No, I’m not referring to our intestines. I’m talking about the oldest street in Cebu: Colon.

It is famous for the variety of cheap stuff for sale in stores and stalls along its sidewalk. One other thing that makes it famous … or rather… infamous is the profusion of “bad elements” that walk amongst the crowd. It’s not uncommon in Colon to lose your belongings when someone just happens to bump into you.

I have been walking along Colon ever since I was in elementary and am well acquainted in the safety precautions that must be observed to ensure a happy and enjoyable experience.

Here’s my little guide. It’s a compilation of things I learned and observed while hunting for anything in the treasure trove that is Colon.

It’s all about attitude. If you’re new to Colon, don’t look like it. Make people think you know what you’re doing. Those “bad elements” (I’ll refer to them as BE from now on) can take advantage of a newbie. If you’re lost, don’t talk to just anyone, go to a security guard.

Bisaya is the spoken language in Cebu. So if you know it, speak it in a very Bisdak way. Refrain from speaking with proper English pronunciation. If you don’t know the Bisaya term for something and only know the English equivalent, say it in a very hard Bisdak way. The reason for this is that BEs equates proper English this way:

Proper English = Educated = Has money for school = Cha-ching!

Simple as that.

If you can’t speak Bisaya, only talk when necessary. Or better yet, bring a Bisaya friend, which leads me to…

Bring a friend, brother, sister… anyone. This can also be referred to as “The Buddy System” (I learned this in my Girl Scout days). It’s better to have someone along since you have an extra pair of eyes watching your stuff. BEs usually target people traveling alone.

The attire is crucial since it is how BEs assesses their victims. Rich-looking equals to money. I’m half Chinese, so I tend to “look rich” and Korean. Over the years, I learned to tone it down with big shirts, baggy/tattered jeans or shorts and a pair of sturdy –not expensive– flip-flops. I drag my feet and slouch a bit for added effect.

No jewelry. Love your gold chunky rings/necklaces/bracelets/earrings with those ginormous diamonds? Leave them at home! Like a lighthouse to a ship on a dark moonless night, it will be the only thing they see. If they look expensive, don’t wear them. An old lady I once sat across in a jeepney had her fancy gold earrings snatched by a passerby. It is my experience that plain silver accessories are alright.

No cellphones. As much as possible, don’t bring any electronic device. Cellphones are BE’s favorite, next to jewelry. Your 10,000php cellphone, once taken, could sell for about 500php. If it’s not possible for you to leave it at home, put it in a bag (I’ll discuss about what bag to use after this) not your pocket.

No big shoulder bags. They’re harder to “shield.” Backpacks are also a no-no since you’d most likely carry it on your back (duh). It makes it easier for the BEs to rummage through the pockets. And you wouldn’t even know it.

I was once a victim. Well, almost a victim. I was going home from school and I had a backpack for my books. I’ve always been careful about BEs so I freaked out when I realized one was going through my bag pockets. Fortunately, all I had were crumpled test papers.

Messenger bags are easier to guard since you can place it in front of you while walking (with the added bonus of not looking paranoid). They also have longer straps which make it difficult for BEs to stoop and reach around for its contents.

Lastly, never NEVER talk about money (especially with actual figures) and that house-and-lot you just bought yesterday. Not only because it’s not a good habit but it also attracts attention you don’t want.

To sum it up, as what Mad-Eye told his Defense Against the Dark Arts students, “constant vigilance.”

Don’t get me wrong, Colon is a great place. I love going there and buying things I don’t need. Also there are so many interesting things to look at. I’d rather walk its dusty streets than go to a mall. Such is Colon’s charm.

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