Four days into our month-long stay in Boracay, our apartment got broken into. In the dead middle of the night.
In the morning, I walked out into the living room and reached for my toiletries bag sitting on a shelf. It wasn’t there. Okay no biggie, I thought. I just misplaced it. I paced around the tiny living room, lifting cushions and shifting chairs. A few seconds later, I saw my toothbrush and Invisalign braces (both of which I stored in my bag) sitting in the kitchen sink.
Now something was definitely not right. I may be absentminded at times, but I knew I wasn’t that frazzled that I would mistaken the kitchen sink for my toiletries bag.
“Something happened!” I burst back into the bedroom where D was still in bed. “My bag is gone and my toothbrush is in the sink!” I probably sounded like a crazy person.
It took me only moments later to figure out that my camera (the light DSLR I had splurged on after the point-and-shoot got pickpocketed in Chile) was also gone.
And then, I knew. We’d been robbed while we slept, just a door away.
After a quick inventory check, our missing items came out to: my Cannon camera, our tube of toothpaste, my toiletries bag containing all my makeup, and D’s Havaianas flip flops.
Apparently the thief didn’t care for the Ray-Bans that were sitting right next to my toiletries bag. And he was oh so kind to throw back out my toothbrush and braces. Because you know, that would have been really cruel to rob someone of their dental care items.
Initially, we were pretty bummed. D moaned the loss of his flip flops (really?!), while I moaned the loss of my camera, which had been a major splurge.
We notified our airbnb host/building manager of the incident. Later in the afternoon, we bumped into her again talking with a couple of others. “They lost stuff last night too,” she said. “He got his mangos stolen.” “And they took my panties!” the other woman piped up.
Really? Others lost mangos and panties? Mangos and panties! As if this is supposed to be some huge consolatory revelation!
But in all honesty, I wasn’t all that upset. Mostly, we marveled that nothing worse had happened. My passport and credit cards were left untouched, a miracle in itself. And no one had barged into our bedroom brandishing kitchen knives and demanding our electronics as well. Really, it could have been a lot worse.
Before long, we were laughing over the odd assortment of items that the thief deemed steal-worthy (toothpaste and not Ray-Bans?!). I could even see the humor in the fact that I managed to get two cameras stolen within a year. D bought some fake Havianas for $4 on the beach and soon, apart from the new habit of sleeping with a dresser pushed up against the bedroom door, we more or less forgot about the incident.
Life on the island went on as normal. No one wears makeup to the beach anyway and I was happy not to lug around a camera in the heat. I didn’t miss any of the stuff that had been stolen. In some ways, it even left like a reprieve.
It wouldn’t be days later until I discovered that something else was gone.
Remember how D and I slept in separate bedrooms for a couple of nights? We lasted exactly two nights apart before I moved myself and my clothes into D’s room. But here was my mistake: I had left my backpack sitting in the second bedroom as there was nothing I immediately needed in it. Of course in retrospect, I shouldn’t have left it there. But what can I say, I never thought anything would happen. I thought the entire apartment was our safe place.
Two nights after I moved out of the second bedroom, we got robbed.
The next morning, I did a quick once-over and nothing appeared missing or out of place in the second bedroom. So I just assumed that the thief had only performed a quick swipe of the living room before high-tailing it out of there.
A few days later, I noticed a couple of clips laying next to my backpack. Immediately, I knew where they came from. I had put a couple of clips around a small coin purse, containing one single gold pendant.
This pendant was given to me by someone very special. Someone who believed in me and supported my dreams and treated me as family. Just before I left on my travels, he bestowed upon me a gift of his own family’s tradition: a Saint Christopher charm given to those embarking on a journey in order to bring the traveler back home safely.
At the time, this act brought me to tears. As we said goodbye, I clutched the pendant and cried and promised that I’ll be safe.
Though it is precious in material, its significance to me is priceless (it could have been made of plastic and it’d still be worth more to me than diamonds). D had advised me not to bring it on our travels, but I couldn’t leave it behind. So I put it in a pouch, and put that pouch inside a hidden pocket for safekeeping. It may be silly, but every time I felt nervous on a flight, I thought of that charm tucked in my backpack, keeping me safe.
Already knowing what I would find, I reached inside the secret pocket. Just as I thought, the coin pouch was gone.
Immediately, I started shaking from rage. This was not just a quick swipe of the living room. Someone had sat there, and meticulously searched through all the pockets of my backpack until they struck gold (literally).
I wasn’t mad about losing the other stuff. But now, I was absolutely livid.
“I don’t want to be here anymore,” I told D. The thought of someone on this island walking around with my charm, unaware and uncaring that they stole a piece of someone’s heart, made me sick.
That day, I looked up flights out of Boracay. Over dramatic, yes, but our time here had been marred and how can I enjoy the rest of it now? Unfortunately, they were all more than I was willing to pay.
So we stuck out the rest of our month on the island (I know… boo hoo, poor us, stuck on an island). I ended up having a perfectly good time even though this heartache lingered in the background. When our stay was up, I found myself simultaneously sad to leave and relieved to get to a new place where the memories aren’t so tainted.
It’s been a month now since the robbery and I’ve yet to replace any of the stolen items. I’ve learned that I don’t feel any less confident without makeup and I take pictures just fine with my iPhone. If anything, this incident has one positive in that it’s simplified my life even further. I no longer have a bulging bag of makeup that I hardly use or a camera I was constantly afraid of breaking. This literal lightening of the load also feels like a burden lifted, though the loss of Saint Christopher still hangs heavy on my heart.
I guess in some weird way, this incident taught me what’s important to me. But thief, you’re still a bastard. (And I hope karma gets you.)
Have you been robbed while traveling?
P.S. Next post will be more uplifting! The rest of our month on Boracay really did turn out perfectly alright. Next, I’ll show you a typical day in the life on Boracay!