November 15, 2005. I was surprised when I checked my cellphone and found out that there were already four missed calls and seven unread messages from the same number coming from someone not listed in my phonebook. I was only out from my office for less than 5 minutes to buy some snacks at a nearby Mini-Stop and to receive that many calls, it must be urgent.
The first message reads (and sent four times), “Jason, Steve here. Are your busy? I need your help.”
Followed by another message (sent three times), “I need your legal advice, I am in the police station right now.”
“Finally,” I said to myself, “the law caught up with him.”
I first met Steve December of 2004. Two days before I met him, he had been sending text messages to me. I asked him where he got my number and he said I gave it to him while we were chatting through mIRC. I find it weird because his number does not register in my phonebook and when I give out numbers to chatmates, I usually give it on a trade (I give my number, you give your number also). So I ignored him, but he still keep on sending messages and in several occasions, he called (he was using a Suncellular and so was I, so he must have unlimited call and text).
Right after getting out of the gym last December 23, 2004, I went straight to Glorieta to do my last minute Christmas Shopping (I was taking the morning flight on the following day and haven't bought gifts for my nephew and niece). While in Glorieta, my phone rung again. It was a call from Steve.
“Hi! Steve again, where are you?” He asked.
“I am in Glorieta.”
“Great! I am in Glorieta too, can we meet?”
“Ummm . . . okay.” I agreed to see him, at least I could already put a face to someone who has been sending me tons of text messages. “I am outside of Goldcrest, meet me here,” I said, “but meet lang to ha, I need to go home early. I haven't packed my bags yet and I am taking the morning flight tomorrow to our province.”
And so I met Steve. I was a little bit surprised that he actually look okay (experience tells me that kulit persons are not usually “physically blessed”) . He was tall (around 5'10”- 5'11”), moreno, lean (more of v-shaped-model-like-body). But what caught my attention was the bandage wrapped around his right arm. Pointing at his right hand, I asked, “What happened to that?” He answered an accident. I did not bother to inquire further.
Steve is person you will easily like. He has lots stories to tell and is very engaging in conversation, cheerful, humorous. “I usually tell people that I meet that I am from Pasig,” he shared, “but i am actually just residing nearby.”
“Where?” I asked.
“Basta, dyan lang”
“Okay,” he gave in, “for now, I actually live with my aunt in Dasmariñas.”
“Nope,” he answered, “Village, here in Makati.”
WHOA! This guy is rich! (FYI: Dasmariñas and Forbes Park, are posh villages in Makati).
Much as would like to talk to him that night, I really have to go home early to pack my things. So I said goodbye. Insecure that I am, I thought that would probably the last time we see each other as he probably would be to choosy to see me again.
December 24, 2004. I was already at the airport and trying to wait for our flight to be called (delayed as usual!) when my cellphone rung. It was Steve.
“HI!” Damn!, I sound too excited.
“Are you still at the airport?” Steve Asked.
“Well, I might catch you there.”
“And why is that?” I inquired.
“Well, I woke this morning and realized that I'll be spending Christmas with my Aunt and her katulongs, (househelp), which I don't like. So I decided to spend Christmas in Boracay.”
“Ah okay, do you have reservation already for your flight?”
“None yet, I'll call the airline now and will call you later.”
Steve put down the phone. I thought, if this is true then he must be rich. While most of us really have to plan (and save money) for months for a trip to Boracay, this guy visit that place out of his whims.
Steve called again and told me that his driver is already bringing him to the airport. True indeed, moments later I saw Steve at the departure lounge wearing a khaki shorts, t-shirt and sneakers and carrying a backpack.
Pointing at his small backpack, I asked, “is that your luggage?”
“Yup! I’ll buy stuff nalang in Boracay.”
Steve and I had a chat while waiting for our flights. According to him, he works in New York, finished College in Portugal and was just in the Philippines for a vacation. I was amazed at the thought that this guy must be very rich. But there is one nagging thought that bothers me that time. Steve was so familiar with the Pinoy gay lingo and I can’t detect any accent or twang from him. Well, he must have been practicing his Tagalog often, I reasoned out.
Steve’s flight to Caticlan was already called, mine was super delayed! We parted ways.
While I was already in Cagayan de Oro, he called me and through the Christmas season we were calling each other. We were talking about the interesting people he met while he was in Boracay. He also told me that we will no longer have time to catch with each other in Manila because he will be going back to New York first week of January, this after spending the New Year in Hong Kong.
February 2005 Steve called again. He was back in Manila because something bad happened to her Aunt. Later, he told me that his Aunt died and left him a property in Corinthian Gardens (another posh Village in Quezon City).
We decided to meet that time and he confessed that he wants to visit a massage parlor and a gay bar. I told him, I don’t have money for that. He answered, “no worries, I’ll pay for it.” Who am I to deny a chance of getting a free massage from hunky masseurs!
After our meeting Steve told me that he will be visiting a friend in China, but he will back after a week. He also said that Miguel (the guy who allegedly gave my number to Steve) is arriving in Manila (Miguel is in New York also, according to Steve) and is excited to meet me. I asked Steve if he can send me the pic-link of Miguel that he gave before since I lost it. Steve gave me a website.
When I opened the website, I was surprised that the person was different from the picture that Steve gave before (although both pictures were that of a goodlooking muscular hunk). This further added to my suspicion.
My suspicion started one day when Steve called me and said that he lost his wallet and his money was gone. He can’t ask money from his Aunt in Dasmariñas (apparently different from the Aunt who died) since they were in bad terms. He already asked money from his Parents who are residing in LA, but his parents sent the money through door-to-door transfer (At this day and age, someone from LA still send money through door-to-door!) So to make the long story short, he wanted to borrow money from me. Well, I don’t have enough cash at that time, so I wasn’t able to lend him some money.
Second week of March 2005, Steve told me that Miguel has already arrived but still meeting their friends. Despite having doubt about Miguel, I still agreed to meet him. He and Miguel well meet me after my class. At the appointed time of our meeting, I was already waiting for hours for Steve and Miguel to arrive but there was no Steve or Miguel that came. I was sending text messages to Steve, but I received no reply. I was furious!
Steve stopped sending text messages to me from that day.
May 2005, while James, Al and I were on our way to Puerto Galera, I received a text message from an unknown sender. It was from Steve and he asking if I was still mad at him. I told him, “no, its not my business to carry a grudge.” Knowing that, he invited me for lunch, but since I was on my way to Galera, we postponed our lunch meeting a week after my Galera vacation.
A weekday after my Galera trip, Steve and I met at Fridays in Glorietta where he treated me for lunch. After our lunch he asked if I could accompany him to do some shopping. I don’t have anything to do at that time so I willingly went with him. At Rustans in Glorieta Steve was offered by a salesboy with a new perfume from Lacoste. Steve bought it, but instead of buying the smaller bottle that was offered to him, he bought the bigger and the more expensive one.
At that time Steve was carrying a discount card from Rustans, the salesgirl attending to him asked that he will write his name and card number on a piece of paper. I was looking down at the form. Then Steve asked me if he has to write his name or the name that appeared in the card (according to him, the card is owned by his cousin). I told him that you write the name that appeared on the card. I had suspicions that Steve asked me that because he does not want me to see that name that he will write on that form. Sensing that, I left and pretended to look at some items on sale, leaving Steve with the salesgirl.
It was already the salesgirl who brought Steve’s payment to the cashier. While waiting for the salesgirl, Steve said that he will just be going outside to look for his driver. While Steve was outside of the Department Store, the salesgirl, apparently looking for Steve, handed to me the perfume that Steve bought, his change and the discount card. Steve was still outside so I checked the name in the card. The card was named after a certain “Jonathan Piring”.
The name was quite familiar. I believed I encountered that name already before in the internet and it was sort of a warning about that guy.
Steve went back to the store and told me his driver is already waiting outside. He offered to take me to Malate. There was something odd about the car. Other than it is a sedan and painted white with a barong clad chauffeur, the car lacks those personal items typical of a personally owned car (i.e. folders, papers, tissue holder, stuff toys and other stuff that would make it looked like its being used by the same owner regularly). The car was bare and it looks like a car for rent.
Steve took me to Malate and right after he left, I looked for an internet shop, there was one near Robinsons Ermita. Inside the internet café, I immediately opened the Google website and googled the name “Jonathan Piring”. One entry appeared and it reads, “Beware of a con-artist named Jonathan Piring”. That entry came from one of the yahoo groups. Unfortunately, when I tried to open that yahoo group, it was already inaccessible.
One week after I learned about Jonathan Piring, I received a message from one of the yahoo groups stating “mag ingat sa lalakeng may benda sa kamay.” A picture was attached and it was a photo of Steve taken from a police station. The warning came from one of the Steve’s victim. His modus operandi was to befriend a person, pretend that he is rich and once he earn your trust, he will steal something from you.
I tried to make contact with the guy he victimized and offered my help. But that guy already has plans.
From that time when Steve sends me a message, I was still answering him pretending everything was still the same. He never knew that I know who he really is.
Steve stopped sending text messages and his phone was already unattended. I lost contact with him until that day he sent me a text message telling me he was at the Police Station.
Steve asked me to call the police station near Shangrila Mall (the one under the Shaw flyover). I was able to talk to the police officer and the officer told me that one guy asked for their helped. That guy allegedly went with Steve to Bagiuo. They stayed together in a hotel. While he was taking a bath in the hotel, Steve left and carried with him the money and cellphone of that guy.
I talked to Steve and he recounted to me what he did. I ordered him to settle with that guy. He was very afraid of getting imprisoned at that time. I assured him he won’t, since the Police would need a warrant of arrest for him to be imprisoned or he has to be caught in the act of stealing for them to arrest him, which was not the case.
That night I sent a text message to Steve and told him I already knew who he was long before he called me asking for helped. I said may this be a lesson for him and asked him to stop all his criminal activities. Steve never replied.
Two months after, I received another call. It was Steve again saying he was being accosted by some Security Guards at Makati Medical Center. He had another victim there. This time, I ignore him and refused to help. He never learned his lessons.