On October 14, 2014, at around 5 pm or so, I was walking up Roxas Blvd along Manila Bay, towards the ferris wheel. There were many people hanging around, some just lounging, some were fishing in the bay. I had just passed Aristocrats Restaurant when I was approached by 2 women, a chubby light-skinned Filipina with a round face, that looked to be in her early 30's and about 5 feet tall, with dyed light brown hair that was just past her shoulders, and the other looked to be in her 60's and was very petite, maybe 4'9, with a darker complexion and short black hair. She was dressed in a purple top, and what looked to be a traditional Filipino style purple skirt, and purple plastic thong sandals.
The younger woman complimented me on my green dress, she said green was her favorite color. She also said she liked my height, and how did I get so tall? She was wearing a t-shirt that accentuated her bulbous belly, and jean shorts. The 2 women asked me what my name was and told me theirs', the younger chubby one was named Karyn, and the older petite one was named Imelda. They asked if this was my first visit to Manila and I replied that it was.
I asked if they were visiting Manila as well and they told me that they had had to evacuate their home in Legazpi, south of Mayon volcano, that the impending eruptions had led to volcanic ash contaminating the air and their water supply. They asked me whether I was alone, and if I had any plans. I said I didn't. They said they were on their way to visit a church made of all metal and said I should see the church and ride in a jeepney, and asked if I would like to come along. I took some selfies with Karyn since she was seated next to me in the jeepney, and she warned me about letting others see expensive phones. She said people snatch phones out of jeepneys all the time, and necklaces also. She looked at my necklace and asked what it was made of. I told her it was white gold. In retrospect, I should have said it was tinfoil. She was wearing a white gold ring with a small white diamond set in it on her left middle finger.
Me in a jeepney.
San Sebastian Church in Quiapo
Imelda and Karyn walked around like they knew the area very well, and we ended up at a small non-descript local shop that served beer and had a karaoke machine. Karyn and Imelda insisted that I have some beer. Imelda said she was very stressed about having to evacuate her home and needed to relax with a beer, and I should drink with her. Karen and Imelda wanted to sing karaoke, but the shop was obviously closing soon, so we went to Golden Banana Eatery. Imelda said her male relative would be joining us, but she said she didn't tell him they were with a foreign guest, as he was very shy, and still single. We ordered a few rounds of San Miguel, lechon, mami, buttered chicken, and sang several karaoke songs. Karyn went to 7-11 during dinner, but was gone for quite some time. She had some candy in her hand when she came back and fed it to me. I went to the toilet once while we were at Golden Banana Eatery. Yes, my glass was unattended.
A few rounds of beer will not normally make me feel even slightly intoxicated, mind you. I remember paying 500 pesos of the 1100 peso bill, because I ordered the majority of the food and ate most of it. I vaguely remember Karyn taking my necklace off, and me grabbing it from her fat hand and stuffing it in my pouch. I remember walking out of the Golden Banana Eatery, and I think Karyn was holding my hand, which I thought was strange.
I was also convinced that I had to go to the atm, but I was very groggy at that point and didn't know why I was at the atm in the first place because I had cash in my wallet, and I noticed Karyn was peering at the keypad. Perhaps I had been coerced into going to the atm? I told her I needed privacy when I saw her keep looking over my shoulder. I don't remember anything after this. I have a bunch of receipts that say no money was dispensed due to incorrect pin entry, thank Buddha. If I remember correctly, I had $22, 2500 baht, and 7,000 pesos in my wallet before i ran into Karyn and Imelda.
I must have fallen down at some point because I have a scrape on my right elbow and a small abrasion on my right pinky finger. I remember bits of staggering into Tune Hotel Ermita lobby, and blacking out. I woke up fully clothed, alone, and in my hotel bed. The next day, I was very very groggy and went downstairs to buy food at 7-11, but struggled to walk. The 7-11 clerk said i owed her 160 pesos from the previous night, so I paid her. I had a few hundred pesos left in my wallet, but everything else was cleared out. My white gold necklace, worth $250, was also gone. All the photos of Karyn, Imelda, and I, had been deleted. I'm surprised they hadn't taken my camera or my cellphones. The 7-11 security guard asked me if I remembered what had happened the previous night. I was so groggy I didn't think to ask him why? I even missed my flight to Puerto Princesa City that day because I was so disoriented.
I've traveled solo through all of Southeast Asia and parts of Western Europe, and I usually have my wits about me, but being drugged and robbed is not a situation I ever imagined myself in, and I don't wish it upon anyone. I later read that there is at least one robbery every day in Ermita, and that local authorities have done nothing to protect tourists. Be warned when visiting Manila. There are scam artists everywhere, starting at NAIA Airport with non-metered white van taxis that charge 5 times the normal metered fare. You are forewarned.