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Young Blood

Almost death

I sat in the middle of the road, watching the motorcycle being engulfed by darkness. The sleepless nights I’ve spent and the meals I’ve missed were rewinding in my mind. I could feel droplets of rain on my body and blood flowing from my wounds.

I tried to stand but the pain radiating from my left thigh down to my ankle was extreme. I brushed the hair strands from my face with my hand, and felt a little lump near my forehead. Tears were brimming in my eyes but I didn’t allow them to fall—or at least not yet. My wrists and left arm were also aching, but I used all my strength to get up and look back at the people whose eyes are focused on me.

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Everyone seemed in a state of shock—eyes wide, bodies somewhat frozen. Then I saw men in combat boots, carrying guns, running toward us. I broke the silence by asking if anyone had seen the plate number on the motorcycle. They shook their heads. Then one of the other jeepney passengers said I should now report the incident to the police: “Pano na yan, miss? Magpa-blotter ka na kaya.”

I looked at my watch. It was 3:05 a.m. I couldn’t say anything. Someone took P10 from his wallet, offered it to me, and said it was all he had, I should take it so I could get home. I felt like a pauper begging for alms. I took the money and thanked him, but at the back of my mind I was wondering why no one among my co-passengers had dared to help. I counted them silently: first, the insensitive driver; three extra-healthy ladies; two senior citizens; one belonging to the third sex; and the pale Good Samaritan…

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The men who came introduced themselves as Michie and Richard Fernandez. The jeepney left and we were left standing at the edge of a sidewalk. The pavement was wet but I just sat down on it. My muscles felt like they were being ripped off my bones. I seemed to be in a state of delirium, but I was able to narrate what exactly happened before they arrived.

Michie asked me to roll up my pants so he could see what damage had been done. As I was trying to do so, I recalled what transpired only a few minutes before then:

I was walking on my usual route to the office at around 2:30 a.m. My pace was fast, as always. I left our subdivision without any idea that something horrifying would happen. I knew it was an ungodly hour, but I felt safe because it had been my routine for more than a year. I crossed the street and took a jeepney. It dropped me off at South Superhighway, where I would need to take another one that would take me to Alabang.

While I was waiting, a filthy boy pointed to an empty jeepney, saying it was about to leave. “Ayan, o, ate, paalis na.”  I decided to wait for another one, but nothing else was coming. I thought I might be late so, despite a feeling of uncertainty, I got on the jeepney the boy had indicated.

As the jeepney moved I took my favorite purple wallet from my new beetle-shaped backpack and fished out P8 for my fare. I saw a flashing light on my month-old mobile phone and discovered that I had 12 messages from friends, colleagues and my “surrogate” boyfriend. I composed a message for him, then put back my wallet and phone in my bag. I checked the time. It was 3 a.m.

I was rubbing my drowsy eyes when the jeepney suddenly halted. I looked outside. I saw an arm reaching through the window for my backpack. Too late, the thief was able to snatch it from me. I got off quickly and grabbed his shirt. However, a motorcycle was nearby waiting for him. He got on it behind the driver and then they started to move away. But I held on to his shirt tighter. I stumbled and fell on the ground. I was like a human sleigh, rolling on the road, my body wet all over.

Then I noticed that they were heading toward a pile of debris. I realized they wanted my head to hit the pile. I was shouting, “Yung bag ko, yung bag ko!”  But I was also starting to feel weak. I knew I had to let go or I’d end up dead. I would rather lose my valuables—my backpack, wallet, cash amounting to over P15,000, ATM cards, gift cards, IDs, mobile phone, pictures, and other essentials—than my precious life…

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Michie was asking me again where it hurt. I pointed to my left thigh, leg, knee, and ankle, and my arm and head. He rubbed his fingers on my knee. I moaned. He touched my ankle. I sighed. Silence filled the air. They might have noticed that I was about to break down because now they were trying to cheer me up. Richard said that I should be thankful I was only wounded, that someone had been killed while trying to fight off snatchers, like I did. Michie added I should be thankful that I had no injuries on my face.

I said my face could not be ruined because it was already so, and managed an artificial laugh. Michie smiled and rubbed my back.

The two offered to take me to their subdivision but I told them I had to go home right away. Maybe they realized that nothing was left in my pockets. Richard took money from his pocket and gave it to me. Of course, I had to take it.

They were both worried about my condition so Michie took me home. While I was opening the gate of my aunt’s house, the horrible scene kept replaying in my mind. “Why me?” I kept asking myself. It was not as though I was wearing my usual semiformal getup, with some jewelry. What made the thieves think that I would be the perfect victim?

The whole household was awakened. Michie told them what had happened. My relatives tried to console me although they were themselves in a state of anger and disbelief. They offered me food and drink, but I couldn’t eat. I just let them clean up my wounds while I was silently sobbing.

It’s been a year since that incident happened. I no longer live in Manila. I’ve said goodbye to the call center and the graveyard shift. Whenever I pass unlit portions of a street, I’m extra vigilant but no longer terribly scared. I got copies of the thieves’ pictures from the police files and whenever I look at the snapshots, I feel bad because they were never caught and may have victimized more people after me.

But I feel a new kind of strength inside me. This incident reminded me that my family, relatives and friends will never turn their backs on me even if I did so a long time ago. And if the story of my life will be flashed before my eyes, I know that it will be worth watching and this poignant chapter will be one of its highlights.

Jewel Jade V. Fernando, 22, is a sales consultant at ABS-CBN RNG Laoag.

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