Novels and TV series have a longstanding love affair with crime scene investigation, evoking a natural impulse on readers and viewers to embrace the story and ride along with the adventure. In every murder story, different characters in a setting ultimately make twists and turns into an unpredictable nail-biting extravaganza. If you’re one who’s fascinated with this kind of genre, you might have thought of playing the role of the investigator yourself. So given the chance, are you game to do detective work for a day?

My answer was YES! 🙂

Brought by Runtertainment, Inc., the team behind Outbreak Manila, the 5-km zombie infested fun run, Breakout Philippines—the country’s premiere escape room game, and the 1000 ft slip-and-slide for Slidefest Philippines, Breakout Interactive Theater (BIT) had organized a one-day event last Saturday, July 11, 2015, for crime investigation enthusiasts to experience and solve a murder mystery filled with suspense and live action going on.

I teamed up with Franc, Louie, and Gianne, and together we interrogated probable suspects and accomplices of the murder and looked for evidences to answer one basic question: WHODUNNIT. As each character revealed information about what might have happened, the plot transpired to be riveting and simply nerve-wrecking.

Crime Investigation Case Solved at Breakout Interactive Theater (Commercenter Alabang)

Background

Commercenter Alabang has grown from a humble movie house in the 1990s to one of the most prestigious malls in the country. The company started with three founders: Brian Valdez, Julio Rodrigo, and Tinio. However, as fate would have it, Tinio had parted ways with Valdez and Rodrigo because of a misunderstanding after some years.

In 2014, Valdez died of lung cancer and it was his last will and testament to have his only son, Nicholas Magnus, run the company as president and CEO. The business went on smoothly under Magnus’ leadership, and he was in fact awarded as the “Best Executive of the Philippine Malls” with Commercenter Alabang located in the south.

As part of the game play, the event we attended was Commercenter Alabang’s Appreciation Night and 25th Anniversary Celebration.

It was supposedly a momentous occasion where Magnus would thank loyal patrons and the people working for the success of Commercenter through the years. Sumptuous dinner was served by Belly Grub, and guests (participants of Whodunnit) were treated with a warm welcome by Magnus himself even before he went onstage.

Murder Occurrence

Shortly, Magnus was called up by the host to deliver his speech. While thanking guests, someone called his phone alerting on the emergency. Simultaneously, we heard gunshots on the background.

Two private investigators entered the scene. Apparently, they were hired by Magnus to protect and secure the mall since he had been receiving threats on its safety. Julio Rodrigo, one of the founders and friends or Valdez, now Head of Security, was appalled when he learned about it as he felt bypassed for his role.

An undercover agent named Jojo Garcia was killed—and this signaled the official start of our mission. Who was the killer and what were his motives?

WHODUNNIT Investigation

A set of evidences was presented on the Evidence Table. It consisted of the victim’s shirt and pants full of blood and a parking ticket detailing the date and time of arrival and plate number. This hinted us to check if the car was still parked in the parking area so we can get the next leads.

Suspect # 1

On the way to the car, we met one of the primary suspects of the murder. Butch Balmaceda, the guard on duty hired by Julio Rodrigo, was wearing sunglasses indoors and appeared too drunk to be fully cognizant of what was happening. We saw him smoking quite a bit of cigarettes and heavily sweating through his polo. He admitted feeling stressed because his wife was in the hospital and he terribly needed money to pay for the bills.

Amidst all his reasoning, he could be just lying or feeling a pang of guilt for murdering someone (thus the sweating, drinking, and fidgeting) in exchange of money out of desperation. If he were really the killer, it still wasn’t clear who could have hired him and why the murder had to be done.

Moving on, we found the car we were looking for. Inside were a ticking bomb, bags, some documents, and a box labeled with the name “Julian Rodriguez.”

The car had a dent on the back corner by the trunk. Beside it was a finished can of San Miguel beer which we thought could be a trace of Butch Balmaceda as he came clean on drinking the same can of beer earlier.

Could Butch be the one who had set up the bomb? This would only make sense if he had the car key. Our next questions were: who drove the car and whose car was it?

Suspect # 2

Next, we interviewed Nicholas Magnus and learned that the car was his and Manu was the name of the driver who drove him that day. With these info, our minds wandered on the possibilities that either Magnus planted the bomb in the car so he could claim insurance or Manu the driver did it with another hidden agenda.

The reason why Magnus’ last name wasn’t taken after his father was that he was born out of wedlock from Valdez’s second wife. Also because of this, many believed that it was not right for an illegitimate son to be handed down the major shares of the company and become its most powerful controlling entity.

Suspect # 3

Julio Rodrigo was one among those who opposed the idea—for without the presence of Magnus, he could have been the next lawful successor of Commercenter. He strongly stressed though that he would not reach the point of killing someone just to be at the top.

When asked why he did not think of starting up his own business and maybe even compete with Commercenter, he said he loved the company so much like his own “baby.” Hence, he could not forgo the thought of leaving it despite that he remained as the head of security as originally appointed.

Suspect # 4

While we were having dinner, we’ve known Manu Tinio as the guy in white barong walking around the sides of the dining hall.

After the incident, we saw him outside the mall wearing a black polo.

Why did he change clothes and why was he not found with everyone with us inside when the commotion took place? He said that food spilled on his barong and he had to make security rounds in the mall building to secure the perimeter as part of his job being the assistant head of security next to Julio Rodrigo.

When asked if he knew Magnus’ driver (who goes with the same name “Manu”), he said no nonchalantly. His expression didn’t betray his speech.

Suspect # 5

Working in Commercenter for 25 years, Rina Cruz personally did know Valdez and she would be compensated with a commission from the insurance if anything goes awry with the company. She was found carrying a logbook containing all the “time in” and “time out” entries of employees at Commercenter. We noted the entry log of Manu Tinio and discovered that it did not matched the time of arrival he stated. We were then convinced that Manu Tinio was a liar. Conversely, it was also possible that Rina altered the logs to further complicate weaves in the murder mystery.

As the operations manager in charge of all the staff sourcing in the mall, Rina must be holding critical personal information of people being hired in Commercenter. Since the “Manu Tinio” we met previously held the same surname as Tinio, the former partner of Valdez and Rodrigo, we inquired on the odds that the two could be related. Additionally, we asked if she’s aware that “Manu Tinio” was the same “Manu” pertained as Magnus’ driver. Rina denied both accounts and told us these could be passed off as mere coincidences.

Case Analysis

It was 20 minutes before the two-hour limit and we had to fill out the accusation sheet and evidence sheet to be surrendered at the end of the game for evaluation. We initially decided that Butch Balmaceda was the killer because there were more evidence to back the accusation and support its demise.

Fortuitously, we ran across the Emergency Exit at the second floor and found more solid proofs that convinced us to change our answer and conclude that the real suspect was Manu Tinio. My gosh lah! White barong with blood stains, gun, picture of the founders, Marlboro cigarette box—all these were solid indications that pointed to him.

A bartender named Cocoy testified that he smoked with Manu Tinio a while back and that it was only Manu Tinio who wore the same barong.

The guy wanted revenge because of the falling out of Valdez and Tinio. It’s vague for me though how Manu Tinio was related to the founder Tinio.

Wrap Up

Breakout Philippines has taken interactive entertainment to a whole new level. Whodunnit, Breakout Interactive Theater’s first public release, fell in the same vein as the unpredictable and suspenseful nature of CSI, Sherlock, etc. It’s the perfect game for detectives at heart! 🙂 Everything was planned out well in the mall. The great acting of the cast, the realistic plot and setting, and the game mechanics helped build the excitement that fueled us participants to compete and unravel the mystery.

Watch out for more crime solving cases and detective work by Breakout Philippines next time. 🙂

Thanks, Franc, for the invite!

 

About 

Digital marketing strategist. Health and technology freak. Food and lifestyle blogger with a large appetite for food and travel.

40 Responses

  1. Mr_jeng

    Interesting…. So it was the barong that gave him up hahahahahaha!!!!from your story, it seems that the event wad well conceptualized… The whole are was also huge to start with…galing ^^

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Haha yes, sa hinaba-haba ng kwento noh? It was a great start for Outbreak to produce another inventive story that people will put their minds into. I was tad surprised that we had the entire mall as the venue. 😛 Running/brisk walking was an advantage.

      Reply
  2. Joanne T Ferguson

    This looks to be a very fun event and night to share with friends! The clues, the mystery and the memories made never ends! This is something I would love to do as love anything that is interactive!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      If you’re bored about life, this is something that’s great to try. Play along with the story and imagine you’re a true detective for a night. 🙂 It’s not necessary that you bring friends because you can also group with strangers that eventually can become new friends.

      Reply
  3. Kita

    I love it! We have something similar to that down here in Atlanta, GA where it’s a dinner and a mystery. Each table is assigned the plot and we have to look for clues and stuff and they feed you. I have wanted to go for a date night it will be so different and nice.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Nice! I’m glad that we have this kind of adventure that’s suitable for all ages. As long as you’re safe, looking for clues and discovering “who done it” must feel awesome. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Ourfamilyworld

    I have seen this in another blogpost and I think this is a really fun event. How nice that all of got involved in solving the crime. It must have been so fun investigating the suspects and looking for evidences.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yeah, I bet it was Franc’s post. 🙂 We were together in it and had fun while solving bits and pieces of the puzzle. It was quite rewarding to know that we found the right answer in the end.

      Reply
  5. Nicole

    That’s such a cool event! The food looks soo good.. (omg my foodie self needs to calm down XD). Looks like you had a fun time!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Actually I didn’t manage to finish the meal but instead focused my energy on people surrounding us. We were advised to pay attention to details we hear even while having dinner since registration marks the start of the game. We did have fun!

      Reply
  6. Nancy (@spiffykerms)

    Oh man! I have heard of these types of senerios before that you can totally interact with and “do”. My friends have been posting stuff like this on FB for the last few weeks. I SOOO want to go and have a time being like a detective myself.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Just wait when the next interactive theater would be and be sure to register for that one. It will challenge you to think outside the box and discover your abilities on problem-solving as well. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Chantal

    This looks like such a great time! I have always wanted to go to a ‘murder mystery’ dinner party but have never had the chance to go, I think it would be a blast! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      You’re welcome! It was a great event and so I’m not a bit remorseful that I didn’t get to watch my guesting on Pop Talk on the day it was aired. Talk about conflict in schedule. I got to watch the replay anyway! 🙂

      Reply
  8. Vera Sweeney

    This looks like it would be so much fun to take part in! I love mysteries so being in one would be amazing. Looks like everyone had a blast at the investigation and the whole night.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yeah, everyone was dead serious and really felt like being investigators helping out to solve the crime. I just hoped that the dead body was shown or even the picture of the victim so we would feel like it’s real.

      Reply
  9. Krystal

    I have always wanted to experience a murder mystery event. We have one in my town where it is a murder mystery on a train and it takes you to the next town over and back. I always wondered if it was worth the money, but you are inspiring me to give it a try!

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Wow! That sounds even more amazing. The coverage is bigger and you get to experience a lot more and interact with fellow participants. Give it a try and give me a short report, please! 🙂 Now I’m excited for you.

      Reply
  10. Laura MyNewestAddiction

    I have been wanting to do one of these whodunnit interactive things for a long time. I think it would be fun because I am always that person that is watching the movie screaming at the tv to do this or do that. 😀

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Wahaha I feel you. I like suspense, thriller, and the interesting stuff as I do romantic and the cheesy ones. This kind of event rarely happens so definitely I’m happy to have joined this time. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Stephanie of The TipToe Fairy

    Oh my goodness, this looks like so much fun! My daughter is actually away on a youth leadership conference and they were doing something similar today with a mock crime scene. I would totally love to participate in something like this. It looks so much better than the typical mystery dinners I’ve seen advertised.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Great! I hope that you have the chance to sign up at one of the programs of their group. It would be fun and I’m sure you will enjoy also hanging out with people in different ages from different backgrounds. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Shayne

    I’ve been hearing a lot of good feedback about this breakout PH! I should really try it out soon! Gonna brush up my solving skills! hehe

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yup, this is the first interactive theater they have come up with. Like their Facebook page for upcoming projects and events they will have in the near future. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Yona Williams

    Very cool! I think attending an event like this would make a nice outing with my sweetie. We have an Italian restaurant that does a mystery theater – I haven’t been to it yet.

    Reply
  14. Franc Ramon

    It’s always a pleasure teaming up with you. It was so intense that 20 minutes before the deadline we were still clueless on Whodunnit. Glad we found the evidence in time to solve the case.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      Yay! Thanks for choosing me to be your team partner hehe. Yeah, that last part was really intense. My energy level hyped up to get everything written down so we won’t miss the cut. 😛

      Reply
  15. Pal Raine

    At first, I was a bit confuse of the event when I read Franc post, but after reading it again and again, it is just a play. An interactive play, that if you were blind and not know the real thing, it will be a serious crime indeed. Congrats guys!

    Reply
  16. Dianne Salonga

    I read some post about this event and good to hear at it’s not just an ordinary event but scenes in a play. Hope that more mystery play or acts like this will play in theaters in the near future too.

    Reply
    • Rochkirstin Santos

      I don’t frequently attend or watch plays but that doesn’t discount the fact that I get entertained a lot seeing how realistic the actors’ expressions and emotions are projected every time. 🙂

      Reply
  17. jared's mum

    solving a crime always sounds like a very good activity.this sure is a very interesting event to be part of. i hope i will get invited to one soon!

    Reply

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