A thief entered my sanctum sanctorum before dawn on Sunday on a street in Quezon City called Mayaman, which means wealthy in Filipino.
People who live there can actually never ever make the Forbes’ list.
Footprints on the tiled floor in the terrace indicate the intruder entered my place by climbing my neighbor’s fence.
Why he picked on me boggles the mind.
Maybe it’s because there was that plastic bucket lying around to water the plants. He took the steel handle and used it to pry loose the glass window on my living room. He did it like a real pro.
In the morning, the maid saw the door ajar. Chills ran up her spine and she looked around.
My library on the second floor was a mess.
Office papers and notebooks from my bag, as well as documents on my desk, were scattered all over the room.
Searching for papers?
Was he looking for incriminating evidence in the P10-billion scam, the story of which the Inquirer has been running the past several days?
Gone were my cell phones—a prepaid Apple and a postpaid Samsung Galaxy. I reported the loss of the latter to the telephone company. And here’s the kicker there: If I don’t go to the provider’s office and get a new SIM card pronto, I would still be slapped the usual P1,800 monthly bill.
The P4,000 in my wallet was gone—my tennis allowance for 15 days and part of my poker winnings that night.
My brother, himself a break-in victim who was eyeballing my house where we had a little party to celebrate the birthday of my late father on Saturday, had told me, “Boy, it is easy for a thief to get in here.”
I didn’t pay him too much attention, still woozy at my poker winnings and the fact that hours earlier, I had creamed my regular tormentor 15 years my junior on the tennis court.
I wondered why he didn’t take my iPad, a MacBook Air I bought two weeks ago, a Kindle Fire my daughter in San Francisco had sent me so I can get The New York Times, another Kindle from my son who had stuffed it with books I have always wanted to read but never got to, and two Montblanc pens—souvenirs from friends in my Geneva working days.
These were on my chair, obviously part of the loot. For some reason, the thief did not carry them in his flight.
It was possible the break-in happened during one of my nocturnal meanderings. I wake up every hour or so to go to the bathroom.
The interloper left behind a plastic packet containing 13 peso coins on the sofa in the living room downstairs. Because the caper obviously was planned for the night of the 13th, my brother-in-law says it could be a warning. A former town mayor, he says he’s heard of a gun-for-hire gang called “Trece.”
I said these guys didn’t have to spook me; I am already scared.
What was frightening was the footlong knife—taken from our kitchen—lying on the sofa bed in the library beside my bedroom, in the midst of the paper mess.
Close calls flashed through my mind:
Instinctively ducking a rock thrown at me by a riot police during a protest against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos as violence raged through the night, the projectile slamming on the steel door of a bookstore on Azcarraga, now Recto Avenue, several blocks from the Palace gates, whistling just a teeny weeny bit over my head.
Escaping an ambush in Burundi following the genocide in Rwanda; thugs hunting the wounded in the hospital in Dili during the civil war in East Timor; attempts to kidnap me in Kinshasha and Tehran.
Seeing the wrong end of a Kalashnikov from a Serbian paramilitary in Kosovo on the eve of the US bombing of Serbia while my driver and I were trying to help evacuate a besieged village.
It’s not possible that after decades of covering several dozen wars, civil conflicts and disasters in the Balkans, the Middle East, Asia and Africa as a reporter and humanitarian worker, I would meet my fate in my own home.
All with Nancy
This was the second time in three months that a thief had sneaked into my apartment.
In April, the culprit didn’t venture beyond the yard. He got a pair of Babolat tennis shoes I bought in Hong Kong, a candy-colored Shimano mountain bike, which my son used to get him to the train station from my old home in Switzerland ages ago, and a pouch of coins in the SUV for watch-your-car boys.
I’ve been scratching my white hair since the weekend break-in. If the man was looking for the papers in the P10-billion scam, he went to the wrong place. They’re with Nancy with the laughing face.