On our last day in Barcelona on October 10, as my sister and I were walking down the stairs to the metro platform, a lady shouted and pointed at my backpack which was slightly open.
Aboard the subway, I checked my bag and felt blood drain from my face when I realized the transparent packet that contained my passport and cash was gone!
We got off at the next stop and returned to the scene of the crime, looking for anything that may have been dropped. We asked the kiosk nearest the ticket machine if they happened to see my packet. Nothing!
My sister checked the trash bin. Nothing.
We approached two policemen who were busy talking with apparently another victim. They advised us to go to the police station nearest our hotel.
Thus began our most stressful night in Barcelona. At the precinct, the policeman was kind and communication was made easier by an app on his computer that translated English text to Spanish. We got the police report in minutes.
Thankfully, we had no other trip outside Spain and we were scheduled to go back to Madrid, our base, and then to Manila. Otherwise, all other trips would have been cancelled.
At the Philippine embassy in Madrid, I was able to get a travel document within hours, armed with the police report, a photocopy of my passport, and 3 photographs. The embassy provided an affidavit of loss. The travel document allowed me to board the plane, layover in Amsterdam and return to the Philippines.
It embarrasses me to say that this is the second time I was pickpocketed in Spain. First was in Madrid in 2009 while I was on the metro. I felt someone bump me but didn’t think much of it. When friends and I were about to pay the dinner bill in a restaurant, I couldn’t find my wallet. Credit cards and cash had disappeared!
It turns out that many tourists in various parts of Europe have gone through this horrifying and miserable experience. A US-based Filipino wrote in her blog about being robbed in Barcelona ━ in the comfort of the hotel lobby. Another chronicled his experience in Paris.
In July, the Philippine embassy in France issued a travel advisory warning Filipino tourists about “break-ins, robberies and pickpocketing.”
Why have these petty crimes become routine? One reason is that the number of tourists in France and Spain are staggering and the police simply cannot cope.
France is the world’s most popular destination, with about 87 million tourists in 2017, followed by Spain with 82 million.
Somehow, Barcelona has gained the reputation of being a bag-snatching capital. That makes me part of the statistics, one among thousands of victims.