No one will tell you to visit Manila because it’s a lovely place. They will warn you about the sex trade, dirt and downright desperation that the streets hold.
And it’s true.
We were shielded from the dirt and grime of Manila by staying at a 5 star property. Luxury thread count sheets, televisions in the bath and an epicurean breakfast buffet are a welcome and needed refuge from the streets.
Welcome to Manila, here’s your mugging.
Security at every hotel and bank helped create a sense of safety, but as soon as those buildings disappeared, so did that sense. One block off the Manila Bay waterfront, on a very busy road, we were jumped by a gang of 6 boys. They looked to be 10-13 years old and knew exactly what they were after, Mr. King’s buttoned up back pocket. First one appeared, then the rest. Quickly they were shoving themselves into our personal space, hanging on Mr. King’s arms, one distracted him, others scrappily moving in all directions, completely negating Mr. King’s senses. I attempt to push them off his backside while holding Miss I on my hip, guarding my camera and shielding G against the fence. I’m totally bewildered that this is happening. There was lots of hands flying, bodies shoving, and yelling from people in their cars.
They get what they want. $500. Normally, we never carry that much cash. We are shocked….wanting to escape the streets as quick as the boys ran away.
No one looks innocent. We don’t feel safe.
Hailing a taxi back to our hotel, the mind is catching up with the body or the other way around. Quickly, we reframe and focus on the fact that it’s only money and we’re so happy that there were no weapons, knives or guns involved. We slept that night in the same bed, appreciative of our safety and that this is not a part of our daily lives, like it is for some.
Walking the streets of dirty, dirty Manila
There are girly bars and Gentleman clubs lined up on every street. Sex, girls and boys are available on the street. Women with naked babies hang on Mr. King just 50 meters down the block from 5 star properties. Real estate doesn’t discriminate here.
The shoeless feet of the street people are stained like thick charcoal, as if they just walked miles barefoot in the black ash of a volcano.
Filthy children eating street trash have no problem hanging on us, following us down the street, and encircling us as we walk. They all want “PISO”, Philippine money. We give none, knowing better. Its a creepy feeling knowing that by sheer numbers you can be overpowered quickly, even by young, desperate children that are trained and encouraged to prey.
Ladies sleeping on cardboard still have a smile for us as we walk by. Groups of 2 or more look highly suspicious.
We are walking money. Its a fact. Our white skin, clothes, freshly washed hair and facial expressions don’t deny that our life has more ease than what is experienced on the streets of Manila.
Questions of Why?
The people provide an intriguing conversation with our children. There are lots of “Why” questions that we wonder how to answer to a 5 & 3 year old who have privileges beyond most. Our children have seen and experienced a lot and these people don’t look too different than others we’ve seen throughout our travels: they are skinny, dark complected with big eyes and missing teeth.
I wonder, can my children sense the difference in desperation?
Why don’t their parents buy them food?
Why don’t they have parents?
Who takes care of them?
Why do they eat garbage?
Why don’t they have money?
Why are they so dirty?
What makes us different?
The conversion culminates with the lesson for the day: choosing to be a taker or a creator. Aside from explaining life circumstances, I generalized the explanation. The biggest difference between us and the boys was the way we think. The power of our thoughts has a tremendous impact on how we feel, what we eat, how we behave and who we are. It is the single most important difference.
We can take from others OR we can create what we would like in our lives.
G offers his whole stash of money in Bali to Mr. King…because he can make more. A creator he is.
We talk about the appreciation we have to create our circumstances: a nice, comfortable, safe home, healthy food that nourishes our body, good friends and a good attitude (I consciously stress that point.)
Ironically, a blog reader messaged me a few days earlier asking if we ever had any trouble. We hadn’t and I believed part of that was that we walk with confidence and that the kids provide for a certain shield. Ha! I was wrong. Desperation and survival look for any opportunity.
Was it time for us to experience a Reality Check?
We have just come from a world-wind week. We shot a commercial, Mr. King flew to New York for a live interview while I flew to the Philippines with the kids and he met us there a few days later. What a week of high flying action and meeting incredible people.
We know this level of desperation and low vibration exists in the world…but not in our world. And here we were…face to face with 6 victims of it.
We hope that the money is used for good: to feed and help their families. The probability is that it won’t be. This incident will only encourage them to continue to do this. It has paid off for them. More than likely, they have a KingPin who runs the show and uses them as street slaves or their own families look on from the sidelines as their children “work”.
What do we do now?
Well, I don’t want to hang out in Manila anymore, even the nicer areas are encircled with destitution.
The first few days I felt comfortable here on my own. The kids and I went to Ocean World, walked around Rizal Park and went to the mall. Our biggest threat during that time was too many people asking to take pictures of us or trying to touch Miss I…even I’m getting annoyed at being polite about it. Most are very kind, but some grab my kids, insisting, but I hold on tight and grab them back. Personal space does not exist.
This incident only cements my thoughts that large cities encourage overstimulation and promote a false sense of lack, societal entitlement and exacerbate the differences between people. Perhaps we were not meant to live in environments were we have to fight all the time to get ahead: traffic, lines, shopping. Where’s the balancing of nature in such an artificial environment? Where’s the connection?
What’s funny about this?
It was a gang of 10 year olds!
That’s funny and not at the same time. Mr. King thought the first time he would be mugged would be by a man with a gun to his back, not a bunch of young kids being somewhat playful. While we were pushing them away, we weren’t doing it with all our might because our mind kept saying “these are little kids”.
We are thankful that only cash was taken and the rest of our documents and cards were somewhere else. They could have easily ripped open the backpack and had a field day…but my ninja backpack protecting skills held them at bay.
So we got mugged in Manila by 10 year olds.
Welcome to Manila.
We are outta here!
On a plane to Cebu, I walk down the aisle thankful for the safety of being in a plane….its better than the streets of Manila since the only people I have to fight off my body are my own children.