GLAD to be back.

My recent trip to New York was no picnic at all. It was made with threats obtaining in the Big Apple – high Covid incidence, Asian hate crime and monkey pox cases. Triple risks.

I wouldn’t blame anyone shying from a trip to New York even with just one of the dangers. It is completely understandable if they choose Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere. Anywhere but New York, so their minds would urge them.

Covid is still real. There is still a surge in key cities in the US. In fact, few days before I left NYC, the City of Los Angeles in California mandated the use of face masks once again. In New York, city buses and subway trains would still bear signs “Masks Required” but alas, that may just be a reminder and is not followed. In my several trips to the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Bronx and even New Jersey across the river, more than half of fellow passengers no longer wear face masks, I observed

Did I do the same? Nope. I was and still am like a scared kitten. I kept my mask on all the time and I applied sanitation liquids like alcohols and alcogels.

I believe I have not put my guard down. I had to do that especially in view of another scare – monkey pox which is transmissible through surface and physical touches. It called for a constant pour of alcohol on my hand each time I alight from public transportation or even mere escalators and other passages where handrails, knobs and levers had to be held.

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More than the medical or health scare, I was more concerned on threat of being mugged. New York City is a fantastic place. Don’t get me wrong by getting the idea that it has become a muggers’ paradise. I think that was a stigma that I first encountered back in 2004 when I made my first trip there. I have made a yearly trip since then (except for the last two and half years), especially in covering the United Nations General Assembly.

I would still come back there (with tons of cautions). But to get anxious is all but natural.

Just before I flew to the US a little over a month ago, there was this story about a Filipino lawyer who was shot dead in Philadelphia. Atty. John Albert Laylo, who was just visiting (like me), and mother Leah Laylo were fired at while in an Uber ride. Albert was not as fortunate as his mom who sustained just shrapnel wounds. His life was ended by a bullet and it was a case of mistaken identity as the perpetrator was after another guy in the same kind/make of a vehicle that the Laylos were in.

On July 13, or few days before I flew back home, another Filipino tourist was mauled. The incident took place at 6th Avenue and 46th street. My golly, that location was where I usually walked coming from subway train on the way to the Philippine Consulate at the Philippine Center along 5th Avenue. That is where I usually alight from a train stop under the Rockefeller Center which is a stone’s throw away from the Consulate.

This particular incident was an another confirmed of Asian hate crime as racial slur “F Asians” were uttered during the assault.

As reports have it, the 18-year-old victim was even walking with three other Pinoys when the unfortunate incident happened. Man, I walk that area all by myself as I covered some meetings and other events at the Consulate and a hotel nearby not just once or twice.

I must admit I got scared and just stayed home for few days after that assault to a fellow Filipino.

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That was the 41st “hate incident” against Filipinos in New York City, as confirmed by New York Consul General Elmer Cato. And it did not stop there, case 42 took place on July 22, when a 51-year old Filipina was “verbally assaulted and harassed by a homeless woman,” according to a tweet by Cato. These are just the reported cases. There are still some that remain unknown by Filipino diplomats assigned in northeast America.

I can only commiserate with our kababayan in New York city and adjoining areas. I can feel their fears as I went through that too.

These are all happening despite a pro-active stance taken by the Consulate as it issues advisories and warnings, asking members of Fil-Am communities to be vigilant and take precautionary steps. Such appeals are necessary and are helpful towards preventing similar cases from happening.