It’s been 7 months since this happened and the reason I never wrote about it on the road was because I honestly didn’t want this story to get back to my mom. I know I have written many crazy things, but I know this would have made her want me home immediately. I am finally sharing it because I think I’m finally caught up on all the wrap up post you know like how much it cost to travel the world for 2 years, random travel statistics, answering all your questions, my toe touches around the world and what my passport looks like now. Well here it is the post about the night I was arrested and almost went to jail in Manila. Oh & yes I’ve told my mom she couldn’t believe it and thanked me for not telling her until I was home safe.
It was Sunday, November 4th when it happened, the entire day leading up to the night I had told myself I was not going to drink, because the night before had already been crazy and fun enough. I also mentioned that I needed to get the fuck out of the Philippines because with rHum and Beer so cheap I have no self control and just drink and drink. Oh & also get naked at hostels. A few of us from the hostel went out for dinner and even then mentioned we weren’t going to drink. After dinner we were back at the hostel with nothing to do so what do we do? We start drinking beer at the hostel bar downstairs. We order a bucket of Red Horse Beer our preferred beer because it’s good & “extra strong”.
—One of my favorite beers in the world.—
One bucket lead to another and another after that. Now we all had a good buzz going and decided to go out to one of the clubs nearby. Since it was a Sunday night we didn’t think much would be going on anywhere. We walked into one club & is was completely empty so decided to cross the street to another, we walk in and hot damn it was full and in full swing. I was done drinking I told my self I had had enough, but then one of our friends bought everyone a beer and well I am not one to say no to a free drink (unless I am driving). The night was young and we danced away, laughed and had a blast. I even met a few men from Iran and we chatted away about politics and then they too bought a few of us a drink. We were having a blast, and it eventually got late and everyone was ready to head home. I wasn’t just yet so stayed behind and kept dancing and then thought I had the brilliant idea of visiting a gay bar that was behind our hostel.
—Inside the club in Manila.—
So I made my way to the gay bar. I got there and they had a 400peso ($10) cover charge. I couldn’t justify spending that much for going to a gay bar. So stayed outside talking to a guy for a while he then later asked me to go to quieter street to talk so did. I didn’t think anything of it…
Then out of no where cops stormed us and handcuffed us. I was so confused… no clue what was happening they weren’t speaking English I kept asking what was going on and they said I had drugs. I entered into panic mode and for some reason I don’t know why when that happens I am in full control of my actions. I said I had nothing on me… I was scared shit-less, I know my face showed it, but my voice didn’t. They insisted I had drugs on me and was trying to sale marijuana to the other guy because he had marijuana on him. I let them know I did not have any drugs on me and don’t do them. They asked me “what are you on?” I told them “I’m on RED HORSE”… I repeated that a few times and kept telling them “NO…I CAN’T GO TO JAIL”.
In my head I knew for a fact I had to get the fuck out of this situation or I could spend the rest of my life in jail in a developing country with a corrupt system for no reason. I know this sounds ignorant, but I’ve seen enough of Locked Up Abroad and heard horror stories of shit like this happening around the world. I kept telling myself calm down and find a way to get out of this. I still couldn’t believe I was in handcuffs in Manila about to go to jail.
They said I must accompany them to the hospital to get tested for drugs and then go to jail. I needed to get on their motorcycle to do so. I said “look you have arrested me for no reason I have not done anything at all and you know it. I won’t get on the bike unless you unhand-cuff me. If anything happens I will die because I do not have my hands free.” I had a plan in mind already I knew the hostel was going to be around the corner it was going to be crazy, but I didn’t give a fuck, I know how helpless it feels to be in jail and was not going to go through that again and much less in a developing country.
They made sure I was going to cooperate with them unhand-cuffed me I got on the bike… and pretended I was scared. He said “hold on” so I did. He accelerated and as soon as we turned the corner at full speed I saw the hostel. I jumped off the bike, he grabbed my hand I tugged down almost making him fall off the bike and ran inside the hostel.
I yelled at the receptionist “cops are trying to arrest me for no reason don’t let them take me”. I ran upstairs to get my friend Robyn (I met her in Koh Tao and she was from Houston too). I barged into the girls dorm and couldn’t even think of her name. I woke her up and asked her 3 times “what is your name?” and then let her know what was happening. I was still in panic mode. I gave her my wallet my card pin numbers, my passwords for everything (checking, savings and retirement accounts)… I thought I was going to jail and knew once I was in I would have no contact with the outside world. I also got all the cash I had in my wallet and made Robyn give me a bit more making it 1500pesos ($37.50). I let her know how much money I had in my accounts and in my retirement account and let her know that I didn’t care how much it cost to get me out of here, she must get me out of here and that I am a man of my word and will pay every penny back.
I had been upstairs a while when the receptionist came and let me know that I must go down and speak to the cops. I was so scared I need to use the toilet. I was so scared that I used the toilet with the door open so that the receptionist and Robyn could be my witness that I was not flushing anything down. I made my way down and had one thing in mind “I CAN NOT GO TO JAIL”. I stayed away from the cops and asked what they wanted? I let them know again… that they knew I did not have any drugs on me. I mentioned to them that I had been traveling for over 20 months and had not once done drugs for this very reason.
I ended up talking to the cops for over an hour, I don’t even know what the hell we talked about for that long or how I manged this. I was getting tired and finally said “Look you both know I did nothing, but what can I do to make this problem go away?” They said “Oh no no we are not like that we don’t accept bribes.“ I then repeated myself showing some cash in my hand that time he said “You’ll need to talk to my boss.” I said “okay call him over”. I talked to the boss for a bit and then put the money in his hand and said, “Look you know I did nothing so please take this and let’s make this go away”. He laughed and hugged me and then walked away with 1500 pesos in his hands.
I couldn’t believe any of that… I was still in shock, my mouth was dry so dry it really looked like I was on drugs because I kept licking my lips as if I was on ecstasy. I drank a lot of water ran to my dorm got my laptop and messaged my family and friends of what happened with all my information. I was still scared they would come back for me and act as if I never gave them money and continue saying I did have drugs on me. By this time it was already past 6am and I was exhausted… I was so scared I made Robyn sleep with me on my dorm bed & she did.
The next day I was still scared and trying to analyze everything. Nothing was making sense, but I called the US Embassy in Manila anyway. I wanted to make sure they knew what happened and had my side of the story documented in case anything happened. They suggested I change hostels, because if they were cops and did come back I would have to obey them and go with them so did. I packed my things let Robyn know I was paying for her bed in the other hostel and also cab from the airport, because I did not want her to leave my side until I was safe at the airport and about to board my plane out of the Philippines. I was so scared I even looked up tickets to fly home, had they not cost $1,200 I probably would have just left. The entire day I was scared shit-less… and just ready to leave the country. Lucky for me it was the following day. I spent all day scared so decided to go to sleep early because I hadn’t slept much anyway and knew it was the only way to shut my mind down.
The next morning I got up more ready than ever to make my way to the airport. The time finally came and we took the cab. I arrived at the airport checked in said bye to Robyn and thanked her for everything. I made it through customs and had never been happier to get a visa exit stamp from a country and couldn’t have felt more relieved. My plane finally took off and I arrived at Kuala Lumpur safe and sound.
The thing about this though is that I later learned this is actually very common in Manila. Cops set up tourist that are alone to take advantage of them and try and get money from them. Lucky for me I gave them less than $40 and got away with it. I heard some tourist have had to give thousands of dollars. The reasons the cops do this is because they are not paid a living wage. Not that it justifies what they are doing, but it’s just alarming that they are not paid enough to sustain themselves and their families. This is also the reason I do not do drugs on the road, it’s just not worth the risk.
What I still don’t understand is how I was able to jump off a motorcycle moving full speed to run into my hostel? I would never do that in my right mind. I know it was the adrenalin and fear I had in me that allowed me to do that. Only thing that kept crossing my mind was I can not go to jail in the Philippines. If I hadn’t jumped off the bike I know I would probably still be in jail right now or wherever else they were going to take me. I also wonder how in the hell I got the balls to bribe a cop.
Now that I am home safely I honestly look back at this and laugh, because it’s just one more crazy adventure that happened during my trip around the world. Like the time I was held at gunpoint in Costa Rica, or almost died rolling down a volcano in Nicaragua or got off a train crying because I thought I was going to die in a train ride in India.
So what do you think… would you have jumped off the motorcycle? Would you have bribed the cop? Would you have gone home? Would you have been as scared as I was? Has anything like this ever happened to you?