Almost a year ago, I had to buy a car. I say had because circumstances left me with no choice. I started a new job where official working hours were from 1-10 pm. I always stay past 10 and, on the worst days, stay deep into the wee hours of the morning. Commuting by jeepney, bus, MRT and/or cab was out of the question. That late at night, in this city, with all the stories, it was unsafe to do so for two years (or more) straight. And so I bought a car.
My decision was seemingly validated when, on Christmas eve last year, my sister was held-up at knife point in her cab on her way home. She took a cab near the KFC on Connecticut in San Juan. The taxi driver slowed down at the adjacent Petron gas station and a woman and a man boarded her cab. The man sat beside her in the backseat, stuck a knife against her side as the woman in the front seat rummaged through her bag, taking her valuables, her cash, and her ATM. They eventually let her go, in one piece, and, to this day, we are grateful that nothing worse happened to her.
I was also thankful that I had the means to get to and from work without having to risk my safety by riding a taxi or other public transportation. Today, however, I heard a story that made me realize that car or no car, however you get around, you are not safe, especially if you’re a woman. We are not safe.
A young woman (a sister of a friend of a friend) went on a Friday night out with friends at The Fort. Her friends saw her leave with her car, and she even sent a message to her family that she was on her way home. She never made it. She was found dead the next morning.
It could have happened to any of us. We are not safe.
All of us have had late nights, whether it be from drinks with friends, a last full show, an out of town wedding, or work. All of us have had to travel home, whether in a car alone or with other friends, (or, worse, in a taxi or bus or jeep) very late into the night or early in the morning. And we are not safe.
It is a terrifying, almost paralyzing thought that a sister, a cousin, friend or coworker could be next in the news, the victim of a monster/s preying on a defenseless female. Whether they are after money, fancy mobile phones, a car or (God forbid) worse, the reality is the same. We are not safe.
I have been racking my brain about what we could do to protect ourselves from these dangers, how to make ourselves less of a target. To me, there’s not a lot that we could do outside of never leaving the house after dark. But there are a few things, and something is better than nothing:
- A few weeks ago, a Facebook post kept getting shared (rightly so) by my friends about a woman whose tires were slashed by motorcycle riders who were targeting her laptop and handbag on the passenger seat. When the riders surrounded her, she stayed inside and honked her horn continuously. That worked and drew the attention of passersby, which in turn scared off her would-be robbers. The lesson here: stay inside your car and honk that horn. Hard. Also, refrain from putting your valuables (handbag, laptop), on the passenger seat, where they would be visible to pedestrians and bikers and make you a target. I am definitely guilty of this and need to crack this habit ASAP.
- The only exception to the above “don’t get down” rule would if a firearm was pointed at you. No car is worth dying for. Give it up.
- I was driving from a company event at Tagaytay one evening with some colleagues. Somewhere on the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa road, the car behind me started flashing its lights behind me and kept flashing and flashing and flashing. I think that went on for a half an hour or more. Initially, I thought that the driver was just annoyed at my driving, since I wasn’t going as fast as I could have (it was my first time driving that road at night). But there were several opportunities for him to overtake me, which he didn’t take. I thought I was free of him when we reached Nuvali and turned into Paseo de Sta. Rosa to take the Greenfield exit to SLEX. But as soon as we passed Southern Luzon Hospital, the flashing started again. It only stopped after I turned left towards the northbound exit. I checked my car when we stopped for gas and there was nothing wrong with it. When I told my mom the story, she said that it was a good thing I didn’t stop, as it could have been an MO to hijack my car. It never occurred to me, and I would never know for sure, but I’m glad I didn’t pull over at any point during that drive. All my parents’ nagging to never stop at the urging of other vehicles worked.
But the above measures seem so insignificant versus what we are up against: high-speed motorcycles, tire slashing, criminals who are on the lookout for women who are alone. There’s only so much care we can take, as long as the police doesn’t crack down on these criminals and their MOs. Until then, we are not safe.
If you have any tips to share about keeping safe, then let’s all help each other and share them below. Thanks!