Most women who commute to and from work regularly must have had their fair share of public transport-related horror stories. Having to deal with traffic and the stress of getting into congested trains, jeepneys, buses, and UV Express vans every day, one can only take precautions and remain vigilant to avoid untoward incidences from happening.
We’ve compiled the following safety tips for commuters, with advice from women who have gotten better at dealing with lady commuter woes.
1. Wear comfortable clothing.
Predators are always out to find a victim to take advantage of. Unfortunately for our society, the thinking that wearing revealing pieces of clothing makes one vulnerable still prevails. But according to Stephanie Shi of Cosmopolitan Philippines, one’s clothes doesn’t have anything to do with being catcalled or harassed on the streets. “One can be fully clothed and still get raped, and one can be scantily clad and have her rights respected,” she writes. “You could look however you want and still be a victim.”
But for your own safety, wear comfortable clothes—not to avoid curious stares or anything, but to make your commute easier and more comfortable especially when moving from one type of public transport to another.
Honey, 26, QC
“Perverts are everywhere. I personally experienced this many times where a guy touched my butt, or put his elbow on my chest, even experienced some man’s hard-on on my back. but I’m not the type of person who causes a scene. Instead, I keep my distance to avoid more contact and malicious acts.”
If you’ve had the same experience, it’s best to call out the sexual offender to alert the people around you. Keeping quiet will only encourage the offender to do it again because you were unable to defend yourself or protect your personal space.
The NCRPO PNP website advises on their page dedicated to safety tips for women that you call for help when in danger.
Diane, 25, Antipolo
“I always look around me when walking, especially at night. I’m always on the lookout for suspicious people. If I’m feeling wary, I walk toward somewhere well-lighted and areas where there’s a security guard.”
2. Secure your valuables.
These days, it’s much harder to spot pickpockets and muggers from the crowd. Some reports describe muggers wearing semi-formal work clothes to blend in. You can only stay vigilant and keep your valuables secure at all times.
• Do not show your gadgets or wear expensive jewelry as this makes you an easy target for robbers.
•Do not withdraw a large amount of cash when you’re commuting. If possible, bring only your credit card or debit card.
Celine, 27, Makati
I’ve been robbed when I was in college and I was left with nothing, not even spare change for a jeepney ride. I don’t want that to happen again. So what I do is I only take enough money with me when I commute. I also keep some bills inconspicuously in my socks, shoes, or makeup bag in case of emergency.
Letty, 26, Quezon City
“I make sure that my bag is in front of me. And my zipper bag should be on my left, making it difficult for thieves to open it.”
In worst-case scenarios where you’re held at knife or gunpoint, hand in your belongings and leave as soon as you can. Do not get into an argument or try to haggle because the mugger might get even more aggressive. Nothing is more important than your safety.
3. Stay updated and vigilant.
We’ve seen a few common modus operandi posted on Facebook. One example is the modus of cab drivers putting inhalants in their air conditioner, rendering the passengers unconscious so they can rob, or worse, sexually assault them.
Common sense dictates that falling asleep in a public vehicle puts you in a vulnerable position, but some people can’t help but doze off especially after a stressful day’s work. You can plug in your earphones or read a book, anything to keep yourself awake. It’s highly advisable that you keep a pepper spray in your bag too.
Bianca, 30, Las Piñas
“Never trust a stranger. Always be alert. Being nonchalant on the road makes you prone to mugging, theft, and even sexual harassment.”
Things to remember when taking a cab:
• Take note of the cab’s plate number. Send it to your family member or significant other, especially when you’re taking a cab at night. It’s best to book your trip through Uber, GrabTaxi, or GrabCar. You may pay more, but your peace of mind and safety should always be a priority.
• Always let someone you trust know of your whereabouts. As much as possible, share the car model, color/name, and plate number of the vehicle you’re on.
• Know your route. Know the accessible routes and landmarks to your destination. If you sense danger, get out of the cab immediately at an area where there’s a lot of people to call for help.
• Sit behind the driver. Observe him from the rearview mirror so you’re alert if he does anything suspicious. Studies say that during accidents, 80% of drivers will try to protect their side from collision. And in case of any untoward behaviors, it will be hard for the driver to reach you when you’re sitting right behind him.
• Keep a speed dial. Whether it’s your mom or significant other, set a speed dial so you won’t be fumbling on your phone in case of emergency.
4. Never take a cab alone when drunk or sleepy.
Blame it on alcohol-induced torpor, some women tend to ignore the possible dangers of taking a cab alone after having one-too-many drinks. Shady cab drivers will notice that you’re intoxicated, or even check you out in the rearview mirror for signs of weakness or passing out. Just recently, a taxi driver was arrested for raping a female passenger who was on her way home from a night-out in Taguig City.
Maria, 32, Cavite
“Magtira ng pang-uwi. Know your limits. If your limit is five bottles of beer and you went past that, you are susceptible to danger because you’re vulnerable, and I’m not just talking about rape. Always have a designated sober friend you can trust. On my personal experience, never, ever mix beer and tequila.”
Diane, 25, Antipolo
“As a general rule, don’t get drinks from strangers. Even if you’re having a great time, be responsible and guard your drink so it doesn’t get spiked [with sedative drugs]. If I need to go home by myself, I have to clean up before commuting and make sure I’m sober. If I’m with a trusted friend, I just stay the night at her place. If it’s way past midnight, we just stay at the place we were drinking until the morning. Better safe than sorry.”
Staying alert is the best way to avoid these threats to your safety. In case of emergency, take note of these emergency hotline numbers in Metro Manila:
Philippine National Police (PNP) hotline patrol
Text hotline: 0917-847-5757
Philippine National Railways (PNR)
Control Division: (02) 319-0044
Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA)
Pasay: 63 (2) 853-0041 to 60
Santolan: 63 (2) 647-3479 to 91
Metro Rail Transit (DOTC-MRT3)
Control Center: (02) 920-6683, (02) 924-0054
Trunkline: (02) 929-5347