Archive for September 1st, 2011

Accidental Prisoner

To ensure the safety and the security of foreign and local tourists in the country and to assist in maintaining peace and order within areas with high traffic of tourists, the Tourist Police unit of the Philippine National Police was created under Republic Act 9593 known as the Tourism Act of 2009.

In Manila, where different tourist spots such as Luneta, Malate, Intramuros, and Baywalk are located, this group can be seen patrolling the area. Policemen and women wearing blue shirts and shorts, belonging to a bike patrol unit, guard these places. The uniform is used to differentiate them from other units, and also to make them appear more friendly and less intimidating to visitors.

At the corner of Kalaw Avenue and Orosa, inside the Tourist Police Station, a 29-year-old Swiss national has been seeking refuge there for almost three weeks now.

A sales agent by profession, David Archetti wanted to experience Manila after spending 6 years in Cebu with his ex-wife. Upon arrival on June 27, 2011, he met a taxi driver who introduced him to different unscrupulous people. These people later stole his belongings, including his passport, cellphone, and his wallet. They left him with only 400 pesos in his pocket.

With no place to stay, David walked around the streets of Manila and slept inside a church for three nights until the deacon told him he couldn’t stay there any longer. Wandering at 11 p.m., he passed by along Kalaw Avenue and saw the Tourist Police sign outside the station. “Tourist police… I’m a tourist, maybe they can tell me what to do,” David remembered uttering to himself.

He later asked Police Sr. Inspector Jovan Sicat, chief of the station, if he can stay there for the night. Sicat allowed him to stay. He ate cheese macaroni with the police on that first night in the station.

The following morning, David told the police officers what really happened to him. He also related how he needs to raise 4,500 pesos to pay the penalty for his return ticket.

David found out that his family back in Switzerland is not willing to help him out of his situation after warning him not to go back to the Philippines. His ex-wife sent him 450 pesos and said that is all she can give.

Since then, David has been staying inside the station hoping to raise the money for the penalty so he can go home. The officers have been helping him for his daily needs, from food to medicine for his toothache and even his mobile phone load.

David, in turn, tries to help with the daily chores in the station like sweeping the floor, cleaning the dishes and buying the policemen food from the nearby fast-food station.

To keep himself busy, he joins the bike patrol keeping watch in the Luneta area. In the evening, he sometimes accompanies the men on night duty stationed at the Harbour Square.

David says he enjoys his stay at the police station because people are friendly and he feels very safe. “I feel very good and comfortable here, actually almost enjoying my time here at the station. But I want to go because it can not be that I’m living here by people giving me 15 or 20 pesos, giving me ulam. That cannot be my life.”

One day, a detainee at the station asked him to buy food for himself and gave him 100 pesos. David said to himself, “This is bad. Because the prisoner has more money than me. And the street beggar also. I’m the poorest of all.”

When asked if he still wants to come back to Manila after he goes back to Switzerland, David promptly replied, “Yes! Because I have now many friends here in the tourist police station already.”

David wants to leave soon but he also wants to be back soon. He says he wants to go back to his country and work again until he saves enough money to return to the Philippines.

“Even though with bad experiences, I know that I want to live here. It took me ten years to find this kind of good friends like I found here. Nine years I found not one real. And now so many in a short time…,” David added.

by Rem Zamora

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.