A WARNING TO ALL WHO RIDE CABS
by: Kei Contreras
I have had numerous encounters with cab drivers all over Metro Manila. I am probably the most unfortunate cab passenger there is in the metro. From being overcharged to almost getting assaulted–name it and I’ve experienced it. My friends actually aren’t surprised anymore everytime they read a Facebook post from me sharing another cab incident. They have gotten so used to it that seeing another cab post from me isn’t new anymore. My sister, on the other hand, already declared that she will never take public transportation with me, fearing that she would also get into trouble because of my misfortunes. But since I am a person, who just lets things pass after a day of ranting and cussing because of these cabs, I just forget about them. I am still alive anyway and my life, among other things, is what I am more concerned about.
I normally take a cab when going to work. I am a Quezon City girl working in Makati. Going to work has always been such a pain. I’ve tried braving the MRT in the morning, but I only got squeezed to death. I’ve tried taking the jeepney, but all I got was a bubble gum stuck on my top’s collar, thanks to some prick who eventually stole my mobile phone. I don’t really mind the pricey fare; what matters more to me is getting to my destination alive.
Yesterday was just another normal Friday. One of our helpers went with me to help me get a cab. God knows how hard it is to get one on a weekday. Surprisingly yesterday, a cab was already waiting at that area where I usually wait. The driver, a thin dark-skinned guy in his mid-20s, was signaling me to get in the cab. I told him where my destination is. He was willing to take me to Makati, but he told me that the cab is not calibrated yet, so he kindly asked for an additional PhP40. I thought it was just okay, so I said yes. When I got in the cab, I told him to take the Santolan-EDSA route. He wanted to take the C5 route, but I insisted on taking the former. Despite the heavy traffic, I feel safer there because of the huge number of vehicles taking EDSA. He did not argue with me anymore and just took the route that I told him to take.
I nicely engaged him in a conversation. I asked him why the cab isn’t calibrated yet and told him that he may get shortchanged if he doesn’t get it calibrated. He just told me that the owner has not fixed it yet. I asked him how many of their cabs are not calibrated. He said there’s two of them.
While we were along Katipunan Avenue en route to Boni Serrano Extension, I saw him getting something from his right pocket and then sprayed it in the cab’s aircondition. It smelled like powder to me. I thought it was just nothing, so I didn’t mind him. He did this several times while looking at me in the rearview mirror. I caught him several times looking at me. It felt like he was waiting for something to happen to me. I was weirded out by what he was doing so I texted my mom the cab’s name and plate number (LADY ALLEN NYT618). I do not usually do this when I take the cab in the morning; I just do this at night. Being a constant victim of heartless and rude cab drivers, I familiarized myself with the different modi operandi used by cab drivers to catch their preys. Unfortunately for me, this was one of them.
I tried sniffing to see if I would feel something weird. I thought I was just being paranoid. The driver repeatedly sprayed while watching me in his rearview mirror. When we finally got to Boni Serrano, nearing Santolan, the scent got stronger and stronger. It was hurting my nose and head so much that it was already making me dizzy and shaky. When I started shaking, I told the driver immediately to pull over because I will go down. He did not dare say a word and stopped the cab. I did not start any argument. In my mind, I needed to get out of the cab and save myself from a possible holdup, or worse, rape. I was shaking so bad that I could not even hold my money properly. They all fell from my wallet. It started raining hard that moment I stepped out of hell. The moment I got out of it, I called my mom and told her what happened. I asked her to pick me up.
I posted what happened on Facebook. A former colleague commented and said that she had a bad experience with a LADY ALLEN cab (TWH933) last Friday evening (July 29). She chatted with me and narrated her story. She lives in Valenzuela, so she took the cab after a night-out with her friends. Just like me, she also engaged the driver in a conversation to gauge how safe she will be in his hands. After a few minutes of chit-chat, the driver asked for her number and unhesitatingly invited her to have sex with him. She was so scared that she pretended to call her husband telling him to wait for her. The moment she saw a guy waiting on the roadside, she went out of the cab.
After what happened to me and my friend, I came up with these assumptions:
1. Upon learning what happened, an officemate told me that a warning text message criculated a few years back about that same cab that I took (LADY ALLEN NYT618) warning people of its modus operandi. I feel that LADY ALLEN has been gone for a while, hence the uncalibrated meter.
2. The two uncalibrated cabs, which the driver was referring to was probably my cab (LADY ALLEN NYT618) and my friend’s cab (TWH933).
3. The driver did not argue with me anymore when I told him to pull over because he probably thought I already know what he was doing. We were not even halfway my destination, but I decided to go down because I caught him several times looking at me while he was spraying the thing in the aircondition.
I am very grateful that I had presence of mind when this horrible incident happened. I was still sane enough to stop the cab despite the indescribable fear and panic that I felt during this horrifying moment. I am also thankful that I decided not to plug in my iPod’s earphones and just observed the driver instead.
I have no idea if the cab driver was able to victimize anyone yesterday, but I sincerely hope that he was not successful in hurting anyone. I will do all the necessary actions to ensure that what happened to me and my friend will not happen to anyone again. I am also calling out everyone to always be alert anywhere you go. Things like this are inevitable. The least we can do is shield ourselves from predators out there waiting for their prey to fall on their hands.
I am tagging my friends from the media. Please help me in warning your loved ones and friends about the abovementioned cabs. I seriously hope this will be of help to everyone.
A Warning to All Who Ride Cabs in Manila Philippines