Cebu, Philippines. They cause undue alarm to passengers and should be stopped yes, but how? Golly this is one tricky urban evolution for everyone to think about! I have not seen anything like this all my life in Metro Manila or elsewhere. Fact is, I have not even seen this in Metro Cebu the past 3 Christmas seasons!
No pictures here of course (I still want to live hehe) but when I say adult, I mean they are something as old as late twenties to late thirties, mugger-looking and have the strength and ability to do something wrong to any other adult of any size or shape! Or something like so!
Here’s the story…
First time was about a month ago. Yep, the early days of November and I was on a 22I jeep from Banilad to J Centre Mall (commonly referred to as J-Mall). When the jeep picked passengers across that corner called “Eskina Sampaguita”, these 3 dudes boarded, one went straight towards the back of the driver, one in the middle and some kind of crouched there without taking a seat, while the last one sat across me at the very rear (edge/exit) of the jeep (multicab). That alarmed me and I thought I was ready to kick this dude across me and jump off the vehicle if and when they declared anything we all don’t like! Looking at the eyes of other passengers, I could see that there was alarm, if not apprehension.
Boom! The one crouched at the center of the vehicle announced something that I did not understand. But at the very first sound of whatever he said, two women shrieked in surprise (obviously alarmed). But it continued into the guy saying they will just sing Christmas Carols (manaygon) for everyone’s alms instead of doing something bad like others do. Then they hit it! I mean the usual rap song like beggar kids do with one creating rhythm with his mouth and hands a-la beatbox. Music enough, though I can dare say the little kids are better. And very short (as if obviously just for “compliance purposes” that they indeed sang)!
The next scene was ugliest. They were insistent that each passenger give them money and they don’t just say “ate/kuya merry christmas”. They had to touch each and every person at various parts of the arms or legs or knees. I pretended to be looking elsewhere as other passengers did and I pretended not to mind them. When they got off at that area near Sky Cable office, they were all complaining to each other how stingy we passengers were all are as they only got a few coins.
If they declared a holdup – since we know anyone of them could be carrying a weapon, they would have been successful – even if it was about 3PM! This area is not really full of pedestrians or vehicles on such a hot sunny day. I heard every other passenger (male and female), including the driver expressing various signs of relief and later disgust or disagreement. Driver even said those men are even stronger than most of us males in the jeep, so why could they not find decent work for a living. I thought that was just an isolated case! But…
Last week, as I happily rode a 13C jeep from Country Mall to Ayala, there were these similarly mugger-looking boys. Men actually as one could already employ them as drivers, gardeners or security guards and the likes if we talk about their age and physique. They rode the jeep across BIR (near Waterfront Hotel) and got off at the edge of this place called Barrio Luz (what I have been calling the fire capital of this country hehe). Yep, at that busy corner under the flyover near the Pag-ibig Building where vehicles turn left to Ayala. Like the previous 'incident', these men wore sunglasses, wore caps and two even wore hooded sweat shirts. And when they alighted just below that flyover, I heard the same “ataya bai” complaints.
Finally, there was the same incident this afternoon as I rode a 04L jeep from Ayala to SM. We were still at the Ayala area when three men boarded – same positions – 1 at frontmost behind the driver, another (the supposed main singer) crouched at center aisle (as if there's still an aisle on a multicab ‘no?) and the last one even just clinging at the back. These were older men! Two had tattoos in their arms and legs, all wearing shades and caps. I really got alarmed this time since they stayed long in the jeep almost coercing everyone to give money. I still did not bother to do so, and lucky for me, the man across me started talking to me as if asking things like ‘if this was the jeep bound for SM’ and ‘if it would be passing via PLDT’ and so on.
When they alighted, again at that area where there are a lot of informal settlers (the other edge of Barrio Luz, just before we turned right on Juan Luna), male and female passengers all expressly said their alarm that it could have been a holdup or those men could have done something wrong to any of us. The more that I got alarmed when another male passenger said to me “labi na og wa mo managad nila, bisag sige na sila panguhit sa imong tuhod) and another female passenger said “dako pa’g boses). I understood what these fellow passengers were telling me… they got more alarmed when one of the men was already raising his voice and scratching my thigh and knee to ask for money – but I and the other passenger pretended not to mind them and we just kept talking.
My take is, I think it was still better that I did not bother to look at them as my face could have shown irritation or offense. But, what if they got mad, got irked, got pissed that I was not responding? God knows what they were/are capable of doing! And OMG that man was about my height (I am 6’0”) but he has a bigger and obviously stronger body physique. As if to lighten up that unanimously alarmed mood or mode, I told everyone that I just opted to ignore the man but could even smell the “anghit” from his underarms hehe!
You guessed it, on my way home from SM, I had to temporarily declare an LQ in this love-affair with the jeeps of Cebu! I lined up for a cab going home, that took more than an hour because of heavy traffic along Hernan Cortes! Argh!
But as I write this, I just realized that I had in my lap a big paper bag of products from Nuskin (worth many thousands of pesos) that a friend asked me to pick for her at the Nuskin Offices. If those men grabbed this paper bag, that loss could have been worth more than the Christmas Bonus or 13th month salary of someone hehe!
Am still lucky… or let us not judge a book by its cover… or Cebu’s criminality is still not like that of Metro Manila… or Cebu’s morality and values are still intact… or all of the above!
But, I think I want to stick with… “I was just lucky this time”!
Now the debate: how can that “caroling” by big adult men be stopped? They really cause undue alarm! Who should stop them? If you ask me, not me, not even the drivers, as the size and build of these “carolers” can tell that they can kill at will! Entawon, these men could even be fathers or grandfathers of many a jeep conductor. Ti-aw nimo na?!!
Da! Here comes my daily calls to Ken, Holiday and Airland Taxi companies again! But I still say, no vehicle from QC follows me to Cebu (yet). No way! Wala pa akong pangsweldo ng driver! Argh again!
Seriously, can CITOM stop these men? Can the police too? On what count?