I STOPPED walking for a minute and stood at the spot where it happened 25 years ago.
The Reina Regente Tennis Club was still there, along with the small police precinct in front of it. Up ahead was a dirty plastic sign that said “The Church in Manila.”
I remembered that night, around 9 p.m., I was walking towards the corner to catch a jeepney for the long ride back to my dormitory. I had a backpack and was carrying my flute in its hard case. It looked like a very small briefcase in my right hand.
A strange feeling of dread washed over me as I passed the police precinct. The lights were on but the door and windows were shut. I walked on. There was the long wall of a public school that I had to pass before I reached the corner of Jose Abad Santos and C.M. Recto.
There was a man in ragged clothes lying down on the sidewalk to my left. I kept a sharp eye on him as I quickened my pace, unable to shake off the strange feeling. I could feel the hair on my nape standing.
I passed the man and twisted my neck to the left, looking behind me, fully expecting him to jump up and attack me. I didn’t notice the sound of the tricycle motor on my right until it was too late. It made a sharp U-turn beside the sidewalk and out jumped two men. One of them advanced and brandished a knife as he reached for my flute case.
I instinctively twisted to my right and moved my arm backwards to avoid his hand. Then I swung my flute case hard at his temple. His right arm swung to my gut and I felt my stomach muscles tighten, as if I had been punched. His companion went behind me, trying to hold my arms. I tried to break free, then felt a sharp pain and I realized the knife had sliced my left forearm.
After a few more seconds of struggle, the guy at the back suddenly let me go and shouted to his companion, “tarana, tarana!” (“Let’s go!”). They jumped into the waiting tricycle and sped away.
I took out a handkerchief and pressed it to my bleeding arm. I glanced down at my shirt and saw some blood. It was a knife that had hit my belly, not a punch. But it didn’t seem to be bleeding much. The wound in my arm was more painful. I remember thinking that if it wasn’t so deep, I would just go on straight home. I lifted the handkerchief to assess how deep the wound was. It was quite deep so I thought I’d have to go to a hospital.
There was a taxi on the corner, and I immediately climbed in asked the driver to bring me to a hospital. He brought me to the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital. I went down and the guard asked, “What happened to you?”
“I got stabbed,” I said.
“Ok,” said the guard. “Please sign this logbook here.”
I thought, “What the hell?” but took the pen anyway and tried to sign my name. I didn’t realize how hard it would be as my hand was involuntarily shaking as I wrote.
When I went inside the emergency room, there was a male nurse who looked at me and asked the same question, “What happened to you?”
I said I got stabbed and showed him my arm and pointed to my tummy. He looked at my arm and said, “Please go to that sink and wash that up.”
Again I thought, “What the hell?” but went ahead anyway and put my arm under running water. Then I went back and he had me lie down on the bed.
It was then I noticed the taxi driver standing beside me. He said, “Hey, is there anyone you’d like me to call regarding your condition?” So I thought to give him the number and address of my girlfriend who lived nearby, and from whose house I came from that night.