If it seems like there are more security guards than police officers in the Philippines, it’s because there are more security guards than police officers. To be honest, I rarely see police officers except when a checkpoint is set up. In that case, I usually see too many in one place.
I see security guards in places where I don’t expect to see them, but they’re there nonetheless. Of course, I see them where I expect to see them. Places like banks and other places that handle large sums of money always have one or more security guards visible.
The first time I entered an SM City mall was in 2006, and I was mildly shocked to be patted-down by a security guard at the door. Every SM City mall has at least two guards at every entrance, usually one male and one female.
When you enter, the line splits in two directions. One for male and one for female patrons. The guards do simple pat-downs to make sure weapons aren’t being carried inside. It should be obvious, but the female guards pat down women and the male guards pat down men.
The guards will also check large handbags because large handbags can carry more than makeup kits and cell phones. They won’t do a thorough inspection. They’ll just look inside most of the time.
Large stores, like the Royal Subic at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, will have one or more guards at every entrance. Banks will usually have guards both inside and outside. I’ve noticed some large stores in Olongapo without any guards at the entrances. Those places are usually just grocery stores, not carrying high-dollar (or high-peso) items.
Some entrances even have metal detectors, but the guards will usually ignore them because almost every person will set them off. Many of the guards are armed, some with pistols and some with shotguns. It’s obvious they’re expecting close quarter attacks, if an attack should occur.
Most of the security guards are friendly. I haven’t met an unfriendly one yet. I even have one bilas (a sister-in-law’s husband) who’s a security guard for the BDO bank branches in Olongapo and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. One of my wife’s aunts sends money to relatives through BDO instead of Western Union, and she usually sends it through him to make sure it gets to where it belongs.
Security guards tend to be less visible in the United States. The malls have them, but you won’t see them unless something happens. The guard stations use closed-circuit monitoring systems to watch what’s going on in various areas and the guards won’t spring into action until they’re needed.
There are guards at a lot of the grocery stores, but they’re usually called something else, like store detectives. A lot of guards are plain-clothed, so they don’t attract attention. It’s easier to catch shoplifters that way.
Security guards are way more visible in the Philippines, and it doesn’t bother me at all.