November 15, 2006

Theft at Glorietta

(SCENE of the crime: Glorietta activity center, sans the bazaar. Photo borrowed from

MANY of us know that malls are a haven for snatchers, shoplifters and other petty thieves. We read one account after the other, emails even, but don't pay any significant attention to them...until we become the victims.

I know there was an email last month about how at the Greenbelt mall, petty thieves have come up with a new modus operandi victimizing shoppers going up its escalators. Of course, I don't remember the details primarily because I thought it was not relevant to me. I rarely go to Greenbelt considering its distance from where I live...which is in Quezon City.

But I guess I trusted the Zobels that they wouldn't scrimp on security especially during these times when there is heightened awareness of terrorist threats. (Blame it on all those foreign travel advisories.) So when organizers of a recent Asia Pacific investment conference asked about the security risks of having its participants come to the Philippines, I replied that the travel advisories may be exaggerated. I also said that shopping at the nearby Ayala malls would be safe because there were guards posted in all mall entrances.

That was foolish of me to make such an assurance, because on Nov. 10, Friday, at around 8 pm, while bringing my Guam publisher around the Glorietta activity center where a bazaar for a cause was being held, I found my bag's zipper a third of the way open, and upon inspection, found my wallet and cellphone missing. I approached the only one roving uniformed security guard to find out what I could do, and he said to file a report with the Customer's Service Desk. Of course, he told me that after a few seconds had gone by and he looked completely dumbfounded about what to do. He even approached a woman in a blue uniform (who I figured to be a security supervisor as she had a walkie talkie) but she looked equally clueless about what to do. I noticed that walkie talkie lady didn't even bother to use the gadget to alert other nearby security in an attempt to possibly catch the thief. There seemed to be no urgency to the incident and she treated it just matter of factly, like these incidents happen ever so often.

To the credit of the girls at the Customer's Service Desk, they allowed me to use their landline to call all my banks, credit card companies, and cellphone provider to block any access to my funds and credit lines, and even to shut down outgoing services of my cellphone. Thank God I still had the presence of mind to do all that.

But I realized, as the days went by and I went about reconstructing my IDs and getting back my ATM cards, that I lacked an appropriate outrage over what happened. My friends say I was probably just too busy still fulfilling writing assignments, or was just still in shock. In contrast, my friend who also had a similar experience at Landmark told me that she felt so violated about the incident that happened to her. So why didn't I feel the same?

On the evening it happened and into the weekend, I was like blasé about the whole thing. I didn't care about the wallet really, I thought then, because I've never really been attached to money. I only had about P600 left there and after blocking all my accounts, I felt relieved. I still managed to go on with the business of helping my boss shop. What could I do right? The guard told me that I could have the incident blottered in the police station. But I figured, what for? I was pretty sure the cops or the mall security were in cahoots anyway with the thieves. E ganon talaga ang buhay.

Why didn't I tear my hair out? Or scream at the top of my lungs at the inutile security at the Glorietta? Was it because we are all so used to hearing about snatchings or know that these thieves won't resort to this sort of illegal activity if their families weren't going hungry and they couldn't find real jobs? I mean, how many times do we warn other people to hold on to their bags and belongings because thieves may be about? I noticed that even the MRT drivers now constantly warn commuters over the PA system to hold on to their stuff tightly. Why has petty thievery become the norm in this country?!?!

Now I'm ranting, in case you haven't noticed. Now I want to tear my hair out and want to scream at GMA to stop fucking around with the economy already and get the frigging show on the road. This is a country that used to be disciplined and economically profitable. People had jobs and unlike today, didn't go off to foreign lands in droves because they couldn't find decent paying jobs here at home. We had poor people also before, but they still managed to send their children to school and managed to eat three square meals a day instead of picking through garbage bins for something edible. They had homes, sure they were in squatters' areas, but at least they had four walls and a roof, unlike today when many of them are living under bridges or empty trailers at the port area. The only place where there were snatchers then was Divisoria. Now these thieves are everywhere. No place is safe!

Geez! What the fuck happened to us?!?!

(Okay and what the hell are the Zobels doing over at their malls? Are they cutting down on security costs? Even a Malaya columnist recently found his car's side mirrors stolen while parked at Park Square. Heck, Ayala shoppers may be safe from terrorists but from petty thieves? Noooo! Damn it!)

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