One of the questions I get the most about my trip is weren’t you scared? Did you ever feel in danger? My response is always a shoulder shrug, I mean I guess there were a few times where I was a little more than outside my comfort zone…the bus ride in Rajasthan, India when nobody spoke English and Katy and I were the only white tourists and had no idea what was going on. Or the time I almost drowned in Sydney. But a favorite of mine is when we randomly found ourselves in the most dangerous area in Manila.
It’s 6-7am, Brad, Charlie, and I are stumbling off our overnight ferry ride from Coron and we have yet to call our hostel. We assumed we needed to give them a heads up we were coming so early so we were in search of some Internet to get the phone number. We asked locals around us and the pointed us in the direction. 3 gringos (Charlie in his cowboy hat) carrying our packs strolling through this run down neighborhood. I was snapping pics and we were greeting the friendly Filipinos. Stopped for some fresh baked goods, waved to the kids heading to school, just completely oblivious of where we were in Manila. When I stepped out of the 7-11, I had my iPhone in hand. The next thing I hear is 3 people around me whisper “iPhone.” I quickly hide it and look for the guys to come out of the shop.
In one quick second some guy when sprinting passed Brad and a guy jumped out of a car and pulled out a gun yelling “He took something out of your bag!” Completely thrown off Brad check all his important shit and realized he had everything. Maybe the guy got a pack of cigs, but all was good minus me witnessing a guy whip out a gun 5ft of where I was standing. We quickly decided we needed to get the hell out of there and headed to the busy intersection we had just walked by. Brad and Charlie’s backs were to the guy with the gun so they missed it, but this wasn’t the end. We get to the intersection and immediately have 30 people yelling at us. Taxi, rickshaw, bike rickshaw, jeepney any option available. Charlie walks up to a cab and I follow. As we are getting in I look for Brad and he’s running towards us waving, we all hop in the cab and slam the doors. The cabbie locks the doors and starts yelling, “why are you here, why are you in this neighborhood.” Then I realize Brad is shaking in shock and tells us his iPhone was stolen. Some guy, maybe the same one, grabbed it out of his pocket while we were grabbing a cab. Brad screamed to us but everyone was screaming at us. He without thinking took off after the guy and got close enough to trip him. Down when his phone and he grabbed it. While picking up he watched one gun get pulled out and another flashed. He backed away slowly and ran back to us. We had no idea, it all happened so fast. Then the cabbie starts telling us that Tondo is the most dangerous neighborhood in Manila. Full of old gangsters, mafia guys, and heaps of crime. At night he won’t drive near it because they’ll stop his car hold a knife to his throat and take everything valuable. Great. Just a couple of dumb white foreigners strolling through a super dangerous area at 7am.
We got back to the hostel safe although a little shaken up. Looked up Tondo and read its one of the most densely populated areas in the world with about 65k people per kilometer! Insane. Well, chalk it up as an experience, an adventure we did not mean to have and a story that falls in the “Were you ever scared while traveling” category.