It was almost midnight, such a bad time for lone taxi rides, I told myself. I just arrived at our office in Makati City on November 15 dead tired after coming from an assignment in Leyte to cover the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. After many hours on the road, with no bed in sight for two nights, all I could think of that night was to go home, take a hot bath, and get uninterrupted sleep and rest.
I developed this dread for taking taxis alone at night or in the wee hours since I became a mother. In the past, I had no care and would take jeepney or taxi rides without any hesitation at all.
But I admit escalating news on spray taxis, hold-ups, and other taxi modus—aside from being introduced to safety and security issues—contributed much to my anxiety. But I had no choice that night, so I boarded one of those yellow rides.
As soon as I got inside, I immediately looked at all doors if they were locked. I remember having a strange second thought of not locking the door at my right. Should I unlock it for easy escape just in case? I also remember looking at it intently and deciding for seconds. But I locked it, anyway.
Aside from being exhausted from the trip, I was kind of distracted as well during the taxi ride since there was a slight discomfort at home. So I held out my mobile phone to check on my mother who was looking after my son. I was in constant text and call with her and our landlord to monitor if everything was already doing good in our building.
Suddenly, the taxi stopped somewhere along Osmena Highway because of a traffic build-up. Minutes later, I sensed something odd. I was no longer picking up a call when I saw a man standing—but slightly hiding—at the door on my right. He was holding a tool I couldn’t figure out what and was trying to unlock my door.
That was my first taxi encounter of such kind, after living in the city since college years. So yes, I was terrified.
I immediately alerted the driver of what was happening. After checking that no one, like an accomplice perhaps, was on the other end, I moved over to the left side of the backseat, so I wasn’t within easy reach and could escape from that side in case.
The driver cussed at the man and brought out a tool to show the man he was also “armed” and ready to fight back. It was only then that the man slowly turned his back on us and walked away as if nothing happened.
I looked behind our taxi to check if there were cars who could have witnessed the scenario, and true enough there were a number of them lined up in the jam and others still approaching. I remember they were honking. I wonder if those cars were honking to warn us of the danger in sight or out of sheer frustration from the traffic.
There is a lesson learned from every experience, so they say. Four things came to my mind from this encounter.
My profile as a victim: I am a woman, hence an easy target. Some security professionals and police authorities I have spoken with in the past explained that women are easy targets for a reason: they are perceived to be weak.
In fact, the Violence against Women Report I received from the Public Information Office of the Philippine National Police showed an increase in the number of crimes committed against women from the period of 2002 to 2012.
Shown below is the full report, enumerating all kinds of recorded crimes in the country committed against women, from rape down to hold-up.
There was a window of opportunity for the criminal, too. The traffic build-up gave him an opportune time to execute what could have been a possible crime or violence against me. It could have been one perfect crime. Good thing, it wasn’t.
3. Object of Attraction
The driver told me the man must have seen the mobile phone while I was making a call. I used my old Nokia phone at that time, not even worth a thousand pesos. I don’t use much of my smartphone when I’m outside, wary of situations such as this. So I felt it was more than that.
I don’t think he would take such chance for simple loot. He may have had plans of taking away with him more: bag, wallet, cash, and gadgets. Or perhaps even the driver’s earnings for the day. I refused to think of anything much worse than that, though.
Alertness can save you, for both the driver and the passenger. I had to commend the driver who was ready to whisk this man away with whatever tool he was holding that night, to protect his passenger. And for that, somehow I felt secure and grateful. But this experience makes me wonder how many more taxi drivers like him do we have here in the country?
With me back home were lessons learned from the experience. I couldn’t imagine what could have happened had I not locked the door of the taxi seconds after boarding it. And I still shudder at the thought of it.