Sunday, July 3, 2011

In the face of death

This incident happened four years ago, July 2, 2007.  I am re-posting this to remind myself, and again share with everyone, the lesson that I have learned from this experience. 


By Froilan Grate
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:25:00 08/18/2009

I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it was all happening. The fellow behind me told me to go up the stairs. When I reached the second floor, the other guy pulled out something from his pocket and pointed it at my face. A gun.

At that moment, I knew it was for real. I wasn’t scared at all. All I felt was anger and sadness. Anger because I knew I was not the most evil person in the planet, so what had I done to deserve this? Sad because I thought my life was going to end this way. What a pathetic way to die.

Strange how things could change so fast. I was just standing on a road, near West Avenue in Quezon City, waiting for the rain to stop so that I could walk to the main road and catch a ride home. It was before 10 in the evening. Then, out of nowhere, a man or a boy (he couldn’t have been more than 20 years old) approached me to ask for the time. When I turned to look at him, another man came up from behind, put his arm over my shoulder and told me to take it easy, while pressing the tip of something metallic to my side. They said that if I would just remain calm, no one would get hurt. They told me to just follow what they told me and then I could go.

They asked me to walk with them. We walked for about 20 minutes until we reached a residential area. We came upon an old, abandoned house, one of them entered and the one behind me ordered me to follow. On the second floor, the guy pulled out his gun and pointed it at my face. I saw his face transform from that of a boy to that of the devil.

Maybe I cried—I am not sure about it now. But if I did, there were definitely no tears, and it was not because of fear, it was in anger. If I did cry, I am not ashamed of it: a person who cries in the face of death is no coward.

I remember saying, “Kuya, pag usapan natin ’to, please.” I said it over and over again, until one of them shouted, “P—g ina mo, hubad! Tumahimik ka!”

For some reason, I just stood there and pleaded with them. The man with the gun grabbed my bag and ordered me again to remove all my clothes. When I didn’t move still, he pressed the gun against my forehead and asked if I wanted to die.

I stripped to my underwear, while asking for something that they must have thought stupid. “Kuya, pwede iwan mo ’yung notebook?”

He threw it on the floor.

As soon as they got my shoes, my clothes and my bag, they walked out of the house as if nothing had happened. I was in shock and almost naked, so they expected me to hide in there and cry.

They were wrong. As they walked away, I did the most stupid thing anyone could think of. I jumped out of the window, barefoot but unaware that I was stepping on broken glass, and ran after them, all the while shouting and asking for help.

I caught up with them as they were about to exit the gate. When the guy with the gun saw me, he pointed it at me. I ducked behind a fence and hid.

They started running again, and I went after them. So there we were running on the street: one guy with all my stuff, the other with a gun, and me almost naked.

There were people around. Jeepneys, cars and tricycles passed us by. I stood in the middle of the street asking for help, but nobody stopped. So I kept running after them alone.

The guy with the gun stopped a tricycle and went off, so I went after the guy with my stuff. Suddenly, a man on motorcycle stopped beside me and told me to get on his bike. I did as he told me. He asked me what happened. I told him where the other guy went, and we went in the direction he took.

Unfortunately, the guy had entered a dark and narrow alley and my “knight” felt it would be too dangerous to pursue him.

He drove away fast. I asked him where we were going, but he did not answer. “Not again!” I thought.

Before I realized it, we were in front of a police station. Still naked, I entered the station and told the policemen on duty what had happened. They said we should go back, but the funny thing was that they were in no hurry to do so. No one bothered to offer me anything to cover myself with.

We went back to the place, with me still naked. The policemen asked around, but nobody wanted to say anything. No one saw anything. I pointed to the alley where the guy had made his escape. The policemen refused to go there, and I understood: There were just two of them, it was dark, and they didn’t even have a flashlight.

On our way back to the station, I asked them if we could pass by the old house so I could pick up my notebook. I went inside the house, alone and naked still, to get it.

Back in the police car (a multi-cab) when all the excitement was gone, I noticed a pool of blood on the floor. Only then did I realize that my feet were bleeding. (I would find out later that I had wounds in 14 different places, with the deepest wound taking about a month to heal.)

At the police station, I was interviewed so they could put the incident in the blotter. When the investigator learned that I had lost three phones (one was issued by the office) and P50,000 in cash and other valuables, he almost called me stupid, as if it was all my fault. The station commander told the investigator to hurry up, without bothering to hide his irritation.
I told them I could remember their faces, and could they perhaps ask someone to make sketches, like what we see the investigators do on “CSI”? For that, they said, I would have to go to Camp Karingal—on my own.

With the interview done, I was told to go home. I said I had no money left and I was naked and bleeding. It didn’t occur to them to bring me home or to a hospital. They said I could call home. I told them I was living alone. The station commander said, “E paano ’yan, mamamatay ka na lang pala niyan?”

I asked if I could borrow a cell phone. The commander said his phone had no load. When I asked if I could use their office phone, I was told somebody was using it.
After a long wait, I was finally able to call our office. Thankfully, one of our staff answered so I asked her to text my friends and tell them to pick me up.

While I was waiting for my friends, the guy in the motorcycle came back with a clean pair of shorts. I was touched by his kindness. He could have gone home and slept, but he came back to bring me something to cover myself with. When I asked who he was, he said his name was Chris. Then he said goodbye and went home.

A little later, two of my friends arrived and brought me home. They kept me company until I told them to go and get some rest.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the faces of the robbers and feel the gun on my face. Every time I heard some movement, I would think it was they. They had my ID, and my address, and they could have come after me. I stayed awake, until I was beside someone I love and trust. And only then did I cry.

All this happened two years ago. And it is only now that I am able to gather the strength to write about it.

Despite all the evil around us, I reaffirm my faith in the goodness of the human heart.

(Froilan Grate, 26, is chair of Add Up! Volunteers, a group of young individuals who have bonded together to do their share in nation building.)

Reposted from

Patuloy na umiibig sa Pilipinas, 
At naniniwala sa galing ng Pilipino,  

Froilan Grate | GreenMinds

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