Something was off. At around 1:30 p.m. I wondered why Miguel hadn't texted me on his whereabouts. He lets me know when he's left school, where he rides (van, LRT or jeepney) and even tells me when he's on our street already. He greets me with a kiss and a big hug when he gets home. We text more often when I'm out for meetings and today was one of those days.
Miguel texted me at around 11 in the morning that he was on the way home. He rode a jeepney at EDSA together with 2 classmates. I put my phone beside my plate while eating to wait for his update. I expected him to be home by noon, but by 1 p.m. I started to wonder why he hadn't sent me any message. After my lunch meeting I tried to reach him but he wasn't picking up the call. At 2 p.m. I had to settle down and focus on my meeting, but I couldn't help but feel that something was wrong. I managed to call my Mom before my meeting started and told her that I was worried already. I was so distracted during the meeting because I was praying for Miguel's safety. One of my messages to him was, "Where are you? You are going to give me a heart attack from worrying."
At 3 in the afternoon I finally got a message from Miguel. He used my Mom's phone and his message read, "I'm okay now. Na-budol-budol kami." So here's his recount of what happened --
They went down at SM Bicutan. On the escalator a guy trailed after them and convinced them that he could teach them how to protect themselves (something about anti-hazing). He wanted to give him his business card but said it was with his companion. He managed to get them to move to building B of SM Bicutan and from there convinced them (now with three other students from another school) to go to Yellow Cab along Dona Soledad.
They didn't order anything at Yellow Cab and I wonder why the crew didn't even notice since they were there for about an hour. The guy asked them to go back to SM Bicutan and had them leave their bags and valuables in Yellow Cab. They thought that it was okay since one of the students was asked to stay behind to keep an eye on their things. Half-way to SM Bicutan Miguel told his classmate that they should just go back to Yellow Cab and get their things. His friend said that they should just go with it and they did and walked to SM.
Much to their surprise the other student followed them at SM Bicutan and when they went back to Yellow Cab their stuff was gone. According to SM Bicutan security this is not the first time this modus operandi happened and oftentimes the robber brings the kids to either Yellow Cab and Chow King (on Dona Soledad, it's closed now).
As a parent I've been teaching Miguel not to talk to strangers, much less go with them, since he was a kid. He's been commuting on his own for just 2 months now and I kinda expected something like this would happen. I'm just glad that he wasn't hurt and had the sense to go straight to his Lola's house after the incident. The guard at Yellow Cab said that the 2 robbers was joined by another guy when they left (probably a back-up in case of any trouble).
I'm pretty sure these establishments and our local police already has a long list of reports of similar nature. I wonder though if they really catch any of the offenders. I guess not since they don't really do any follow-up. My bag that was stolen at SMX was never found.
I just told Miguel to be more alert and not to talk to strangers, much less go with them. These things happen to the best of us and the best I can do for now is to remind him and coach him how to handle situations like this. And, of course, pray.