At around 3:30 a.m. of a Saturday in our Ancestral Home, I went to the bathroom and discovered the window rattling hard as if someone was prying it open. I inspected it and listened. The wind was strong that night. And the window was known to make such noise when the winds were fierce.
I should had taken a closer look.
The first week of 2018 hadn’t been too kind. The Ancestral Home, where I spent many amazing years, had been burglarized. Worse, we were all inside when it happened, oblivious.
- Midnight! Picked up my father in the airport.
- 1 a.m. picked up the wife from the apartment.
- 1:30 a.m. had a very early breakfast.
- 2:30 a.m. arrived at the Ancestral Home.
- 3:30 a.m. went to bed.
- 4:30 a.m. father and grandmother went upstairs.
- 5:30 a.m. father and grandparents went down
- 6 a.m. the wife and myself went down and discovered my backpack was missing
We searched for several minutes inside the home. Then we went out, found my grandfather’s bags scattered all over the floor. One of the iron bars from the window grills was bent upwards.
The moment was surreal and hit us like a motherfucking lightning bolt. I woke my uncle. And we did a quick inventory of our household stuff. Electronics, cash, credit cards were gone, a cash box (that has no cash! Ha!), along with my backpack.
Around the backyard was a scene that gave us chills. Knives. Hooks. Rope. A machete. A tree branch sharpened to a makeshift spear. Our own tools used against us, scattered on the ground. There was evidence the burglars made it to our roof and tried to saw off the grills from there. The rattling window that I encountered later was another. Further investigation led us to believe the burglars were within the household perimeter as early as 2 a.m.
It wouldn’t had changed anything, even if my uncle had been certain, probably. We estimated, by the number of knives and hooks, and the makeshift spear, there were at least six or seven of them. Burglary operations in this country normally run with those numbers. In case when things get messy, these people are ready to kill.
What terrified me beyond measure, was when we arrived around 2:30 a.m. The burglars could had ambushed us. Turned a burglary into a complete home invasion. I had with me, my pregnant wife. You can imagine the helplessness that we all felt, of not knowing, of not being ready, of letting our guards down.
The street that we live is probably about 800 meters. We live in the “lower” part, where it’s typically quiet of criminal activity but occupied with the occasional loud with drunken neighbors singing Katy Perry songs in the middle of the night. The “upper” part is where the bad shit happens. The streets there is a labyrinthine chaos, with fewer streetlights. It’s a place where we often hear ugly things happen, things I won’t go into detail, but aren’t too bad.
In 2015, there were multiple burglaries. Forced the doors open and trashed everything as they nabbed what they could. We never heard of anyone getting hurt. Once, in a house where my high school classmate lives, discovered their window shattered and the floor splattered with blood. They have a dog. A vicious motherfucker, as I recall. And that was enough to thwart off the entire burglary.
I’m quite certain, if the police had asked around clinics and hospitals for patients of any recent dog attacks, they could have narrowed their suspects from a chasm to a stream. The number of incidents along that street spread through the town and what happened then was police patrolling the street at random. Was that enough to keep people safe? Hells no.
In the same year, our neighbor was a victim of burglary. Based on what they told us, every drawer was turned, every cabinet ransacked, and the doors were tied. This prompted them to improve security by raising higher walls and installing military-grade barbed wires—which is, apparently, only about 20 US dollars. In mid-2016, there was a second attempt on their home, however by then there were CCTV cameras, and if we are to believe what was told to us, the burglars only took off with the hard drive that contained the footage of them breaking down the front gate.
The front gate. Apparently, the improved security has made it too difficult for the burglars to re-enter the house with their usual methods. Who would have guessed that breaking the front gate down actually worked? There are small activities running along the street: A car would pass by, people walking, kids playing. It’s bold and shows their willingness and aggressiveness to invade homes. Part of the problem, is the community, it seems, as the neighbor spoke to their neighbors who saw the entire thing.
“We thought they were your relatives!” They said.
It’s hard to judge people, most especially when they are breaking down someone else’s gate. I suppose, basically put, no one gives a fuck.
Compare the neighbor’s fortified home with ours, the Ancestral Home had security flaws everywhere. The wall was too late. We lost a lot of dogs—we used to have eight, then we had one, who was already 13 years old. In late 2016, I had already discovered one of the bars of the grills was loose. I was about to leave when I saw it, my uncle was away. I think I remember telling my grandmother to tell my uncle about it. I planned to tell my uncle after the drive home. I forgot. My grandmother must have forgotten as well. That piece of iron bar served as a gateway for the burglars to get inside. The window was unlocked that time as well, something we don’t normally allow.
What was damning was, all this time did the burglars had access over our walls, and been entering our threshold at their whim, ensuring their entrances would be available when they pulled off their crime? All this time our home was being violated and we had no idea about it.
The police were useless. After we went to them to report the incident, they followed us home and inspected the area. The officer had a notepad and did not jot any notes and fed us bullshit.
His exact words were: “How did they know you had cash in the drawer? That means, someone you know, someone who’s been inside the house, did the burglary.”
I believe any burglar would indeed search drawers in high hopes to nab something.
The iron bar that had been pried is far more important than serving as an entry point inside our home. The grills. Even with one of the bar was moved by excessive force the gap was only about a foot and a half, or maybe less. Only a very small man could have fit through that. Or a child.
A modus operando that many people are familiar with is, get a child over the fence, and have them open the gate from the inside.
What did the police, at least the police stationed in our town, had to say? Nothing. They didn’t get descriptions of my backpack, which spotted on the street that could point to some leads. Had they asked around pawnshops for electronics recently being pawned? No.
It was a petty crime. Not worth investing. And that stings.
Behind the Ancestral Home, behind the street itself, was a field of tall grasses and trees. It’s the perfect spot for people with criminal intent to hide and scout for the houses. It also gives them access to the back of each house along the street.
My uncle and his buddies went around to this area and searched for a few hours. They found the cash box, forced open, and empty. It only had some expired cards and my uncle’s 20-year-old wallet. They also found, a bra, a woman’s underwear, and one high-heeled shoe.
Let that sink in for a moment.
I made no immediate thought about it. But my wife did. I have no words about the possibility of other crimes happening on that spot. On what’s happening on that high grassed field with trees. I used to climb walls when I was a kid, and perched on one, I’d scan the horizon. Even back then, it looked like a place where no one will ever hear you scream.
The silver lining in this situation was that no one in the family got hurt. We know that there will be a second attempt. They think there’s more stuff to grab, even though there really isn’t. We’ve fortified the home’s defenses. My family is rattled. But they’ve always been hard folk and this time, prepared, and will not let their guard down.
The dawn after the burglary, we found some of my backpack’s contents. This included my beanie that my wife hates, and CDs of our wedding photos. My heart lifted a little, so did my wife’s. The lost electronics and the cash, while hurts, are replaceable.
Before leaving the Ancestral Home for the city I gave that high grassed field a long hard look. It’s a dangerous place and it needs to go away. There’s lots of space there for a residential area. We’ll need more people to move in there. And build a strong community from it.
It’s wishful thinking, idealistic, and naïve. But fuck it. We need a little positivity in life.