I was planning to blog about something else today however, something happened last night between the post I published and the moment I arrived in the mountain city.
I have been travelling to and from Baguio and Manila for 9 years now and never in my entire life have I experienced something like this. I guess this is what you call losing faith in humanity. Yep, people nowadays are so scary that you wouldn’t know who to really trust. (From what I’ve just experienced, I think I’d rather trust noone from now on).
I was all excited to go home after a few days of work and spend the weekend with my son. I packed my backpack after work (containing my usual stuff: laptop, external hard drive, wallet, a change of clothes, toiletries and the likes). I also have another paperbag with me that contains stuff that I needed to bring home.
I lined up for the chance passengers at Victory Liner Inc in Cubao. I was actually a bit surprised that the line was short and was at the same time glad that I will be able to get an earlier trip, which I did. I was able to secure a seat for 1:30 AM trip. Well, I guess the word “secure” is loosely used here.
We left the terminal about a few minutes later than the schedule which was fine because VLI doesn’t really strictly follow the time anyway (based on my experience). Due to my excitement, I was having a hard time getting a shut eye but still tried to anyway. After about a couple of hours, we arrived at the first stop over: Tarlac Motorway Stop over (just across Siesta). As expected, there were just about 3 buses there including our bus and two were even about to leave. I alighted the bus, leaving my backpack on my seat and covered it with my shawl that I used as a blanket. My backpack was heavy and I needed to stretch my legs anyway that was why I left it there. I just stood a few feet away from the bus (even facing the entrance of our bus) and brought out my phone to read emails.
After about 10 minutes, I went back in the bus to find something odd. My shawl was still on the seat, the paperback on the floor in front of my seat, but my big gray Case Logic backpack was missing. At first I thought that I entered the wrong bus but I realized that our bus was the only one left at the stop over. I asked the people surrounding my seat (I was seated near the window and the one beside me alighted the bus as well) if they saw a gray backpack and at first, they said no. I stepped out of the bus, looked around then found one guard and asked if he saw someone with a gray backpack. His answer was expected – a no – since he wasn’t, well, can I say, doing his job?
I went back in the bus and asked the people again. The woman seated behind me said that the guy from the seat behind her took it. Then other people began to talk as well. The guy seated across said that the guy in a black hoodie jacket seated two seats behind me sat beside my bag, opened it, stood up then picked it up then left the bus.
I reported what happened to the bus driver and the “konduktor” and said that I needed to talk to the dispatcher officer. I did and asked them what can be done. They only said that they will get my name and contact details, a list of the things that was stolen and they will contact me in the event that something will be found.
I got their number as well and asked how many cases were already filed. They cannot even provide the number and cannot even say that there was anything resolved. They cannot even provide me with a clear process on how they deal with stolen things. For every question I ask, they point at each other on who to answer and I got nothing in the end.
I was calm the whole time but deep inside, I was reeling. My work laptop is stolen. I have personal files saved in there that I was supposed to back up this weekend. My external hard drive is stolen. All my files for the past 7 years, gone. My little Z’s photos and videos for the first 4 months – GONE! That’s what got me so mad inside that I really want to bash the guy’s face to smithereens for stealing my backpack. I don’t care if he gets the backpack, the wallet and all the cash in it, I just need the laptop back and the external hard drive because I need the files stored in there. Or here’s another thing, they just let me get the external hard drive but allow me to copy all the files in the laptop and they can get all of it afterwards.
What’s important to me are the files – the photos and the videos collected and stored for the past how many years. I was supposed to make little Z’s save the date video and AVP this weekend for his baby dedication. I mean, come on! Seriously?!?
Anyway, going back to a bit more logical thinking. It was an act of negligence on my end, I admit. But here’s my defense, no matter how weak it sounds now:
– I have been travelling via VLI for the past 9 years and this has never happened before
– I usually leave my backpack on my seat, secured in the thought that the passengers doesn’t care about anyone else’s things and will just leave it where it is.
– I didn’t go too far from the bus. I was actually standing a few feet away from the entrance and I can even see my seat from where I was standing.
– Before, co-passengers are gracious enough to be on the look out for other passengers for anything suspicious. Now, well, people already saw that the guy was way behind me and opened my bag and still never said anything about it, what happened to looking out for others? Oh well.
I only have myself to blame for what happened. I was too complacent with the fact that I have been doing this for a long time and nothing happened and now, a little lapse on my part and this is what I get. I don’t blame the other passengers for not stopping the guy from picking up my bag (well, at some point, I do, because, well, they never really cared). What really irks me to think about is that, I was standing a few feet from the bus entrance (and I emphasize: A FEW FEET AWAY) and they just walked past me. AND I DIDN’T NOTICE IT! I was so preoccupied reading my emails that I didn’t realize my backpack was already being paraded right in front of me. That’s what really irks me the most.
This incident actually is another hard lesson to learn. But at the same time, it is now making me so paranoid to travel via public transportation. I feel so violated with what happened that it doesn’t really make me feel safe anymore. Every passenger now becomes a suspect in my eye. I know that’s unfair, but then again, they weren’t the ones who were stolen from.
With all the talks with the dispatching officer, the incident was the new modus operandi happening nowadays. Those guys will buy their bus tickets, observe the passengers, then during stop over, they act so normal going from one seat to another and picking up unattended things then they alight the bus, never to return again. There are always two players. One who will pick up the bags and the other becomes the cover. They leave the stopover together. There are several incidents reported to the bus companies as well (not only to VLI, just to be fair) but I am not sure if the media has already caught up to this. And I am not sure if bus companies are setting up protocols to avoid these kinds of incidents as well. I understand that the bus company is not liable for any losses of passengers due to negligence however, given that they already know about the modus operandi, they should instill tighter security inside the bus and within the stopovers and bus stations.
Bottomline: lessons learned:
– Never trust anyone, not even the bus driver. If you can tie all your things to yourself, do so. Do not even attempt to leave anything behind.
– Always be on the look out for something suspicious. Do not think that all of the passengers inside the bus are just that. Alert the bus driver and the “konduktor” for anything suspicious. Even if it is just a hunch and you will appear stupid in the end. Better safe than sorry.
– Buy a car. It is the best solution to my paranoia in travelling using public transport now.