I Was Kidnapped in Manila and Lived to Tell About it

Other potential titles:
  • The US Embassy Doesn't Want You Know About This Kidnapping in Manila
  • Scopolamine / Devil's Breath Trip Report

It started Easter weekend

This story starts at Noon Tuesday April 18th, 2017 on Makati Avenue. I just finished a meeting with the Philippines Board of Investments to discuss how my company can expand our business in Manila. (Also saw the QBO Innovation Hub, it was awesome.) I had plenty of time to kill and some emails to catch up on, so it's time for some brain food!

I walked right to the hottest part of town, Makati Ave. and Jupiter Ave., surely there will be something good to eat. And then suddenly, The Guy approaches me, I'm marked.
Hey, I know you are you staying at the Jazz Residences?
Jazz is about a 12 minute walk to here, and I did not walk towards Makati Ave. from that direction since I just came from the meeting. I'm always guarded with information and paying attention to stuff like that. There's about 20 other places I could have been staying. So I assume I did see him at Jazz.
I told him I was thinking about lunch at Inisal and he told me about how great that place was, so I go. And he asks if I'm going to the Easter parade and fireworks afterwards. He gave me a few details and said it's about ten minutes away by Jeepney.
Quick note if you're not filippino: it is totally believable that they might have a parade TWO DAYS AFTER Easter. They take Easter VERY seriously. Like it's the Second Coming of Jesus Christ each year. I mean everyone is singing outside, and it goes on for days.
Anyway, I finished eating a bangin' lunch and met him, as agreed, at the church across the street. Him, his brother Other Guy and aunt or something Pregnant Lady all get in the Jeepney with me.

The drugging

The Jeepney stops after about 10 minutes and The Guy tells me we're early so I should check out the bamboo organ because all the foreigners love it. Sure, that's ₱100 and totally worth it. Then we take a taxi for about 10 minutes "to save money" getting there.
The Jeepney and taxi ride
Jeepneys are fun, but I can barely fit inside
My captor hailing a taxi
Other Guy didn't let me take a selfie with him, but I took this one inadvertantly
The taxi stops in Zapote, Las Piñas City exactly at a Jeepney stop. We're here and we're a total party of 8 people now including Mina a 30-year-old girl that was The Guy's student in school, Mina's brother, Old Lady who is probably exactly 69 years old and talks constantly about how she loves sex, and Quiet Attractive Late 30s Girl.
Everybody wants to eat, but I'm not hungry. So we go into the restaurant/bar/hole in the wall. I have no problem talking to these people and they're all friendly so let's do it. This place has a video KTV machine, apparently this is called videoke or a carinderia.
They ordered a little fish for me. I had someone else at the table eat some before I eat a couple bites. They ordered a pitcher of beer for the table and I poured my own glass. I pounded it and put it down. Don't let strangers pour your drinks, and don't walk away from your drive they might be tainted, that's what they say.
So I sing a few songs with Mina and Mina's brother. Mina loves 90's loves songs. I know what to do, I put in a coin and dialed in Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men - One Sweet Day. We do a duet, we kill it. She has a great voice, why waste it on a life of crime?! She would not allow me to take her photo but she got my photo.
Little do they know I'm a karaoke veteran
Something wasn't right, if we're having a good time why wont anyone let me take their photo. Then I pull out my phone and ask if I can get a photo of the table. NO NO! Pregnant Lady is Pregnant, if you take a photo it will mess up the baby. Ok. I didn't really think about it. This is the downside of seeing lots of things, this totally wasn't weird to hear. Then the bitch lights up a cigarette.
I know we have a problem. I don't know what it is, but I'm in trouble. I b-line for the bathroom to pull out my phone in private. I turn on location sharing and send to my wife. Mina tailed me and asked if I felt sick. I didn't. Anyway that's the last thing I remember.

A quick nap at their house

I remember waking up on a Jeepney lying on Quiet Attractive Girl's lap. That memory lasted about as long as it took you to read the sentence. Then I woke up in bed at the The Guy's or Mina's house.
Did I pass out? I do that sometimes. It's really hot in here, did have heat exhaustion? Did I drink too much? No, I definitely wasn't drinking with these people because I don't know them. Was I roofied? Maybe, but I don't feel dizzy or nauseous. So I get out of bed to walk downstairs. But my legs don't work, so I use the arms to keep me up.
Other Guy, Pregnant Lady and one or two other people are chilling and chatting downstairs. "Hey what's up?" "Hey." My legs aren't working so I climb back up stairs for a power nap. And then something weird happens.
After a few minutes I wake up. And I'm actively surveying my body to see how I feel. I notice my shoes are off, that's something you learn quickly in American College. But my pen is missing from my pocket. I always travel with a weapon and that was my weapon. It really spooked me to not have my weapon. I didn't notice that my wallet and phone were also missing. Also, Quiet Attractive Girl is sleeping in bed with me. For some reason that didn't seem strange at the time. I check, she's got clothes on, I got clothes on, whatever, close my eyes for a few more minutes.

And I'm out

I wake up in that bed for the last time, "Shakey's Pizza's here!" Everyone's here and eating pizza. I'm still not sure whether I passed out or was drugged. But I wasn't hungry or thirsty and didn't want to risk putting anything in my body.
I wake up alone in a taxi. Mina gives me my phone ("I was charging it for you"), my wallet (sans $100, ₱2000 and ID, but with some money left) and my computer bag fully intact. "See you later."
The taxi wanted ₱500 but my wallet had ₱400. But I did have extra cash hidden on my person. And I got home. It was early Thursday morning. Woah.

Makati police, Manila police, FBI, PH National Police

Before bed I cancelled all my credit cards and found they had charged about $3,000. When you see the details of these transactions (below) you might lose any remaining faith you have in the competency of our world financial institutions. Apparantly me, my credit card and/or my phone went as far south as Batangas, which is over 100 km from where I started.
After a short sleep, I went to Makati Police Station 9 and met the captain. He's sharp and he asks to see the notebook I'm carrying. "What are you going to do if we look pull the ATM videos and find you are taking the money out?" "That didn't happen, I'll change my religion." He believes I was hypnotized.
Two of the officers transport me to the Makati Central Police Station. We're chatting. One officer is very interested my company's business and the opportunity of working with me. Later I hire his daughter, she doesn't work out.
Police report in Makati
After getting back to the USA, I contact the FBI (not interested), DHS (no jurisdiction), the embassy (form letter response), and the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (no response), and the investigator written on the above statement (no response).
I try very hard to inform the US Department of State of my experience so they can issue a travel advisory. No response. I filed a freedom of information act request to find who is even in charge of travel advisories. No useful response. Now I am appealing their useless response to my request for responsible person contact information.
Since my request, another incident has happened in Manila which President Donald Trump has called a terrorist attack.
Department of State is completely worthless

Conclusion

Overall I had a great time in Manila. This incident only cost me $140 cash and two days of my life… and no hangover. I've had worse drinking experiences. Luckily my captors let me go safely with all my possessions less $140, no organs missing. They only deleted two photos from my phone where I had a clear image of the captor. One of them they forgot to delete from the deleted photos folder. Here's the funny thing. Between the 9 of them they got $3,000 from me. But everyone else I had meetings with in the Philippines got a job and they are making more than that on my work-from-home data entry team.
I learned that even if you pour your own drink, and inspect the glass, it could still be compromised. The drugs are invisible. Also I posted furiously on Reddit and Twitter to learn more, since law enforcement was of zero help. Apparently the drug they used is Scopolamine / Devil's Breath. I got an STD test (came negative) a week later.

DATA

Here's all the data I have about my kidnapping. Law enforcement did not help investigate. So if you know any way to get the relevant video footage from banks, or malls, the streets or Shakeys in Batangas then maybe this will help.

Location

Here's the main map from my phone's location. I notice that when I passed out they immediately turned on the "do not lock" setting. This quickly used up my battery.

Google Timeline of Tuesday

Location data from images on my phone. I met The Guy at noon and 12:20 on Makati Avenue and was with him at these other times and locations.
ImageDateLatLong
IMG_3450.JPG2017:04:18 12:17:0914 deg 33' 43.01" N121 deg 1' 41.65" E
IMG_3451.JPG2017:04:18 12:25:3214 deg 33' 43.37" N121 deg 1' 40.61" E
IMG_3451.MOV2017:04:18 04:25:3214 deg 33' 43.20" N121 deg 1' 40.44" E
IMG_3452.JPG2017:04:18 13:51:1414 deg 28' 53.58" N120 deg 58' 55.73" E
IMG_3452.MOV2017:04:18 05:51:1714 deg 28' 53.40" N120 deg 58' 55.56" E
IMG_3456.JPG2017:04:18 13:57:4114 deg 28' 53.43" N120 deg 58' 53.81" E
IMG_3456.MOV2017:04:18 05:57:4214 deg 28' 53.40" N120 deg 58' 53.76" E
IMG_3457.JPG2017:04:18 13:57:4714 deg 28' 53.43" N120 deg 58' 53.86" E
IMG_3457.MOV2017:04:18 05:57:4814 deg 28' 53.40" N120 deg 58' 53.76" E
IMG_3458.JPG2017:04:18 14:02:2314 deg 28' 53.42" N120 deg 58' 53.78" E
IMG_3458.MOV2017:04:18 06:02:2314 deg 28' 53.40" N120 deg 58' 53.76" E
IMG_3459.JPG2017:04:18 14:02:3314 deg 28' 53.43" N120 deg 58' 53.75" E
IMG_3459.MOV2017:04:18 06:02:3414 deg 28' 53.40" N120 deg 58' 53.76" E
IMG_3460.JPG2017:04:18 14:04:4714 deg 28' 53.04" N120 deg 58' 55.13" E
IMG_3460.MOV2017:04:18 06:04:4714 deg 28' 53.04" N120 deg 58' 55.20" E
IMG_3461.JPG2017:04:18 14:04:5114 deg 28' 53.04" N120 deg 58' 55.13" E
IMG_3462.JPG2017:04:18 14:04:5414 deg 28' 53.04" N120 deg 58' 55.13" E
IMG_3463.JPG2017:04:18 14:05:2514 deg 28' 53.03" N120 deg 58' 55.18" E
IMG_3464.JPG2017:04:18 14:09:3614 deg 28' 52.84" N120 deg 58' 54.96" E
IMG_3465.JPG2017:04:18 14:09:4614 deg 28' 52.52" N120 deg 58' 54.74" E
IMG_3466.JPG2017:04:18 14:09:4714 deg 28' 52.52" N120 deg 58' 54.74" E
IMG_3467.JPG2017:04:18 14:09:4914 deg 28' 52.71" N120 deg 58' 54.88" E
IMG_3468.JPG2017:04:18 14:26:1914 deg 28' 26.73" N120 deg 58' 40.05" E
IMG_3469.JPG2017:04:18 14:26:1914 deg 28' 26.73" N120 deg 58' 40.05" E
IMG_3470.JPG2017:04:18 14:26:2014 deg 28' 26.98" N120 deg 58' 40.16" E
IMG_3471.JPG2017:04:18 14:26:2014 deg 28' 26.98" N120 deg 58' 40.16" E
IMG_3472.JPG2017:04:18 15:12:0914 deg 27' 54.04" N120 deg 58' 6.37" E
IMG_3473.JPG2017:04:18 15:12:1314 deg 27' 54.04" N120 deg 58' 6.37" E
IMG_3474.JPG2017:04:18 15:12:1514 deg 27' 54.08" N120 deg 58' 6.43" E
IMG_3475.JPG2017:04:18 17:30:5114 deg 27' 56.37" N120 deg 58' 4.09" E
IMG_3476.JPG2017:04:18 17:30:5114 deg 27' 56.37" N120 deg 58' 4.09" E
IMG_3477.JPG2017:04:18 17:30:5314 deg 27' 56.39" N120 deg 58' 4.07" E
Google has a record on my account that my phone accessed the weather on Wednesday at 9am. I have no other knowledge about my whereabouts on Wednesday.
Nobody has been able to help me learn the IP address of how my phone accessed that event. I don't even know if my phone was on their home wifi network… because iPhones just don't work like that.
My phone was Globe Telecom with phone number +63 0995 623 4594. I have my IMEI available too if you are in a position to help.

Restaurant

Later, with the help of Upwork and my personal contacts, I was able to identify the restaurant where I was drugged. 

Photo from Helper A

Photo from Helper B

Both helpers identified the restaurant as NENENG EATERY & VIDEOKE in Zapote, Las Pinas City. I asked them to take photos of specific parts of the restaurant and I can confirm that it is a match.

Credit/debit card use

HSA Bank credit card 4031333270199318

DateAmountLocation
2017-04-21204.51 USDMERCURY DRUG CAEDO COMM C
2017-04-21603.07 USDSM SUPERMARKET SM LIP
2017-04-21616.12 USDSM SUPERMARKET SM LIP
HSA Bank specifically has a policy that foreign transactions will be blocked. But they failed to implement this policy.

Capital One MasterCard

Total fraudulent cash withdrawals were $998.56 USD.
DateTimeAmount (USD)Location
2017-04-1812:23:3124.26Las Piñas, BPI Branch 0428
2017-04-1812:35:41206.18Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
2017-04-1812:36:37206.18Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
2017-04-1812:37:39206.18Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
2017-04-1812:38:45206.18Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
2017-04-1812:41:44105.11Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
2017-04-1812:42:4244.47Cavite-MGT, BDO/00302803/BR803 ATM 02
  • Note: these are account posting times in New York Time. The actual transaction time may be earlier.
  • BDO branch is at New Hall Commercial Center, Governor's Drive corner Crisanto Delos Santos Avenue, Brgy. Manggahan, General Trias, Cavite. Information provided by BDO at +63 (2) 631-8000.

Amazon Chase Visa Card 4147202298597137

Total fraudulant transactions were $3,603.27 USD.
Transaction DatePost DateDescriptionCity/PhoneAmount (USD)
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE BATANGASBATANGAS CITY554.46
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE LIPALIPA CITY58.50
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE BATANGASBATANGAS CITY415.13
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE BATANGASBATANGAS CITY321.56
2017-04-192017-04-20SHELL IMMACULATE SERVICAVITE28.54
2017-04-192017-04-20SM SUPERMARKET SM BATBATANGAS CITY617.61
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE BATANGASBATANGAS CITY421.88
2017-04-192017-04-20SM SUPERMARKET SM BATBATANGAS CITY605.06
2017-04-192017-04-20SM DEPT STORE BATANGASBATANGAS CITY574.56
  • Note: these transaction dates are in New York Time.

American Express Business Card 371559022481010

Total fraudulent transactions were 89,762.20 PHP.
Transaction dateTransaction timeLocationTransactionAmount (PHP)
2017-04-1804:41Cash withdrawal / Location unknownNo reference number10,050
2017-04-1810:19Max’s Restaurant / SM City Batangas3201710904646342806,601
2017-04-1903:41SM City Lipa32017109046470429629,780
2017-04-1904:13SM City Lipa3201710904645651297,590
2017-04-1904:19SM City Lipa32017109046456521329,880
2017-04-1907:06Batangas Shakey's 42003201710904647056315,177.20
2017-04-1907:06Batangas Shakey's 4200320171090464705890718
  • Note: there are two Shakey's in postal code 4200. It is likely that only one of those locations had a charge for exactly 5,177.20 PHP.
American Express confirms that on 2017-04-19 my business card was used to attempt to withdraw 10,000 PHP in cash. This is the only transaction they declined. I asked where this transaction was made and they said their records indicate this was done "somewhere in the US". And I asked if this was done with a physical card present. And they said "yes". So either (A) somebody teleported my payment card to the US to make a PHP-denominated cash transaction and teleported it back to Philippines, or (B) AmEx is seriously negligent in documenting their cash withdraw processes and is probably in default of United States anti money laundering laws.

That's it. You read to the very bottom of the data appendix section. Thanks. Seriously, thank you. I'm glad to have some closure here. It hasn't been traumatizing. But it is good to be done with it, because I just have so many other things to do in life.

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