Saturday, February 14, 2015

Why I Always Carry A Knife (or Three)

I had originally planned on posting a different topic, but there have been some recent events that pushed my scheduled topic up a bit... I wanted to talk about security here and the fact that I always have a knife on my person.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I am a "guns-rights advocate." I won't go into the ins and outs of my position on various related topics, but there it is.

Here in the Philippines, however, I am not permitted to carry (or even OWN) a gun. It's one of THREE things I can't do as a permanent resident: I can't be the primary owner (ownership of 50% or more) on a business or property, I can't own a firearm, and I can't vote in Philippine elections.

I have been informed by various people that there are loopholes around this (Jing can own and carry a gun as a Philippine citizen, and I can use it circumstantially in self-defense -- i.e. grab it out of her purse and discharge in an emergency), but to be honest I don't have that much faith in these self-proclaimed "experts" or in the legal system to protect me in that situation.

So I carry a knife. 

NOTE: I have no delusions of being John Rambo, killing bad guys indiscriminately and scowling through an hour and a half of action.

But the possibility of kidnapping / ransoming is real (albeit very unlikely in our area of the country). So I carry. To protect my family.

There have been several robberies (and one unsettling event) in our neighborhood as well as two gun related incidents in the past week close to home which have reinforced my belief in always having a knife on me. ("Fun" Fact: Jing was even in a hostage/armed robbery situation as a child)

  • NOT a Walk in the Park

The family takes walks at night through the neighborhood. "Family" being Jing, the boys, and Lolo and Lola (Jing's parents). We never really thought anything about it... sure, it's dark, but there are occasional lights so it's not super "dangerous." Plus we live in a gated community with security guards roving.

Recently, though, I was walking with the family (I only get to on certain nights because of my work schedule). We ended up passing a house that I noticed had faint light inside it... the only issue is that this house has been abandoned for OVER a year and a half. When "Lolo" shone his flashlight over once I got his attention, he saw someone running to hide from the light. We called security, of course. I had Jing move the boys well away from the house and Lolo kept his light on any possible exits while I prepped for the worst. 15 minutes later security arrives (they were two blocks away from where we were) .

Once there, security grabs their assault rifle (more on that later) and knocks on the gate, calling for someone to come out. He does that for ten minutes(!) until finally a male walks out. The male claims that he is a "caretaker" sent by the bank. However, he has no ID on him and did not check in with the office (how convenient). There was another male in there with him, and possibly more inside the house. The guard was "satisfied" by his answers and said everything was OK. Lolo said that they weren't supposed to be there because it was after hours and they weren't even registered, and we would be talking to the Association head in the morning because this is unacceptable practice.

"Mysteriously," the "caretakers" were not there the next day. The Association head said the bank was supposed to send a family, but we have seen that family since the incident and none of the males from that night are a part of it. I have since encouraged Jing to carry my police-grade pepper spray on the nights that I am not able to walk with them. Lolo is about 90% sure that the people in question are the same people that did some robberies several years ago, but still live in the complex.

As a result, the Homeowner's Association has asked all foreigners to "register" themselves (and their ACR cards) with the front office, but THAT'S not gonna happen... at least not for me. I'm a bit perturbed that they are using the foreigners as a scapegoat. All signs indicate that recent events were/are inside jobs (AKA the housekeeper took it but owners are too embarrassed to admit that they were stupid about handling their valuables -- or people know there is an abandoned house in the neighborhood they can use to scout potential marks). 

  • Jumping the Gun

The first gun related incident was at SM Sta. Rosa. Three people were killed in the incident. All the news said was that there was a shooting at the mall. Of course, the entire story wasn't available via the news, so second and third-hand (probably more like fourth or fifth-hand) information has come to light.

Originally, it was said that the guard was "playing" with his gun (trying to do tricks, etc). and someone grappled with him, took the gun, and shot him when he tried to get it back, then shot a responding PNP officer while the motorcycle was still in motion.

THEN the story was that they had restrained a male who was acting crazy and was waiting for the police to come take him into custody when the male snatch a gun from one of the nearby officers and opened fire, killing a guard and then a policeman.

NOW the story is that a scruffy-looking teenager had a knife on him. According to "sources," the guard wouldn't let him in while carrying the knife. The teenager became upset, stole the guard's gun, shot the guard, and then shot a policeman who was responding to the emergency call while he was still on (or dismounting from, depending on your source) his motorcycle. The teen was shot and killed by the second wave of police responders. People claim the teen was mentally ill / he was homeless.

All three scenarios are completely plausible here. Guards are not trained how to properly carry and handle guns. Most, if not all, of their training (if actions as a whole are any indication) is done in the classroom. I would be surprised if half of the people carrying around handguns/shotguns/assault rifles have ever actually shot a firearm. And the second and third versions sound like "PR" scenarios, to make the security company not so embarrassed (heaven forbid anyone here become hiya -- "ashamed" -- for doing a crappy job)!

I have lived here for a year and a half at this point. In that time, we have frequented both SM Sta. Rosa and WalterMart Carmona (below). Almost every time I have entered, I have had my USMC KABAR attached to my hip. I usually have a long shirt on which covers the handle, but the rest of the sheath hangs below my shirt and is visible (especially when I raise my hands for the "patdown" -- they just touch the small of your back, honestly). I also have on me a folding knife clipped to my pocket, easily seen to the most casual observer. I have yet to be turned away from the entrance (which makes it so surprising to me that the teenager allegedly was-- and makes me believe that version of the story is more of a "PR" effort).

Obviously, I'll never know what really happened, as the rumour mill is already in full swing and the story has surely been distorted several times by now.

  • Go On, Take the Money (Jewelry?) and Run

The other incident was at WalterMart in Carmona. An armed robbery happened (no shots fired). A man dug a tunnel overnight and snuck in with a gun and held up a jewelry store. Apparently, there was a lot of panic and people fleeing, and the guy cleaned out the store (they're still closed) but fortunately no one was injured.

  • Biting Dropping the Bullet

According to Tito, there was a hostage incident in our neighborhood a few years back with Aling Loling ("Miss Grandma"). She runs a sari-sari store in the neighborhood that the boys go to buy candies. Her son had a mental breakdown of some sort and had her grappled and was threatening to cut her throat with a knife. Security was called, of course, and Tito and some other residents were trying to calm him down to help Loling until security came. According to Tito, the security guard arrived but wouldn't make any attempt to help her, they just stood as far away as possible and watched the scene unfolding. 

At one point, someone was able to sneak in and distract the son long enough to get Loling out to safety, but then the son started slashing at people with the knife. Of course, everyone ran out of the house and the son followed. When the son exited the house to flee, the guard (FINALLY) decided to try to stop the situation. He raised his shotgun and cocked it as a warning...

...and the bullets fell out. Presumably because he had not properly loaded/chambered his ammunition.

The son ran away from the scene and seemed to get away. No shots fired, no one was injured.

They eventually subdued the son later (he ended up falling asleep under a tree somewhere else in the neighborhood) and ACTUAL police (who honestly are not much better than security at times) took him into custody. It turns out the knife he had wasn't a knife at all but just cardboard wrapped in tinfoil.


Incidents like these are the main reason I carry a combat knife. Though I will (hopefully) never need to use it, I don't want to need a knife in an emergency and not have it available. And I've learned that security and police forces here are not really trained past the classroom. Security will save its own hide before it considers helping me or my family. So I have my KABAR attached to my hip most of the time. Even at home/work.

...but honestly, my "folder" -- a dinky little "Navy Seal" knife -- gets far more use... almost on a daily basis, in fact. It's one of those crappy $5 dollar knives you see in BUDK and other publications. I'm actually not sure how I acquired it, because it's a  knife I would NEVER buy. I think a cousin visited our house in the US at one point and left it, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's a terrible knife for self-defense. It's small, the handle is shoddy and plastic, and the blade is partially serrated (serrated blades have little practical use and have a high chance to get stuck in the ribcage in a self defense situation).

Unfortunately, my folder is showing its age. The clip is on its last leg, and I've noticed it doesn't stay in place as well as it used to. So I may be shopping for a new folder the next time we go to Divisoria.

...but until then, it'll be on my person, for those containers that need to be opened, cutting tags, shaving off some kindling to start the grill, cutting seams... whatever day-to-day "emergency" that arrives.