I am sending you this e-mail in the hope that you may learn a thing or two from the sender's experience and to attest the power of prayer.... Last 24 September 2005, at around 1100h, my husband and I boarded aG-Liner Bus after hearing mass in Quiapo - it was my husband's birthday.(We purposely did not bring our car since its tough finding a parking space in the area.) Upon reaching Robinsons Galleria, the bus dropped off and picked up some passengers. Lasting for a few minutes only, the bus, filled to its seating capacity, went on with the trip. When we reached Valley Verde 6, we heard a yell from behind (we were seated somewhere in the middle). Unable to make out what the male voice said, we dismissed it as part of a petty fight or an argument. It was only at the sight of a man walking along the aisle, shouting and cursing to the hilt, did we realize that a hold-up was declared. "Sarado mga kurtina! Mga putang-ina niyo!
Hold-up to! Labas niyo mga pera niyo!
I immediately reached for the only important material possession that I knew was worth-saving - my wedding ring. And right beside me, I saw my husband doing the same. I hid the ring under my left thigh. Another holdupper, who seemed to be the leader, stood by the door of the bus. Firmly he said, "Diretso biyahe! Sasabihin ko kung san tayo titigl! Pera lang ang kelangan namin kaya makisama na lang kayo! Kung hindi kayo makikisama pare-pareho tayong mamamatay dito! Isa lang ang bumulilyaso sa inyo damay kayong lahat! Me granadakami dito kaya sasabog tayong lahat! Handa kaming mamatay dito!" A third guy stood at the rear of the bus with a gun and grenade on hand (according to another passenger). He said, "Walang tatayo! Ang tumayo babarilin ko!" Referring to the other holdupper, he said, "Ang tumayo akin ha!" (This really made me sick. The bastard was referring to us like we were some animals being hunted.) The guy in charge of collecting moved around searching pockets, grabbing bags and threatening passengers who refused to surrender their possessions.
He continually shouted, cursed and threatened us with a gun in his hand. At some point, I think, all three holduppers were shouting and cursing at the same time. One would lose track of the number of times the demons said "putang-ina" like it was plain breath coming out of their mouths. The verbal abuse, among other things, was just too much to bear. I started crying. I tried praying but was hardly able to finish one "Our Father" because I was so afraid. All I remember mumbling repeatedly was "Lord please...please." It was a relief somehow that against the devilish voices of our aggressors, I heard my husband repeatedly say, "Wag kang mag-alala okay lang tayo." Must be the faith, I thought.
As soon as the 'collector' came to us, we immediately handed over some cash (which I estimated to be around 3,500.00) and my husband's cellphone. Doing so did not earn, even for a moment, a second thought. (Fortunately though, I was not carrying my cellphone since I left it with our yaya) While the holdupper was at the back doing his task, my husband tucked his wallet into the front of his walking shorts. This really scared me. I begged him to surrender it since the repeated threats were there. Besides, I knew that his life was worth much much more than what the wallet contained - atm and credit cards, a driver's license, a car key, ID cards, money, etc. (He later told me that he wanted badly to keep the driver's license and car key. But then again...)
At this time I was already shaking and crying like hell. While I was with my husband, who was composed throughout the situation, the thought of my young daughter, who was left at home w/ only her yaya, plagued my mind. I was praying fervently that we survive the incident. The thought of not being able to go home to my daughter scared me as well as the thought of my husband being killed should the holduppers discover his wallet. Only after my husband surrendered it that I was relieved of one harrowing thought.
The 'collector' continued to move around for more belongings and once more the threat to everyone, "Pag me nakita akong tinatago babarilin ko mga putang-ina kayo! Ilabas niyo na mga putang-ina kayo kundi magkakamatayan tayo! Yung cellphone! Yung pera! Mga putang-ina kayo!" When he asked some passengers, one by one, to stand in order to check if they're keeping anything underneath them, I grabbed my ring and kept it in the secret pocket of my pants. I asked my husband where his ring was and when he said, "Di ko alam gumulong na ata" I felt he was already safe when our turn comes. So when the bastard did come to us and grabbed my husband by the shirt to check his seat, nothing was found. The holdupper just passed me by. Thank heavens. (Later according to my husband, my condition obviously kept the 'collector' from dealing with me, for fear maybe of any untoward situation that could jeopardize their operation.)
"Maraming kalaban! Relax lang! Relax lang tayo!" shouted the leader, must be at the sight of uniformed men along Ortigas. Then the 'collector' approached a male passenger sitted right in front of us saying, "Ikaw anong tinatago mo diyan? Ilabas mo putang-ina ka!" The passenger was resisting thus he was grabbed by his shirt. By this time, I was so near hysterics since I couldn't bear to witness an innocent being shot before my very eyes. It turned out that the man was hiding some official receipts that were apparently very important to him. This reminded me of a lady across us who struggled to hold on to her bag as the holdupper tried to grab it. It must be more than just a bag, I thought.
'Must have the same reason why my ring is still in my pocket. The holdupper at the rear then shouted, "Yung umiiyak tumigil! Ayoko ng me umiiyak! Yung kunduktor dalin mo dito di pa nakukuhanan yan!" Clearly referring to me, I immediately wiped off my tears and held my sobs. It was a most painful and difficult thing to do but I had no choice. I still wanted to get home to my daughter. And survive the incident with my husband. At this point, I was beginning to feel sick. I felt like my breath was running out and could barely hold myself together.
"Traffic tayo ha! Relax lang! Relax lang! Search niyo lahat pati ilalim! Malapit na tayo!" shouted the leader.
Suddenly, a couple of cellphone beeps was heard. This enraged the holduppers who started cursing and searching again. "Mga putang-ina kayo! Kanino yon! Putang-ina! I felt the urge to tell him that the sound came from behind but I chose to keep mum. The bastard did not deserve any help. Besides, I felt that tipping off would be tantamount to asking him to kill one of the passengers at the back. THE BASTARD DID NOT DESERVE IT. So kept quiet. LET THE SON-OF-A-BITCH DIE SEARCHING, I wished. Also, they were all getting ready to alight since we were already past the junction area. The holdupper was searching in panic like a hungry wolf too eager to find its prey. As I looked at him, he did appear more like an animal than a human being.
The cellphone was not found. As the beasts prepared to alight, their 'collector' stood in the aisle, spat on the floor and looked proudly at all of us, "Anong tinitingin-tingin niyo diyan? Matulog nga kayo!" Almost in unison, we bowed our heads. I was right. THE MAN IS AN ANIMAL. (Later during the day, I told my husband that it must be such a pity if these men had children. I pray they don't. And only wish they'd never.)
"Malapit na tayo ha! Prepare! Prepare!" yelled the leader. The guys are professional criminals, I thought, based on their moves, confidence and nonchalance. They were obviously fearless for conducting the heist for almost half an hour. These men must really be ready to die for them to take their time in the bus. (God protect others from these people.) "Walang bababa sa inyo ha! Sabay-sabay kayong bababa kung san kayo dadalin ng drayber!" yelled the leader. At this point, I feared that all of us will be brought to some isolated place where greater danger awaits us. ('Thank God it didn't happen.)
A few meters away from the G-Liner Terminal in Cainta, the three hold-upmen alighted. Fortunately, we did not hear any explosion. Thank God. And as soon as I knew that they were gone, I let out a really big scream, with all the remaining energy I could muster. And with my husband beside me, I cried like I've never cried before. (Thanks God for Your mercy.)
Inside the G-Liner Compound, as we stood to leave, my husband picked up a ring that he found on my seat saying, "Mommy, singsing mo". In between sobs, I said, "Hindi akin yan. Sa yo yan." He insisted that it was mine since he knew that his ring rolled down from where we sat and couldn't find it. Slowly, I took the ring out of my secret pocket. With God's help and mercy, we were able to save two things that were so valuable to us. Aside, of course, God saved our lives.
Later on we realized that God did protect us from harm during our ordeal. Fortunately, my husband's ring rolled out from underneath him thus the holdupper didn't find anything on his seat. All the time that the bastard was searching, I knew that there was nothing underneath me and yet it turned out that my husband's was there. But, with God's grace, I was not searched. We were protected by God. This was the only good thing about the entire experience. Prayers. Answers.
Presently, I am still recovering from the trauma of what happened to us. I know that the thoughts will keep coming back. And it will probably take time before I can look back at what happened and simply charge it to experience. I have cried some more since after the incident. The trauma of having been violated, of having been deprived of peace of mind, of being threatened with death and being nagged with the thought that an innocent 2-year old may have been orphaned, had God not been there to protect us, are just too painful to forget. The sight of guns, the brutal shouts and demands, the curses...(Lord save all other innocent people from these men.)
I guess it will take time before I will take buses, esp. airconed ones, again. Probably, I would choose to bear the heat and the murderous smoke of Metro Manila rather than to be cloistered in a similar vehicle and be at the mercy of bastards whose souls will probably burn in hell even before they die. These tinted, curtained buses are genuine risks to public commuters' safety.
Finally, listen to that voice that tries to tell you something sometimes. For some reasons we do not know, my husband felt the urge to transfer to another bus while we were in front of SM Centerpoint in Manila. I felt the urge to stop by Robinsons Galleria for some stuff but chose not to. 'Must have been the angels trying to warn us of an impending danger... That was the longest, scariest, most terrifying about-30 minutes of my entire life. But God is good and merciful. He gave us exactly what we prayed for.
This is second life, my husband told me (and which he said his boss told him). It is. But not everyone gets a second chance at life. I could only hope and pray to be able to live it a lot better than the first time...