AMBUSHED by 5 BANDITS with M16s…and what I learnt

It was approaching dusk and we were almost there. Thirty more minutes and we’d be easing into the cool waves after a sweaty three hour drive to the white sandy beach in the Philippines. The four of us friends excited to get to the beach, took a short cut down a dirt road and through some sugar cane.

Half-way down the dirt road, a man with a red bandana over his face and an M16 machine gun emerged from the sugarcane and stood in the middle of the road. My friend slammed on the brakes and we screeched to a halt. Then another 4 bandits with their M16s surrounded the car.

What happened next was not what I expected.

My friend put MY window down to negotiate with the bandits.

“Yeah, great. Thanks very much mate” I thought as I turned to look down the barrel of the gun. My friend’s rationale after the fact was to let the foreign guy do the negotiating.

Fortunately for me and my friends, the bandits were polite (complete with gun in my face) and said in broken English “sorry to bother you but we are asking for Christmas donation”. Being nineteen year old University students, we didn’t have much but we all emptied our wallets (equivalent to a few dollars each) and I collected the handful of crumpled notes and handed them to the bandit. He distributed the spoils with his friends, said “thank you” with a smile and then disappeared like ninja into the sugarcane.

You know those moments where you don’t know whether to laugh at the ridiculously surreal situation you have found yourself in? Or to breakdown due to the overwhelming realisation that things could have been so much worse?

*Side note – one week later on that same holiday, the 8 seater light aircraft we were in stalled and fell out of the sky onto the runway with a bang. That day we had also narrowly missed a truck and flipped on a tricycle (motorcycle with a sidecar – I wasn’t driving) landing on our heads.

What I learnt:

  • Three near misses on this one holiday gave me a profound sense of GRATITUDE to this day.
  • Being half-Filipino I love the Philippines…but occasionally, the path less travelled through the sugarcane is not the smartest idea.
  • This experience would help me put things in perspective years later when faced with corporate “disasters”.

Q. Where have you had a difficult time and how have you used this to help you alter your perspective in the workplace?

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