I am weak. My physique is thin enough to be considered frail to many urban predators. I’ve been a prey to a scripted pre-DFA scam spectacle at Pasay and I’ve surrendered my phone to a Quezon City delinquent younger than me just ’cause he carried a kitchen knife.

I am weak. I refuse to carry an ice pick given to me for self defense because I can’t bear to even think about piercing the skin and knowing blood is going to gush. I think I need a stun gun, but I am afraid I might clumsily use it against me because my sleight of hand doesn’t work like self defense.

I am scared. Of the many taxi scams and schemes the metro is becoming infamous for. I double check the front seat if anyone hides there, and find unique and suspecting physical attributes of the driver in case I’d be explaining to a criminal sketch artist.

Maybe these were the little things that toughened me up a bit and made me aware that evil can come in any shape, or maybe this was just one of the days I’m thankful I don’t live with my biological father.

***

There are stories about women getting kidnapped, taken to a nondescript or rural/provincial place, being left there and only returned to when the kidnapper – a car driver – needs a sex toy, basically. These women often say that they were invited to a car for reasons I don’t really know. The women who have survived tell stories of being raped over and over whenever the kidnapper desires. Some of them live with the humiliation and celebration of another life, others never come back to their senses or their cities.

At last night’s news, there was a feature of a naked teenager jumping out of a Toyota Camry in a desperate attempt to not get more sexually harassed. With her flesh exposed to the eyes of shocked bystanders, she rapidly gathered her clothes and ran to the barangay hall. The Camry had stopped when his victim had escaped, but he stepped on accelerate and went on his way. I admire her bravery to jump, naked. I admire her drive to save herself.

***

Probably already a couple of months back, the same thing must have happened to me if I had not said “I don’t have a father” – a phrase I never thought I would utter nor save my life.

A black car stopped across the street and a man suited in something like a barong tagalog opened the window and called me. He looked like he was in his 40s and in a politician’s stature. With good nature, I approached thinking he was lost and simply wanted directions. I came close, close enough to peer into his nice beige leather-upholstered seats. With a smile on his face, he said, “Sabi ng tatay mo, sumabay ka na daw sakin” (Your father said I’d accompany you.) It was something that could probably bait a late Catholic School girl in uniform, a kid craving for a lolipop. But to me, it was something impossible. It was a detail he got wrong. I didn’t – still don’t – live with my biological father. I sneered, “Wala akong tatay!” (I don’t have a father) And I walked away, but the car remained there. In 10 seconds, my senses snapped at me and told me to remember the vehicle.

For many days after that incident, I kept thinking it was a Mitsubishi MonteroSport or a Toyota Fortuner with the plate number “Sakim sa 69 na paulit-ulit.” More importantly, it had a red plate. It was a nice car, I kept repeating to myself, but not a nice man.

The event didn’t traumatize me as much as the Pasay City scam or the Quezon City hold-up. I could go out whenever I wanted because I had the courage to say no, to save myself from a flesh-greedy man; but that plate number stayed in my mind. I thought I would hate all Mitsubishi or Toyota cars until that fateful afternoon in front of Century Mall. There it was: a Ford Escape with the plate number “Sakim sa 69 na paulit-ulit.” Red plate.

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“Are you sure it’s the car?”

“It’s the ‘Sakim sa 69 na paulit-ulit’ plate number. What else could it be?”

“Is there a woman inside?”

“Drive closer.”

There was a woman at the back. With how they were seated, we assumed that she was the boss and the driver that I saw months before was simply a driver.

***

Am I sure that this was the car? Yes. Am I sure that this was the man? No. One realization I got, though, is that the men behind the stories of rape-cycling women drive luxury cars. Whether they are rich and powerful men, I am not yet sure. Certainly, though, I’d stay away from these luxury cars in this guilt-forsaken jungle. They are owned by people who have made a pact with Lust, Greed, or Pride.

UPDATE: The case of the naked teenage girl running for her dear life away from a Toyota Camry was on the news again tonight. She jumped somewhere in Mandaluyong. She claimed that the driver was a foreigner who asked for five minutes, who tried to pierce her flesh. The car was said to be registered to a Quezon City resident with a Chinese surname. At the barangay hall, the girl rushed to the bathroom and was found crying.

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