As I arrived in Cebu, the second biggest city in The Philippines, I felt even stronger a feeling I felt in Angeles – that it’s not safe and I have to be careful.
When it comes to safety, I had been spoiled traveling the past few months in Peru, considerably safer than Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, then home for some time, then Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.
So, it had been months since I had to think about my safety in a serious way and plan my days around being safe and secure.
But upon arriving to The Philippines, I realized I’m neither Dorothy, nor in Kansas anymore. I have to be careful again.
I’d say The Philippines looked a lot like Central America. There is rampant poverty with some super nice areas of the cities (typically malls), yet extremely nice people. Still, conditions were ripe for theft.
When in crowds I instinctively felt myself keeping my hands near my pockets to avoid pickpockets. When not in crowds, I felt even worse. As I mentioned, the people here are very nice and often if someone’s purse gets stolen, for example, a passerby will chase down the criminal. But when I was walking along a street all by myself, as I did while going to the immigration office or near the pier, I felt very uncomfortable.
It’s a tax on the mind, really. And it’s very much an unwanted tax.
In Latin America, at least I kind of blended in with my brown skin as I walked down the street. As long as I didn’t talk, people probably assumed I was Latin – not necessarily from their country, but maybe another in Latin America.
In The Philippines I can’t blend in. It’s obvious I’m a foreigner. This increased my paranoia.
Unfortunately, as you’ll find out soon, my paranoia was warranted as my fourth brush with thieves saw me losing against them for the first time… just after writing this article ironically.