Daily Archives: July 1, 2011

Encounter with a ‘pickpocket’ inside moviehouse


WHEN Manila hosted the 30th FIDE Chess Olympiad at the Philippine International Convention Center on June 7-25, 1992, I sailed to the Big City via M/V Princess of Negros (this “provinciano” newsman always hated to take the plane–until today).

Unlike chess guru and columnist Amante “Boy” Espejo (he is the only chess authority that I respect most) who secured an accreditation for the mammoth event, I failed to get an official ID and ended up “outside the kulambo (mosquito net)”; so I spent my time in Manila both as tourist and “undocumented” sportswriter.

Anyway, the rare opportunity to see in person Russian Grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik and British Grandmaster Nigel Short was more important to me than joining fellow sportswriters wrecking their brains and belaboring themselves in annotating the Nimzo Indian Defense and Queen’s Gambit variations of the world’s best woodpushers in the conclave that missed the presence of reigning world titlist Garry Kasparov (his absence enabled GM Anatoli Karpov to take over Board 1 for the talented Soviets that romped off with the title edging Uzbekistan and Armenia).




In between matches, I hopped to the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) office located inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium (now Ninoy Aquino Stadium) and in nearby Ermita “red light” district during day time.

It was in Ermita at around past 3 o’clock in the afternoon where a very unfortunate incident happened inside–again–a moviehouse.

As usual, my purpose in entering the moviehouse (which had been demolished to pave the way for construction of SM shopping center Ermita branch) was to sleep.

This time, I paid for the cheaper orchestra section. Inside, I noticed a “standing room” or no available seats for those who arrived late.

It was a Tagalog Rated “R” film and most of the patrons were males who came not to sleep. The seemingly dilapidated air-conditioner inside had no match to a horde of warm bodies elbowing each other to get a better space and clear view of the big screen.




After worming my way into the darkness and struggling like a trapped miner to get past and hurdle one body after another, I landed on a wooden wall facing the screen. My view blocked by silhouettes, I rested my back on the wall while standing.

In only about three minutes, I felt uneasy and uncomfortable. Heat was unbearable and the atmosphere no longer was fit for human convenience and decency.

If my purpose inside had been defeated, the realization did not sink immediately in my mind until what happened next.

As soon as I was figuring out my exit plan, I felt something moving, a strange object crawling horizontally on my upper left leg. Not a spider. Not a cobra. Not a caterpillar. Not anything associated to any paranormal phenomenon.

I relaxed, maintained a calm mind, and observed the proceedings. The crawling master stopped and retreated when I moved my leg to send a curt notice.

Seconds later, the mysterious invader was back again this time with unbelievable boldness and ferocity: it landed smack inside my pocket. It was a human hand!




The situation was very familiar: “pickpockets!” I quickly told myself as I made a deep breath and swallow–and summoned my courage.

Without any hesitation, I grabbed a small knife disguised as ballpen placed in the left pocket of my polo shirt and lunged it to my pocket’s uninvited guest.

When the owner of the hand let loose an ear-piercing and loud scream, it was when I realized he was not actually a pickpocket.

“Ahhraaaaaaaay! Anoh vah ang khasalanan koh sa ‘yoh? Huhuhuhu” (Ouch! Why did you do this to me? What is my fault?).

Chaos ensued when some confused moviegoers started running outside thinking there was a rumble.

While those in the hearing distance were stunned, others who didn’t want their earthly pleasures interrupted, were undaunted and ignored the noise coming from a hurting effeminate voice.

When the security guards responded, I thought I made the fastest run of my life and disappeared in the crowd.

When I went home, Leonardo “Nards” Dellero, a singer-composer and one-time barangay captain in Guimaras, borrowed the ballpen-cum-knife. I didn’t bother to take it back from him anymore.

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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


Murder I witnessed inside movie house


Exactly 21 years ago inside the balcony section of the Crown Cinerama, a moviehouse (now Allied Bank) located in corner Ledesma-Quezon Streets in Iloilo City, I witnessed a murder.

If not for the victim’s personality, this item would not merit any attention from the readers, murder being a normal crime that happens every now and then in any metropolis.

At around past one o’clock in the afternoon, a rainy Tuesday on June 27, 1990, I decided to enter in a movie house to take a nap (we inherited this habit from the Spaniards — not the watching of movies but sleeping) after a late lunch.

As a staff member of News Express, a regional community paper, I was always carrying a small camera. I paid for a balcony seat and bumped into Jimmy de la Torre, the Southeast Asian Games marathon record holder, who was with his wife, Celia. They also secured two tickets in the balcony. My purpose was to sleep so I didn’t care about the title of the movie, but I remember it was a cartoon film. A marathon king interested in cartoon film? Hmm.


Several months earlier, I covered the Bombo Marathon in the town of Sta. Barbara and was standing at the finish line when De La Torre, 27, breasted the tape, beating arch rival Herman Suizo by the skin of the teeth.

“Jimmy, you broke the record (in the 20-k event),” I told him. “Ha, na break ko? (oh yeah?),” he replied happily. “Ay salamat (thank you).” I then interviewed him before the awarding ceremony. That was our last brief conversation before the chance meeting in the movie house.

De La Torre was the first back-to-back Filipino champion (1981-1982) of the lung-busting 42.195-k Milo Marathon. He also held the record of 2 hours, 25 minutes, and 16 seconds (Cresenciano Sabal currently holds the record at 2:21:33 he registered in the 29th edition in 2005) for that distance, the fastest in the country and in the SEAG at that time.

Future SEA Games gold medalist Suizo avenged the defeat in Yakult Marathon. I was one of the participants and I finished by the wayside–good for a certificate!

Inside the theater, I went up ahead and saw a few people inside the balcony section. I occupied a seat in the middle row with many vacancies on my left and right. I was seated a spit away from the area where the main lights that transmitted the film to the screen were coming from.

Minutes later, I saw the couple occupy two seats or about five seats away on my left. They didn’t notice the person they met a few minutes ago downstairs. I reclined and closed my eyes.


From time to time I opened my eyes to check the surroundings.

After about five to 10 minutes, I saw De La Torre’s wife leave her seat and go outside.

Celia returned after about five minutes. Some 10 minutes later, a lone gunshot exploded followed by a scream from a woman.

When I checked, I saw a fat guy throw a hard object on the floor and hurriedly walk to my right, passing at the back where I was seated, before going down the stairs, mixing with fleeing moviegoers and exiting through the main door.

As pandemonium broke loose, the lights suddenly switch on. I quickly grabbed my camera and approached a man on the chair twitching in pain and shaking, blood oozing from his temple.


I positioned myself in front of the victim and saw his eyes roll as if begging to save him. By the time I fired the first of my series of camera shots, I already knew the victim was Jimmy de la Torre.

I couldn’t do something to save a dying man as I was shocked and on the verge of tears myself out of pity and sympathy for a sports hero gunned down in a treacherous manner, a senseless murder and whose exploits I covered as sportswriter for several times.

I didn’t leave the place and observed the wife’s demeanor. Budyong TV Patrol broadcasters Ibrahim Calanao and Ranie Jangayo arrived and interviewed me. They then interviewed the wife who was crying but didn’t do something or at least embrace her wounded husband or attempt to bring him to the hospital — or plead to about four people present to bring De la Torre to the hospital.


When Metropolitan Police District Command (Metrodiscom) chief, Col. Achilles Plagata, a future city councilor, and his team of investigators arrived, the wife became more hysterical. They recovered a .38 “paltik” revolver on the floor used in the killing.

The exclusive photo made a headline story in the Visayan Tribune when I gave the paper’s editor-in-chief Herbert Vego a copy.

It was my second eye-witness account exclusive crime photo. Five months earlier during the Dinagyang Festival in downtown, City Proper, I was “at the right place at the right time” when an off-duty cop from Arevalo was peppered with bullets while drinking in a sidewalk in the corner of Ledesma and Valeria Streets.

Murder charges have been filed against the suspect in De La Torre’s murder but were dismissed by city prosecutor Efrain Baldago for lack of evidence.

Some people closed to De La Torre as well as some family members believed the marathon king, who made waves in the Boston Marathon and made many Filipinos proud, was a victim of a love triangle.

This theory has not been proven until today and his unsolved murder remains a mystery.

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Posted by on July 1, 2011 in Uncategorized