next province over, minus most of his clothing and ID of course.

That scenario happens more often around here than people know about or want to acknowledge. When I used to volunteer in the VFW office, every so often the PNP would come by and pass around a photo of some very dead white guy seeking his identification. There is no CSI here, at least not for us, and none of the killers of those unfortunate dead men has ever been found, much less prosecuted.

The point is simple: Be careful. My buddy says he’s learned the following about barhopping in Angeles City:
1) NEVER stay out too late.
2) Use a fellow foreigner friend to be a “running buddy;” using a local might not always work since they are too easily cowed by corrupt powers-that-be, making them almost useless.
3) Do not wear nice clothing; instead, wear jeans, shorts, t-shirt or tank top.
4) Do not wear an expensive watch or ANY jewelry.
5) Buy a cheap cell phone for barhopping use; nothing showy or extravagant.
6) Drive a car if you plan to stay out till midnight (not a motorbike).
7) NEVER carry a wad of bills on you, and if you do, NEVER pull it out to pay a tab. Keep a small amount in one pocket to use for paying, and if you must pull out more than a thousand pesos at a time, do it in a restroom stall where no one can see it.

Chances are, lesson-learned number 7 is the reason my friend became “marked” for destruction. He thought he was being discrete while paying for his drinks, but you know how that goes. There are lots of eyes in the bar and you never know which watching set is looking to pass on what they see to partner ne’er-do-wells.

So, that is just a few more things to keep in mind while barhopping in “Sin City.” Keep your head up and stay ahead of the wolves looking to cull you out from the rest of the foreigner herd. It’s really no different than in any other disadvantaged country; but it’s easy to become complacent here because no one SEEMS dangerous, and clearly, that is NOT the case.


Amadeo said...

Good set of advices, Phil.

And I would add, especially for non-Filipinos who stand out in crowds because of size and color, to stay away from bars with GROs, because the locals who go there are typically the not so desirous elements of Filipino society. Essentially those looking for cheap thrills or those hanging out looking for easy targets for some quick bucks.

I know it is draconian, but preventing trouble is well worth the effort. Socialized drinking in private residences, or in restaurants, are much better options.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo, you're gonna have to give us some advice we can actually FOLLOW dude! Listen to yourself... "don't go to bars with girls?" Grin...

Draconian is right buddy! We're just going to have to accept the dangers and do our best to ameliorate them by being aware of them. You wouldn't believe the number of tourist idiots who come here and get absolutely soused, and do so all by themselves! I mean hell, there are times I've felt like rolling them just to teach their silly asses a lesson... Well, okay, not really, but still....!

Duane k said...

Phil, contact me via email duane dot keys at gmail dot com. My father will be in PI next month. I told him about this story and he wanted to meet you. He says he knows people that might be good to have in your circle of friends.