December 21, 2016

Fake Monks Spotted In Puerto Princesa City, Palawan

There are reports coming from Palawan that the fake monk mafia has reached the province's shores. Netizens from the province are posting on social media about their encounters with men dressed as Buddhist monks who are begging for donations. With shaved heads and wearing orange or gray Buddhist robes, the men roam the streets of Puerto Princesa City giving blessings and distributing bracelets and beads. But there's a catch. After giving a bracelet or a beaded necklace, the monks ask for a payment in return. The prices they seek range from 50 to 500 pesos. What's disconcerting is that they often refuse when a person gives a smaller amount like 20 or 10 pesos. The monks usually insist that a person pay 100 pesos for a bracelet or necklace. If a person doesn't give 100 pesos, the monks take the bracelet or beads back and move on. 

The modus operandi of the monks goes this way: A monk approaches you with a big smile. He bows and shakes your hands. He then slips a bracelet in your wrist or puts a necklace over your head. Sometimes the monk taps your forehead and recites some sort of a blessing. After this initial encounter, the monks suddenly brings out a bowl or a bag where you are supposed to put your donation money. The bowl is usually filled with 100 peso bills to trick you into giving a 100 peso bill. If you give a lesser amount, the monk keeps on refusing until you relent and give 100 pesos. Some of the monks become aggressive if you don't give 100 pesos. Some accept lower amounts but most of them just get the bracelet or beads back and move along.

The fake monks are often seen walking in Puerto Princesa along Rizal Avenue and Malvar Road. They are also regularly seen in the premises of the Robinsons Place Palawan. Based on the tactics of the monks in collecting money, there are reasons to believe that they belong to a global group of monks often referred to as the "fake monk mafia". These monks have been seen in major cities around the world like New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Sydney, Montreal, London, Hong Kong, and Paris. In the Philippines, they have been spotted in Baguio City, Manila, Cebu, and Boracay. Just recently, a photo of the monks roaming the streets of Baguio City went viral online.

The problem with these fake monks has grown so big that cities like Boston and New York City put up signs in their main thoroughfares to warn their citizens about the monks. The signs advise people not to give money or any other type of donations to the monks. Maybe the city of Puerto Princesa in Palawan learn from this and put up its own signs especially along Rizal Avenue.
Fake monks seen roaming the streets of Baguio City. They belong to the same group seen in the streets of Puerto Princesa City. Photo credit: The Cordilleran Sun