It is fitting that this post has no accompanying photos, as Manila has a way of doing that – making it difficult to take them. Why, you ask? Well, I can't really answer but I sure know who can – the person (I think it was a lady) who snatched our camera from the case strapped across S's chest and ran down the street. She knows.
There is that horrible moment when you realize that something irreversible and bad has happened – the sinking cold feeling in your tum, the instant denial and panic, the desperate moment when you just have to accept that this is now your life and incorporate this new reality – the shitty one – into it.
When we were first dating S and I went to see a friend perform burlesque at a local hall. We arrived late and the bar had run out of everything except gin – a spirit that I simply cannot stomach. It tastes like hairspray and poison to me, and until that point I had never had more than a sip. Let's stress until that point. S and I got giggly from gin and juice, making me exclaim “hey – this isn't so bad!”
When on the short walk home my stiletto heels began cutting up my feet S valiantly began to piggy bag me – until he slipped on the ice. I went over his shoulders, stunned and without putting my hands in front of my face. As a result it was my two front teeth that broke my fall, and well – just broke. The sinking “this is irreversible” feeling happened as I spat bloody fragments of teeth into my hand and witnessed S's face register a look of absolute horror.
It was a moment in time that a) made me upset and b) cost a lot of money and hassle.
The accident shocked me – I realized that in one tiny little moment everything can change – you could be walking down the street and be bowled down by an errant bus. Or you could spill over your boyfriend's shoulders and break your grill. Or a little thief could run off with your beloved favourite camera – a moment that a) made me upset and b) will cost a lot of money and hassle.
Today, moments after the theft, it was my turn to look at S with that same expression of horror and disbelief. While I will gladly replace a camera over my teeth (two root canals, two crowns, many many needles poked into my gums) it was still a punch in the stomach. While S frantically paced around the overpass near the Quiapo Church (which houses the famous Manila quirk, the Black Nazarene, of which I have no photos) looking for the person responsible, I stood and almost dreamily thought to myself “We now have no camera.” While S was in shaking, angry denial I had floated into shocked acceptance.
I suppose because we have been traveling for so long and never had so much as a dime stolen we thought we were invincible. We got careless. A piece of advice for Manila – make sure your camera bag has a zipper and not velcro, otherwise a biatch will reach right in and disappear into the masses (they're Catholic, so sometimes the masses are literal.)
All I know is that now, kind of like the ill-fated piggy back incident, I almost feel gun shy about wandering around this city. The difference is then I was in a state of caution just when walking over patches of ice or riding my bike - now I am scared to take my laptop or wallet anywhere. I feel...vulnerable.
Are you more likely to get robbed in Manila than in other Southeast cities? Are gin-drinking, icy sidewalks and shoulder rides a bad combo? Well, not always.
But usually? Yes.
(I'm sorry to have my first post of the Philippines be a tad....negative, but I gotta be an honest writer. I promise that there will be many more posts that are in a happier vein – most people have been amazingly smiley and friendly and the food and sights have been great. I can't wait for the Cordillera, Vigan and Bohol!)