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Theft in Manila

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I missed my flight to Tacloban and my camera was stolen. Shit happened twice on this unlucky day of October 4.

I arrived late afternoon to Manila (Oct 3) after an uneventful flight from Dubai with the excellent Emirates Airlines. After the immigration and customs I went over to the departure hall, in order to get a white taxi. The yellow taxis that are waiting outside the arrival hall are twice as expensive, and most travelers are not aware of this airport scam. The only problem with the white taxis are that some of them might demand a fixed price. But just ignore them who does, and find a white taxi that accepts meter.

I always prefer to stay in Ermita/Malate, a district which is more convenient and also much cheaper than Makati. This time I chose one of the cheapest rooms, Hotel Juliano, where the fan-room sells for 800 pesos (18 USD). This Chinese run hotel is not big, but it still has plenty of small rooms. Thus it's rarely full, which is convenient for a walk-in traveler like me. I've rarely seen any foreigners staying here though, and the clientele seems to be mostly budget minded Filipinos. Hotel Juliano also have a non-prostitute policy, which seems to keep a certain kind of foreigners away.

Because I had an early flight to Tacloban next day, I just ate a dinner and went to sleep. Unfortunately I slept too well (maybe it was the jet-lag), and when I woke up I realized I would be way too late for my flight. So the first thing I had to do, was to connect to internet (there is Wifi in the reception) and buy a new flight ticket to Tacloban. Fortunately I was able to get a fairly cheap ticket with Cebu Pacific Airlines for the next day (3200 pesos, approx 70 USD). Then I called Emily and told her about my 24h delay to Tacloban. Not a huge loss, but still very annoying.

In the afternoon I went to Robinson Plaza, a big and modern mall in the Ermita/Malate district. I was hanging out there for the rest of the day, eating food, shopping some small items etc. I left when it closed at 9pm and went to Shawarma to pick up a late kebab (these guys knows how to make kebab). Then I started on the short walk back to my hotel. In a fairly dark side alley, I saw a group of 10 youngsters ahead of me (8-15 years, mixed gender), who seemed to be flocking around something. They didn't look like the ordinary poor beggers, because these ones were dressed in new and fancy hip-hop clothes.

When they saw me, they immediately came running over to me. They surrounded me and their hands were suddenly everywhere on me. They were not threatening in any way, they were just softly putting their hands on me. With 20 intimidating hands around, I was of course concerned about my valuables, so I put my hands in my two front pockets just to block any access to my wallet and iPhone, and then I started to walk away. But these youngsters were harder to get rid of than flies. I decided to do a sudden move, first get my hands out of my pockets and then push them away. This gave me enough space to start running away. I stopped after 1-2 blocks, and was happy to see that I had got rid of them. I checked my pockets, everything ok. Then I checked my camera bag in the belt. The zipper was open, and my camera was gone. I was shocked, they had managed to take my camera. First I wanted to go back, but I figured out they were already far away. It was probably a bad idea to charge them on my own. I saw no police around to help me either. So I went back to hotel.

The stolen camera was not a disaster. All my photos from UAE, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain was already safe on my laptop (as well as internet). Only my latest photos from Manila were lost. Fortunately I had no intimidating photos on my memory card to worry about either. So overall it was not a big loss. Still it was annoying, because a new similar camera would cost 20.000 pesos. I had an insurance however, but the recent theft of my ice-axes would not look good in their records. Despite of this, I still consider myself as a good customer. These are the two first cases of theft I have experienced, and I've traveled a lot in my lifetime. The last 10 years, I've spent almost 1500 days of travelling abroad, mostly in poor countries in Asia and South-America. So my overall record is probably better than 98 out of 100 travelers. But the times I could brag about my spotless insurance record, are however gone.

When I arrived back at the hotel it was already 10pm, just about time to get to bed and make sure I didn't miss another flight to Tacloban.....

Update!
One month later, I arrived back to Manila and was finally able to report the incident to the police here. Hopefully the insurance company will recover my loss.

Posted by Lyngve Skrede on Wednesday, October 05, 2011. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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