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Lost Wallet In Cebu

2013 March 31

Lost Wallet Philippines

What are the odds of getting your wallet back if it’s lost or stolen in the Philippines? That’s one of the first thoughts that went through my head as I realized, while on a business trip in Cebu, that I had left my wallet in the taxi. Of course it would depend on the circumstances, but I figured my odds somewhere between 0-5%.

I didn’t have any information on the taxi or the driver. In my hurry to leave the hotel, I didn’t wait for them to help me either. With their help I know they notate the vehicle number and taxi company. No, I had no information other than I knew where I was picked up, dropped off and the approximate time. The term needle in a haystack comes to mind.

I first noticed it was lost when I was about to head out to McDonald’s (no, I don’t usually eat there) to get some pancakes that I had noticed another employee eating. Seeing it was Holy Thursday, or whatever they call it, there was nothing else open for breakfast except the 7-11. As I was about to head downstairs to get breakfast I put my hand on my pocket and that’s when it hit me – my wallet was not there.

My first saving grace in this whole affair was the fact that I noticed it so shortly after I had lost it. I quickly checked around where I was sitting in the office, but I knew right away that I had left it in the taxi, or it had fallen as I was getting out. I didn’t need to spend a lot of time trying to think of where else it could be.

One of the employees of the company I’m consulting for offered to go to the main gate with me to inquire about the taxi. When coming inside to the main entrance all cars have to stop to pay, with the taxi drivers getting a pass. I was started to get a little more hopeful when I found that they took a photo of every vehicle coming in. The nice lady in the booth showed me several shots and it seemed there was only one taxi arriving around the time I came in. They were not able to get the taxi company, cab number or license plate number from the photo though. That’s when she called someone from their main office downstairs, and they explained they took video of all incoming traffic. Now I was getting even more hopeful, at least of being able to contact the driver.

That hope didn’t last long as we started watching the video and the same taxi I saw in the photo, was not in the video. So we started 15 minutes prior to when I came and watched 15 minutes past. In that time there was only one white taxi, and while I now had my doubts about it, we where able obtain all the needed information about it.

The next step was for the office to contact CITOM. This seems to be a sub-branch of FTFRB for the taxis. In any case, I spoke with them and they were given all the information. They indicated they would call me back after they had contacted the taxi company and the driver had been notified.

So I had nothing to do but wait, and of course start trying to figure out how I was going to replace everything in that wallet. My first course of action was to contact the banks of my debit cards to see what the procedure involved. I was told I could block my local ATM cards, but doing so was the same as canceling, and I would need to apply for new ones. In the case of my US based debit card, the credit union was not open and I could not contact them for about 12 more hours. There is a 24 hour credit card number, but that is not good for debit cards.

The next thing I needed to work out was my lost ID. I had my ACR-I in my wallet and did not bring my passport. That ended up being a good move, as I had a family member coming to Cebu within a couple days, and I could arrange to have her bring my passport. Otherwise I was going to try to fly with a print out of my ACR-I card and a letter from my company. I don’t know if that would have worked, but it was my back up plan.

I had some other cards in there, a CEDULA, my US driver’s license and of course some cash. There was probably P4000-5000, but as you can imagine I was not so concerned about that. The company owed me salary anyway, and they had cash to give me for that. That was also lucky, as there would be no banks open until after I was to fly back.

While not working I spent my time strategizing about how to get all my cards replaced. It looked like the Bureau of Immigration had a replacement policy for lost or stolen ACR-I cards. I couldn’t get the details online, but there was a fee and of course a trip or two to their office. The ATM cards for my bank would also involve two trips. One to order them, and another to pick them up. My US based card was potentially more of a problem. I’m not certain if I would have to be there in person for that, but even if not there is the issue of getting here safely. My driver’s license is not of much use, so I would not have put too much effort into that one. Everything else was replaceable over time.

I waited as long as I felt I could and decided to call CITOM back. If they weren’t able to reach the driver, or if they had and he said he did not have it I was going to cancel my cards. I was able to reach CITOM without much trouble, but they had no further information other than to give me the taxi company phone number. I was thankful for that.

I was using the phone at the front desk of the lobby, because the hotel I was staying at did not have in room phones. I was able to reach the taxi company after a few busy signal calls, but the lady on the other end could not speak a work of English and after many attempts to communicate, she hung up on me. The nice lady receptionist at the lobby counter overheard my failed attempt and offered to call them back for me. She had much more success. They told her they would get the phone number of taxi driver and asked if she could call back in awhile. I was again getting hopeful that I would at least be told he knew nothing about the wallet.

On the follow up call the receptionist did in fact get the cell number for the taxi driver. I called him, and miraculously he answered. He said that he had seen no wallet and was sorry that he couldn’t help. I said that undoubtably the next fare had recovered it and that I was out of luck. At that point I decided to take a chance and told the driver if there was anyway he might know where that wallet was, that I would assume the money gone and be very happy to reward him. Our connection was not good, but I could tell that he seemed more interested. He mentioned being out of the city but coming back in the evening and that he would stop by the place were he had dropped off the fare after me. He said he would call me later.

I got back to work and was busy, so I forgot about for a bit. Then out of nowhere I got a call, again with a very bad connection, but it seemed like he was saying he had recovered my wallet. I wasn’t sure but asked him if he could meet me at work, the same place he had dropped me off in the morning, and he said he would. I got a text in a few minutes saying he was downstairs. I quickly took the elevator down, not really knowing what to expect.

I saw the taxi, opened the front door, and in his hand was my wallet. I had half expected if he had a wallet it was going to be someone else’s, or some beat up piece of trash that they had collected previously. No, there was my wallet and as I went through item by item, it was all there. All the ID, cards, and even some money. About P700. Why that amount, I had no idea. I didn’t care. I was ecstatic. I gave him P1000 for his efforts. At first he would not take it, because not all my money was there, but it didn’t take a lot of convincing before he took it with a big smile.

I had a filipino employee with me, just in case, and the story that the driver gave to him is that the family that was the fare after me had the wallet. They had taken everything out and kept only the cash and the leather wallet itself. He said that he had to retrieve the cards from the trash.

I’ll never know if the driver was telling the truth, or if he was the one that got my money. I know most reading this will go with the second. My gut feeling is that he was mostly telling the truth. That’s just the feeling I got from him. Either way I was extremely happy to get everything back. I guess I made someone’s day, too, with an extra P4000-5000 to celebrate their Holy Week with.

There were a number of lucky breaks for me in this instance. Even more than the breaks I encountered, were the number of kind people that helped me recover my wallet. I’m really grateful and thankful to each and every one of them. You proudly represent the best of the Philippines.

8 Responses leave one →
  1. john permalink
    April 7, 2013

    The the bottom line is you got your wallet back and all valuables in there. That is the most important. But, I don’t buy taxi driver’s alibis. lol. My own interpretation of the story is very simple, your id’s has no value to him. Thus, he returned your wallet back. He might thought that he’ll get some reward after doing a good deed (of course he is right). Nevertheless, still have to be thankful. :) just my two cents ;-)

    • April 7, 2013

      John, your interpretation is the same as everyone I’ve talked with about it. If I had only read/heard my story, I would think the same. Having talked with the guy both going to my drop off, and when he returned, I felt otherwise.

      As you said, it doesn’t matter, I got all the important stuff back and I was very grateful.

  2. April 7, 2013

    Hi Randy. Glad you got (most of it) back.

    I had a similar situation a couple years ago where I thought ‘all was lost’ but, in fact (and thank you again, Jun and Jun) everything was returned the next day … even ever single Peso.

    In my case I (luckily??) found every place open in the USA and rushed to call and cancel every single card … only to find out the enxt morning their was no need to. That took weeks to striaghten out, but my wallet came back unscathed.


    • April 7, 2013

      I guess it turned out well for me that the credit union was closed when I tried to contact them. I really struggled all day with whether to cancel my local cards.

      I’ve learned that most often they don’t care about the cards and ID here. Much different than the US, where that’s the first thing they’ll use. I guess the cash was good enough, thankfully.

  3. April 7, 2013

    Cards in the trash? honest txi driver, ya think? driver must’ve found your wallet in the taxi and probably debated whether to give it back or not in the end, probably just wanted the money… and even gave him 1K.

  4. April 7, 2013

    It’s funny, I’m usually very skeptical by nature, but I’m the only one that thinks the driver MIGHT not have taken it.

  5. roger permalink
    April 19, 2013

    its difficult to say if the driver toke it or not. since the chance he could not see it in the back seat is big.
    me i had once a situation i forgot the grocery in the trunk of the taxi (davao city) coz a friend waited in front of the haus. i thought its lost, but 3 or 4 weeks later the taxi driver was in the gate and ring the horn. ( i was very busy in this 3 to 4 weeks and often not at home)
    when he saw me open the gate it seemed he was so relived to see me. he tied the cellophanes in the trunk so nobody could take it and hand it over to me. in this weeks he passed several times to return me my grocery and nothing was missing. i have other positive storys like this thats happen to me and of course also some of the bad sides. so whoever have only bad comments for philippinos there is a lot of amazing too

    • April 19, 2013

      There are some really good stories in addition to all the bad we hear of the taxi drivers here. It just goes to show that you can’t judge everyone the same.

      As I’ve said before whether the taxi driver found my wallet or not, in either case he did not need to return it to me. Doing so saved me untold troubles.

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