Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Tina
Six weeks ago, my belt bag was stolen in Alona Beach, Bohol in the Philippines. It had all my cards, some cash, my room key, and one of my phones. It sucks because I haven’t backed up my pictures from my trip to Bali the month before, and those from our visit to Ilocos with my parents.
I have always been careful with my belongings. In my forty years of existence, it was the first time something was stolen from me. And I have no one to blame but myself. I let my guard down that night. I was contemplating if I was going to share this story. It had been more than 6 weeks already, but not too many people know this thing happened to me.
I am writing this now for awareness. For you to learn from my mistake, and also so that you know what to do when you lose your ID card while traveling. Also, despite what happened, I could guarantee you that Bohol is a very safe place.
How it happened
It was my second night in Panglao. I traveled there to accompany my friend who was in Panglao for several weeks. I have a remote job- I work during the day and at night we go out together. Sometimes in the afternoon, I go for a walk on the beach.
That day, my friend messaged me asking if I wanted to go to Alona Beach in the evening and I said yes. Alona Beach is a white sand beach on Panglao Island famous for scuba diving. It is the main tourist area in Panglao. It is the place to go if you are looking for nightlife.
The last time I was in Bohol was 10 years ago. When we arrived in Alona, I noticed many changes from how it used to be. There is Jollibee and McDonald’s there already. We walked on the beach and passed by several restaurants. We went to Kwiq Mart and bought chicharon, beer for him, and coke for me.
Then we sat on the beach a few meters from the convenience store. I put my belt bag on my side (which was a huge mistake). I remember him telling me to look at the stars. There were a lot of stars that night. Normally, I would take pictures and videos of the surrounding so I have something to post on my Instagram stories. But that night I told myself to be less of that and just be in the moment.
We talked about a lot of things- that we should go island hopping one day, his previous travels, and how much is the fare if he went back home to Italy in May. He showed me on his phone the conversion from Euro to Peso. That was the only time that I wasn’t looking at my bag. When I looked back to my side, my belt bag was gone. It was that fast.
I told him my belt bag is missing and I stood up immediately. I looked around even though I didn’t really know what I was looking for. It was a disaster.
What to do when this happens to you
For a moment, I didn’t know what to do. How am I supposed to find the thief when I didn’t even see who took my bag? I could feel that I was starting to panic already. All my cards were there. My credit cards, debit cards, and even my ID card. How am I supposed to fly back to Manila if I don’t have an ID card?
When this happens to you, it is very important to stay calm. Here are the things you need to do when this happens:
Report the incident to the nearest police station
This is a very important thing to do when your bag or any of your valuable items gets stolen. I didn’t know where the police station in Panglao is so I asked the people around and told them what happened. They told me there are tanods (barangay public safety officers) assigned in Alona, maybe they could help me.
We went to where the tanods were stationed and told them what happened. They asked where the incident happened and when I said in front of Kwiq Mart, one of the tanods said he thinks there is a CCTV there. The tanod went with us to check, and there was indeed a CCTV. He then told us that we have to ask the tourist police to assist us in asking the establishment for the CCTV footage. The tanod accompanied us to the tourist police station. We reported what happened to the tourist police and with them, we walked back to the convenience store.
It would have been easier to look for the thief if the CCTV was working. The CCTV was directly facing the spot where we sat on the beach. Unfortunately, the CCTV was damaged a few months prior, and they never had it fixed. Such an unlucky day for me!
We then went back to the tourist police station, and I was advised to file a police report at the Panglao Police Station (the main) the following day.
What is a police report and why do you need it?
A police report is a formal document that contains all the pertinent information regarding the incident. You need it when you get an affidavit of loss. After you file a police report, you can request a copy of the report. They call it the blotter extract. However, you need to pay Php 50 for that.
Secure an Affidavit of Loss
The affidavit of loss is what you will use when you apply for a replacement of your lost ID card. You can also use it as your temporary ID. You can secure an affidavit of loss in any lawyer’s office. Since I don’t know any lawyer in Panglao, I asked the police who assisted me and he referred me to the Law Office of Atty. Delambaca. He told me to take a picture of the report he made and to show it at the law office when I get an affidavit of loss. They will use it to make the document.
I was able to get the affidavit of loss the same day and it cost me Php 300.00.
Have all of your cards blocked
Have all your cards blocked the moment you realize that your cards are missing. This is so the thief won’t be able to use it. All you need to do is to call the hotline of the bank. This is such a hassle, and in the Philippines, you need to pay a Php 400 replacement fee for every credit card that you lost, and Php 200 for the ATM card.
Despite what happened, I was still lucky because my main phone (the one I use for Internet banking) was in my lap when my belt bag was stolen. I was still able to access my accounts through the app and check if there were any transactions made after my bag was stolen. And I still have the sim where the OTP is sent whenever I do online transactions.
Things I learned from that incident
Never, ever let your guard down.
Even if you are in a safe place, you should always be alert. Never assume that there are no thieves in the place that you are just because it is a beautiful place or it is a place where rich people go.
I know I was wrong for putting my bag beside me instead of my lap, but I never expected it to be stolen because I thought there are no thieves in Bohol. We were not in a crowded place. We were maybe 2 or 3 meters away from other people. The way my bag was stolen was how thieves in Manila operate. I didn’t expect that there were thieves as fearless as that in Panglao.
Keep all your valuables with you all the time.
Don’t leave your valuables unattended. And as much as possible, make sure you have your belongings attached to you. Don’t put your bag in the chair next to you when you are in a restaurant. You don’t know how these thieves operate. They move fast and sometimes they work in groups.
Back up your photos and videos as soon as you can.
I have a Google Drive but it is already full and I don’t want to spend more to get a bigger space because the one-year subscription fee can already buy you an external hard drive. I know I should clean up my Google Drive so I can have space for new files but I was too lazy to do it. And now I regret not backing up the photos on my laptop before I left for the trip. It was actually one of the reasons I haven’t published anything while I was in Bohol. I lost the pictures that were planned to be uploaded to my blog. I have everything planned already, even the videos.
Bring only what you need when you go out, and leave the rest in your hotel room/locker (if you are staying in a hostel).
When my friend found out that all my cards were inside my bag, he asked why I had to bring them to the beach. I guess we girls just got used to carrying everything when we go out. I’m glad I left in the room the rosary my mom gave me. Otherwise, I would have lost it too.
If you are traveling abroad, never ever bring your passport with you when you go out. Always leave it in a safe place in your room. It will be a nightmare if you lose it.
Spread your valuables in different places.
If you are traveling, don’t put all your valuables in one place. Say you have two debit cards, don’t put both in one bag. The same goes for your cash. When you go out, you can estimate how much you’re going to spend for the day. Bring only that amount and leave the rest in your room.
Don’t let a bad experience ruin your trip.
How lucky was I? It was just my second night on the island and I already lost everything. And that trip wasn’t just a week-long trip. I stayed there for almost a month. Maybe if I was someone who focuses more on the bad, I probably would have cut short my trip already. But no, I am not that person. I am a believer in the saying “Everything happens for a reason”. I told myself I won’t let that incident ruin my trip, and I will enjoy every minute of my stay in Bohol.
Because I lost the phone that I use to take pictures, I decided to buy a cheap one with a good camera. The camera of my primary phone is already broken. I can’t stay on a beautiful island and not have good pictures. Oppo A17 is a cheap phone with a 50 MP camera. I was able to buy one in a mall in Tagbilaran and it only costs Php 7500.00 (~US$140).
I learned how to let go.
The best thing I learned from that experience was how to let go. I am a person who holds onto something for way too long, whether it’s a relationship or a material thing. That’s why I have way too much stuff.
And that night my friend made me realize that whatever I lost could be replaced. Even the pictures. He said I can always go back to Bali and take those pictures again. I guess that’s a good excuse to go back.
He also said I should just take it as a learning experience and move on. It already happened, there’s nothing I could do anymore. I shouldn’t waste the present dwelling on the past. He was right. And with that, I decided to let go of everything I’ve been holding on to in the past. I’ve never felt any better.
And that was probably the reason that incident happened. To teach me how to let go.
Where did I get money for the rest of my stay in Panglao?
You’re probably wondering, how was I able to buy a Php 7500 phone if I don’t have my cards. I used Gcash to pay. Gcash saved me during my trip. I was able to get cash in Cebuana Lhuiller through Gcash.
Since I have my BPI savings account linked to my Gcash, all I had to do was transfer money from my bank account to my Gcash. When cashing out in Cebuana Lhuillier, you only need to fill out a form and follow the text instruction, and then they will give you the money. The Gcash transaction fee in Cebuana Lhuillier is 2% of the amount you are going to cash out.
If you don’t have Gcash yet, I recommend registering with them. You don’t have to carry too much cash when going around in the Philippines because most establishments accept Gcash payments.
I tried getting cash in USSC through Gcash. However, they said I need to present an ID because they are going to photocopy it. So even if you have an affidavit of loss saying you lost your ID, you won’t be able to get money in USSC.
How I flew back to Manila without an ID card
I used the affidavit of loss as my ID card during my flight to Manila. I showed it to the airport guards and the airline staff and told them all my cards were stolen in Panglao. They didn’t ask me anything.
Hope you learned something from my experience. Again, I would like to reiterate that just because something like this happened to me in Panglao, doesn’t mean Panglao is unsafe. The people there are very kind. The owners of the hostel I stayed at, Bohol Coco Farm were super nice and made sure I was okay during my stay in Bohol. And I really had a wonderful time in Bohol and in Siquijor.
If ever something like this happens to you, don’t let it spoil your vacation. Just move on and enjoy the present. Everything can be replaced. What is important is that you are safe.