from the commuter

The photos which I took myself are random images of commuting and life. Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Commuter is in Zamboanga

Commuter is spending his holidays in Zamboanga, and he is spending it in their lovely home without Internet connection. As he writes this, he is in a computer shop some kilometers from his house. Despite that, he is very glad to be spending Christmas at home.

Until he gets to work, he wouldn't be able to check his account regularly. So here, to his two readers, he wishes them  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

He sends you a glimpse of Zamboanga.

Zamboanga and Manila streets are very different. You would see that  motorcycles are king. They outnumber the jeeps. He thinks it's a reflection of the economy and infrastructure in the city. Nevertheless, home is still home.

Again, Merry Christmas to one and all!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trip to Divisoria

A Divisoria street
One December weekend, the ride I took with my sister to Divisoria ended right in front of the Binondo Church. It was my first in many years. Divisoria is not exactly the place I would frequent even though goods are dirt cheap. My memory of my last visit was almost the same as the one I had this weekend, except that this one was more eye-opening.

Binondo is always a sight to behold. It's not exactly the same as other Chinatowns in other Asian countries, but its Chinese identity, if I may use tautology, is definitely all over the place! Few more meters and I'd be stepping closer to Divisoria. I don't know exactly where Binondo ends and where Divisoria starts. One indicator I could think of is the presence of sidewalk vendors; where they thrive is probably Divisoria territory already. I was getting near; it was just an intersection away from where I was to go. And yes, where there are many people, it's as good as a street sign saying "Divisoria." I just had to cross a street to get where I was supposed to go. Crossing streets had never been a problem, you know, but I was in a rather difficult situation that Saturday morning in Divisoria. Just to cross one took me five minutes; it was worse than EDSA traffic on Christmas season rush hour! Foot traffic was unbelievable. It looked as if half of Metro Manila was in Divisoria! There was simply no time for complaints and turning back. A poor customer like me can't be too choosy.

But that is what Divisoria is, and it's her low-priced nature that makes people want to have a piece of her  despite her seemingly impassable streets and sidewalks. For someone who wants cheap stuff, this place is heaven. That's why no matter how inconvenient that place is, the good buys one gets would simply compensate for any difficulty. The only thing   I somehow regretted was not bringing more cash. On the other hand, it was good that I didn't bring extra money. Those trinkets and clothes  I had fancied would probably bore a bottomless hole on my pocket!

I stuck to my plan which was only to order personalized cups for the high school reunion I was organizing. This meant I had to come back the next day, Sunday, to claim my order.

Sunday afternoon came, and I saw myself among the throng of eager shoppers of Divisoria again. There were slightly fewer people this time. I gathered that most people would come in the morning. I would have no idea of the crowd in the evening, but I heard stalls were open even at night.

I finally got my cups, all fifty of them. Now, how do I get a  five-kilo box full of ceramic cups out of this shopping madness and into the free flowing streets where jeepneys abound? It was a long walk yet an interesting view of Divisoria market life. Other than the cheap products, I have yet to discover Divisoria's other charms that continuously draw people back to her.

I might just plan my next visit soon to discover it for myself, and planning includes bringing lots of cash and wearing more comfy clothes!

Have a happy Christmas shopping to you and me! Merry Christmas!


Divisoria image


The crowd thickens at Divisoria


Friday, December 10, 2010

Prejudice

I have an issue with street children. If I can avoid them, I will. I see in them the sad future of this country : dirty, sick, drugged, disgusting and aimless. I hold the sight of them in contempt, especially when they are in a church. Inside the church last Sunday, upon seeing two boys in soiled clothes, my thoughts were "someone was going to be robbed of his or her wallet," and " why were they here."

I cannot blame myself for those thoughts. I have had experiences with street children, and they are not exactly nice ones. Solvent-sniffers, pickpockets, mendicants are the words I associate with them. I personally find it ironic to be thinking this way since I devote one weeknight every week as a volunteer in a street children center in Alabang. I teach them to read, help them with other academic homework and devote time in their activities. I do this with passion; my co-volunteers' fervor must have rubbed off on me big time. I am enjoying my selfless time with them. This has been a great opportunity to do something good, a far cry from the self-centered life I have been living. To begin with, the kids in the center are different from the ones in the streets. At the center, they take a bath daily, go to school, learn about God and show politeness and industry. They were once street and abandoned children who had been living a life of hope.

Other than being a selfless act for me, why do I do this? I believe in the mission of the center. It aims to transform the lives of these former street children. When I look at the older residents of the center, I find it hard to see a single trace of their former lives. They have transformed into caring and responsible individuals.

But that very image of transformation made me reflect on my prejudices against the street children. If those center kids were able to change, why can't the ones in streets? Further thinking  has made me realize that it is not completely the kids' own doing. Their parents, families and even the government should be blamed, too. The only fault I saw in the kids is that they did not choose to be helped.

I was sinning inside the church that Sunday. It was un-christian and wrong. I was quick to ask forgiveness from the Lord, and towards the end of the mass, I must have said "Forgive me, Lord" countless times, and  noticed that those two impoverished-looking boys went to the priest to kiss his hand.

It was a wrong judgment when I should'nt be passing one.

Badjao kids sing and dance for money in Zamboanga

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Inspiration

Every jeepney or bus ride I take is supposed to give me inspiration as to what to write next. The ride is always a rich source of observations and stories. However, I have not been seeing those lately. I had been preoccupied with so much thought.

Sometimes it is with the hailing of a jeep that a story develops, or sometimes, it is in the destination. These stories and observations are made clear because I relish every ride I take. My eyes would wander at every passenger inside and on the moving picture outside.  Now, it is just a blank stare. My worries about my high school reunion, which I am planning,  have taken much of my mind. Homecomings are supposed to be anticipated. My remaining optimism is what seems to be keeping me look forward to it.

As I was doing a mental accounting of the expenses and the attendance of the reunion, the jeep was brought to a stop. I was suddenly Commuter again. A passenger was shouting at a lady who just got off. Since I was seated at the farthest end of the jeep, by the entrance, I saw the woman they were calling and she was some ten meters away. "Ale, (Lady) " a male passenger called. Everyone else looked at the woman heading back to the jeep's direction. I was still oblivious about the minor commotion.

"Nakalimutan n'yo sukli n'yo," the man whose clenched hand bearing her change said.

"Ay, 50 nga pala pera ko," the woman speaking by the entrance. "Thank you," said the woman, and the jeep sped off.

Amen.



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Illiteracy

It's definitely not illiteracy; we have one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Then, how come many couldn't comprehend a "NO LOADING" sign? I sigh at the sight of them, the signs and the people; the proliferation of these signages all over the metro must have cost the government tons of money. The country's reading teachers and experts might have failed big time due to the increase of  street sign illiterates  who could not understand what those simple words and illustrations mean.

Disregard for signs and laws in general seems to be a reality in Philippine streets. I hope I am wrong.

I was dead tired from work one evening, and I just wanted to go straight home. This was what I did. I went to the transport terminal where, I knew, I would be assured of a seat. It was past nine already, and I decided on taking the bus since it's faster compared to a jeep, and I comfortably took my place by the window. At the Star Mall Alabang Terminal, I patiently waited for other passengers to get in for I know all buses were given a definite time to gather passengers; buses going beyond their alloted loading time literally take a beating from the terminal personnel who strike their sticks onto the buses' body to warn them of their 'overstaying.' So, just after a few minutes, the engine roared.

Just five meters away from the terminal, I saw more people on the street awaiting jeeps and buses. Jeepneys and buses took this chance to get more passengers along a street known to have a "CLOSE DOOR POLICY."

What's wrong here?

The bus terminal was a stone's throw away. Most, if not all, of the people waiting on the road were able-bodied and schooled citizens, yet they appeared to have no notion of a transport terminal. Public utility vehicles , on the other hand, risked the possiblitity of being issued a ticket for a common and known violation. As with the case of the bus I was on, the good traffic officer halted the bus so an exchange of tickets and IDs was to take place. This, among others, delayed my trip home for a few precious minutes.

You and I perfectly know that this is not an isolated situation. For as long as I could remember, people have not been responding very well to the words 'terminal' 'loading' and 'laws.' I wonder what will make them.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Street memories


Do I stick to calling "BF Mcdo" the area pertaining to the corner of (BF) President's Avenue and Sucat Road when Mcdonald's has been demolished to give in to a new establishment?

Since I claim Paranaque to be my adoptive city, I know that place as BF Mcdo - a place for meetings, meet ups, tricycle terminals and bathroom breaks. Commuting BF Paranaque residents call it so, too. I wonder what it's going to be called now. According to some information, an SM-owned establishment is going to take the place of ol' McDonald's. Will it be BF SM or BF Savemore or Savemore? We shall soon find out.

Similarly, if you are to enter BF from Alabang Zapote Road, you would have to inform the driver you're getting off at 'Toyota.' However, people did not refer to it as Toyota then. It was 'Standard' from 'America Standard', the toilet seat company once operating in the area. Although the company has ceased to exist, a few still refer to it as Standard but for many, it's Toyota or Concha Cruz, its actual street name.

In Manila, people still identify the street near the La Salle area as 'Vito Cruz' although its present name enacted by law is 'Pablo Roman.' The LRT station is still named Vito Cruz, though. Back in Mindanao, I have heard of Mantrade, the car store, but announcing my destination 'Mantrade' in a bus in Makati takes me to Magallanes MRT Station; no sight of Mantrade Cars nearby. It doesn't matter really as long as I get to my destination.

Changes in street names brought by legal means do not interest me. I have long accepted that things do change, including places and names. But when a landmark of historical significance or of purely sentimental value ends its place in the world, I start lamenting on the possible loss of memories I have of that place, but I also begin to make new ones with whatever new thing comes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Donation

My monthly obligation with 'LOVE' (PAG-IBIG) requires me to travel to Makati Atrium. The stretch of Makati Avenue is not very friendly to non-car owners. The stretch is not frequented by jeeps; cabs,  as you know,  are costly. So when a small green conveyance that looked like a jeepney stopped in front of me, I took notice. On its windshield was a marker of its route, and it said "Landmark." No Makati visit is ever complete without dropping by Glorietta. I hopped on it immediately only to be greeted with one more surprise! The ride was free! Hooray!

Glorieta


I was on one E-jeepney, an electric-powered vehicle,  plying a circular route around the Makati Business District. Its body is painted green and that particular jeep could accomodate 15 passengers. The ride was a thrill. You would probably never understand the excitement of a provinciano passing through all those skyscrapers. I did not mind being slightly late for my 10 am appointment at Glorietta. All throughout the trip, though, I kept my eyes alert for the 'Landmark' as most of the streets and buildings were foreign to me, being a 'southern' citizen and all.  The ride, I'd say, is not for anyone who is in a hurry for it takes its sweet time to go by all those streets.

One interesting observation I made was the passengers' attitude towards that  free ride. The driver was not demanding any fare; behind the driver's seat, there was a donation box whose opening was large enough for an unfolded bill. The box was placed conspicuously for a reason. I was so happy about it, and I supported it that I donated 10 pesos! That's three pesos more than a minimun fare! My donation will surely go a long way for the environment. Some dropped a few coins into box, too; others, I supposed, gave their donations in forms of silent prayers. There was one whom I  heard saying "Thank you" before going down.

The free ride worked like any ordinary jeep. The driver would ask if anyone was getting off at a particular street. The passenger would respond, and they would even inform the driver of their destination.

I got interested in this transportation and googled it up to find out that it had been around since 2007! I also learned that the E-jeepney was a result of the concerted effort of various environmental groups including Greenpeace. Reading about this, I was thrilled and saddened at the same time. I was elated to know we had technology for this, but was sorry to discover that Makati seemed to be the only place enjoying this.

I hope I'll not forget to drop an additional peso in my next use of the e-jeepney.

More on e-jeepney by clicking on this link and this.




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Luxury

Despite his choice of public transport, Commuter craves for luxury once in a while. Occasional trips to restaurants and places would be those. But he aimed one kind of luxury to be enjoyed for the rest of his life. The commuter's choice of luxury, if you can call it that, would be a condominium unit which he would acquire through PAG-IBIG.

After four years of dormitory living in college, and several years with Tita during his early working years, he looked for a place he could call his own. And he did. He did overtime work, accepted tutorials, edited books for a private company and lived a pauper's life for a year (and still does) to own a piece of property in the metro. He recalls his poor moments  and  feels proud everytime people express admiration and even envy for his small studio unit. He considers it to be his achievement to have a property to his name, with very limited help from family and friends.

In his place, he is welcomed by guards after getting off the jeep. When a large portion of Paranaque City was bathing in deepwell water, here he was swimming in Maynilad water in the condo's swimming pool. Affordable eating places and grocery stores abound, too.  It suffices to say that he is happy with his place.

In his 30 square meter-mansion, he is king. However, his little sister, who studies in Manila, takes her rightful place as princess and maid at the same time. He doesn't mind having his sister live with him; that's the most he could do  for her parents, which is to look after their daughter and give her a training in domestic life. She washes his clothes, prepares him her saltiest adobo, and helps pay his electric bills. Fun, right?

Lately, he has not been wanting to go home. He finds ways and reasons to be out of the house. He wants to be away.




You see,  he is the only one with a place in Manila; his place seems to be the perfect place to crash for his Mindanao relatives. Yes, they are welcome. Yes, they are family. Yes, they are grateful for his 'hospitality.' But it is when the small studio is full of voices that he is truly reminded why he got the unit in the first place.

He paid a big price for something he wanted.  He now pays a bigger price for something he does not want. He would now exchange his dwelling for the cheap price of privacy.

My Home Sweet Home

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Carpool


We sat for more than an hour listening to an environmental talk. The bottom line was "Help Save the Environment!" Talks like that are good but are sometimes boring and add little to what we already know. Netizens and schooled individuals would be aware of these issues, and I'd like to believe that these people are doing their share in the solution. What irked me though was that speaker was talking to the wrong crowd when he presented some solutions. He talked at length about carpooling, and he was talking to middle income employees who would take the first chance at carpooling if they have someone to carpool with. Many from the audience, who were mostly teachers and staff, do not have those smoke-producing conveyances that the speaker was talking about.  The few co-workers with cars generously offer a ride home; my school principal does that.

To whom should the speaker be talking then? The people with cars, of course! But carpool appears to be a foreign idea even to the rich, the ones I know. In my six years teaching the rich, I was asked to ride in their car only once, and for that simple gesture, I will forever remember that student of mine:  Natasha. In most instances when I walk to the jeepney stop, which is fifty meters away from the school gate, my students would just wave at me and, worst, ignore me. Since then, I have stopped wishing for a ride. They are not really required to give me a ride. Their cars are theirs, and they have spent a great deal of money for something they want to enjoy for themselves. Like them, I'd like to have my almond chocolate bar all by myself, too.

All I am saying here is that a message should be delivered to the person concerned. That will be my concern when I get a car. For now, I am thankful I have friends like My-Secateur and Cardriver whose simple gesture of giving me a ride not only helps the environment but also helps me! Hehe! ( Read related post.)

I have had a good education where love for environment is greatly instilled. I'll do whatever I can in my own capacity to help, with or without a car. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wheels

My father used to own a motor bike, the vehicle of choice for many middle-class. I don't regret not ever learning to ride it; it is learning the (mechanical) bike at a rather late age that I regret. We had bikes since we were small, but I never got to learn biking. It was during my college summer break back home when I mustered all courage to learn the bike on my own. At 17, with big built and facial hair and all,  I was like an excited kid  discovering the joys of biking. Although not confident, I would take the main road of our subdivision only to slow down when a car is approaching or is behind me.  The thrill it gave me was all worth the scratches and fear!

Nothing remains of our two-wheeled transportation now. Good fortune has afforded my parents with four-wheeled vehicles which I don't drive. I miss biking when I go home. I might take it up as a hobby when I have more money and when I don't live in a building anymore. However, there is a something with two wheels that I don't think I would want to be hopping on.

Few days a go, I accompanied my class to an outreach at Elsie Gaches, a center in Alabang, whose clients are those with special needs. I thought we were going to cheer up kids, which was the usual thing in the outreaches I had gone to. I was wrong. We were lead to a pavilion to see its residents, men and women of all ages, lying on several mattresses, except for one. Further inside, there were some who were inside cribs, and they weren't babies. I had to admit that I didn't prepare myself for the sight. There were twenty-plus people whose legs and arms appeared to have shrunk. Their appendages looked deformed.

We were to begin our reach out activity. The wheelchairs were wheeled inside; a big man carried each client onto the wheelchair; some were even strapped. As instructed, my students paired up and took a client for a 'walk.' Fifteen pairs of students wheeled the clients on the paved and rolling areas of the center. It was hard telling the clients' emotions about the whole thing; some did show approval by uttering unintelligible sounds while a few managed to smile.  There was but one client who walked on foot, however. I suspected he was born of one foreign parent because of his obvious non-Filipino features. Still, two student accompanied him for he was visually impaired.

The walk took twenty minutes. We headed back to the pavilion for the feeding activity. A number needed assistance in eating while the rest crowded the dining table in the center of the room. The sight drew more emotions from me, but I held a straight face, the reassuring kind, the one telling my students they were doing the right thing. Hate me, but I had to admit it was not the kind of place for me. My teaching vocation came a distant second to the dedication and compassion the staff of the center gave each client.

I am extremely proud of my students, though. Although poor themselves, they saw how blessed they still were. The outreach was more for them, and it achieved its objectives. We went back to school tired, but rich in experience. I, personally, had my own share of realizations. If I were to be wheeled in a wheelchair, I want it to be someone who would do it for me and not for the experience nor the money. But more importantly, I would want to keep these legs, Lord.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Helpless


I saw an old woman commute today. "Kay taas naman nito," she said as she struggled to bring herself up the jeep, together with four plastic grocery bags, all were filled and appeared heavy. She requested if she could take the seat nearest the entrance; the passengers including myself obliged. Her wrinkly hands groped for some coins inside her bag. She placed her fare on someone else's hand and shouted, "Senior, ma." Three minutes passed and her four-peso change did not reach her. In faltering voice, she said, "'Yung sampu, senior 'yon. D'yan lang sa tabi." Her voice was inaudible to the driver; the other passengers helped relay the message. When she finally got her change back, she studied the four coins with great scrutiny. When she finally reached her destination at an intersection, she said, "Para sa tabi lang ho." This  time the driver heard her but went on driving. "Go na po. Sa kabila na lang." It was twenty meters from where she was to get off. She secured all her stuff and slowly alighted from the jeep. "Pakibilisan po, " said the driver as he was getting a honk from a sedan behind him. The poor woman did as instructed although there was some difficulty. As she was left on the road, only then did I get to see that her back was bent and her body frail. The last image before losing sight of her was that of an old woman bearing a heavy load waiting for the busy street to clear.

I thought of my mother when this was taking place. Episodes like this one never fail to reinforce my desire to help my parents in their old age. I always had this idea that life after retirement should be a bliss. That old woman shouldn't be experiencing whatever she was experiencing, but there really was no way of changing that. Sad but true, life is different for everybody. I cannot feel pity for the her because taking pity on someone does not help. I'd rather feel nothing than pity her and do nothing.

At work, I examine my life based on what has transpired. I realized that every brand new day is a day closer to old age. More than ever I feel the need to reassess my life and work for something better. No better time than now to act for my future. I must do something about my state. The choices I make now will determine the life my parents and I will have, but more importantly mine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Required reading


I studied Literature in college, and reading books, lengthy ones at that, was simply unavoidable. They were called required readings, and I had to drag my eyeballs left and right for the novels I didn't quite like. Eventually, I saw wisdom in the novels my teachers gave me. I suppose the authors of those books are extra happy that their works have somehow touched the life of at least one reader.

The contents here are far from literary; however, this blog, no matter how trivial and shallow it may appear to others, is something I can call an extension of myself. Thus, it is  made out of love. I wanted to share my thoughts with people, particularly my friends. I did heavy promotion through Facebook and text messaging because, finally, I wanted my friends to hear me out also after my long-time role of being the ear. I still am, by the way; I take pride in my ability to listen and shut up. When they started reading or peeking, I became very happy. They made commuter smile because of the increasing pageviews seen on his 'stats.' Their gesture was an indicator of their support for me. You have no idea what it meant to me.

I don't expect them to read the blog regularly. Actually, I don't think they will ever visit again. I happen to befriend mostly non(blog)-readers. But it's ok. I will write for the nine people who follow me. Hehehe. But there is always the 'hey-read-n'yo-naman-blog-ko' attitude once in a while. That once in a while moment happens to be weekly when I am chatting with my closest friend. So, on the third month when his answer was still no, I  simply got pissed. I am usually very understanding , but his response to a simple plea was incomprehensible. I couldn't understand why a simple request of clicking my link would be very difficult to do for someone who spends hours and hours online narrating to me how sad his life is. That day, my 'closest' friend Noy since college was 'removed' as friend from my Facebook account. Of course, I did not tell him that I had intended to add him immediately after the removal.

Afterward, he messaged me on Facebook (since we could no longer chat) and said "Nakaka-depress ito. Sige, babasahin ko na." And true to a true friend's word, he read my blog, and he even commented. Hehe. Three minutes after, Noy is now friends with 'commuter.' Like.

I realized that it was not about him not reading my blog, it was more of the lack of support to a friend. The friend has always been there listening; maybe, this time, you can also do the same.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Katas ng Saudi


When I think of the bills I have to pay or the car I cannot own, I go on thinking like the 10 million Filipinos who have scattered all over the world. I'd like my tiny spot in the world also, working for the money I could never earn in the Philippines. I would come back to the country seeing my many investments and properties that had become the physical reminder of a life lived in hard work. "Katas ng Saudi" or something similar they would say.

But that is just a passing thought. I don't think I'd be hearing people say "Katas ng Saudi" as they notice my imaginary gold chain around my neck since I am not actively pursuing work abroad. To have a job that pays a lot is something I want, though.

For now, I shall admire the good life foreign employment has given the overseas workers. When I ride in a jeepney with an emblazoned "KATAS NG SAUDI,"  I would recognize the efforts of that proud jeepney operator. He must now be finally enjoying retirement life as he let his passenger jeepneys and other business ventures do the money-making for him. I imagine he would do a bit of golf after a quick visit to his store; he would be talking to a travel agent to plan his next foreign trip with his wife and kids, while I would plan the cheapest route to take as I head for a job interview in Taguig Global City.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Jeepney ornaments


Women's groups praised the transportation authorities many years ago when the latter implemented 'for women only' coaches in our trains. Before that happened, there were numerous reports of harassment and loss that involved the female passengers. 

I have no objection to this. Who does? A move like that is always laudable; any way to prevent harassment of any form is always good.   Maniacs and sex-crazed addicts abound and they will prey on anyone who could be a willing and an unwilling victim.  It is known that media has helped depict women as sex objects; hence, the women continuously take the consequences of the image portrayed by the tabloids, magazines, movies, and etc.

Apparently, even jeepneys through the sayings serving as decorations would cause any lady to blush in embarrassment. I take consolation in the fact that ladies do not waste their time reading those. I was reading those jeepney ornaments for this blog to find out that there were sayings which I found to be degrading to women. Of the seven, three had references to women.

"Miss nais kitang makilala, ngunit akoy abala sa aking manibela." 
"Basta sexy libre, sa driver lang tumabi."
"Ano man ang ganda mo, driver lang ang katapat mo."

The rest are:

"Ang di magbayad ng kusa, sa karma bayad ka na."
"God bless our trip."
"SAT/SUN & HOLIDAY Student no discount"
"Yan ang tipo kong pasahero, alisto kung magbayad ng husto."

I like that those ornaments add character to the jeep, but ornaments that box a woman in a certain image are unacceptable. They also raised my attention to the existence of jeepney misconduct. The slogans/sayings all point out to the rotten behavior of some passengers. Mag-ingat sa mandurukot. No smoking!

I hope the next time I get to observe jeepneys, I'd read words that respect the passengers and uplift the spirits. Perhaps next time, an "Ingat sa pag-uwi!" or a "Salamat sa pagsakay!" would be the welcoming change I would see. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Bakyanism"


On my way to work, I observed the people in the jeep, particulary their hands. There were 16 passengers, eight on both sides, not counting the two in front. I observed that eight hands (including mine) were on the hand rail above, two clutching their phones and one holding a Tagalog romance novel. The last got my attention. I have been told it's bad to read on any moving vehicle, except if you are on an airplane. The lady who continued reading the novel held Martha Cecilia's novel entitled Charles' Angel. How catchy! A closer look at the novel made me see that it was a limited edition and it was new; the pages were crisp.

I advocate any form of reading  (particularly reading my blog), so when I saw the girl, I let her be. As for me, I am John Grisham reader and a Philippine Literature fan! You would see me read F Sionil Jose but never a Tagalog pocketbook, and I don't think I'm picking up one soon, I think. I say 'I think' because things could change. Before, when I was asked if I watched telenovelas on our local channels, I strongly said "No!" Guess who's in front of the TV during weeknights watching Grazilda and Beauty Queen now. I have officially joined countless Filipinos who make their evenings less boring by watching these telenovelas. In so doing, I am adding an information that would now make me more identifiable as "masa" and even "bakya."

How am I with that label? Labels, whatever they may be, are never good. I had my share of namecallings and they never made me or anyone feel good. When I chanced upon a Facebook comment on 'bakyanism' and the commenters' apparent preference for elitism, I couldn't help but frown upon their comments. I do not mind their ideas on the 'bakya' crowd as these are theirs, but for them to feel better than most or superior to others is something objectionable.

I choose not to be labeled by the vehicle I ride, the books I read and the TV shows I watch in the same way Iza Calzado's impoverished character will not mar her into becoming a Beauty Queen! Weeknights at the Kapuso network! hehehe!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Love - r


Ronald, a seaman, goes home to his province in Tuguegarao every time he has the chance to. He must have missed land transportation very much because at home he would ply the streets of Tuguegarao using their family-owned passenger jeepney. During one of his trips one afternoon, he chanced upon a beautiful young teacher. He stopped for her and the teacher hopped on. Every afternoon after that, he would save a space by the driver's side for the teacher. They got married years after.

This story was supplied to me by my friend who read my 'love' post. This can be just one of those stories that could attest to "basta driver, sweet lover." I don't personally know a lot of drivers to check the truthfulness of this sticker statement posted in just about every one in two jeeps I ride in. The one and only driver I personally know happens to be separated from his wife.

In Facebook, account owners have their way of self projection. The profile pictures and the status updates and whatnot are all of the account owners' choosing and they determine the kind of identity they wish to project to people. I guess, drivers do the same with the various stickers glued on the jeepney walls. Again, there is no way to check the sticker content's veracity.

I get to observe, though, the drivers when their female companions sit beside them. Together, they make a living; one drives, the other collects the fare.  Sometimes, the driver does all the work while his mate sits firm or stays asleep to give her driver some warmth. I usually sense something wrong in that picture, but I choose to shut up about it. I was always told that relationships in whatever kind of workplace may pose to be problematic to the people concerned and to the people around them. There are even times when it becomes a family affair/business. Other than a fare collector, there is also an in-house barker who, in his small voice, would call out passengers to ride the driver's jeep.

Theirs is a love story taking place in front of the jeep, and it shouldn't be anyone's concern but theirs. As for me, I have my own love affair taking place in the jeep. For as long as they don't disturb me admiring myself in the jeep's side mirror, there's no reason for me to mind them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Love

For the first time in 15 years, my good friend in her 30's is hearing her heart beat again for a man who seems to be seriously pursuing her. She was beginning to forget how it was to love. 

I need not know the rest of the details of her love affair. I am already content and happy knowing that she blushes like a teenager at the slightest mention of love. For a lady whose many weekends have been spent as a single woman praying to God for a boyfriend, she deserves whatever feeling she has right now.

There is always an opportunity for love at one point in our lives; for some, it's several, but it is undeniable that love, in whatever form, age and intensity, feels good. I am not to speak at length about the topic, for the subject has been immortalized in all forms of literatures already. I'll let Shakespeare and my mother do that for me.

Why am I writing about love in a commuting blog? It is because I couldn't think of anything else to write about commuting! hehe.

Seriously now, the the long weekend got me to watch a lot of TV, and I saw Yeng Constantino's newest single entitled "Jeepney Love Story." As I was listening to it, I told myself, "I will blog about jeepney love stories." But I couldn't think of a love story conceived in a jeep or bus for that matter. I've heard stories about babies being conceived in buses, but I have no personal knowledge of a love story springing from a bus or jeepney ride.

There are instances, though, that a passenger or two would catch your attention. They'd have pretty faces, nice bodies, and sweet fragrances, but the admiration would only be as good as the length of the trip. I can only imagine of a situation when you've taken fancy over someone in a jeep and pursued this someone to become your one true love. It's pretty much like a storyline from a Filipino romance novel.

In my limited experience about love and in my bottomless resource of love stories, I have learned to see that love can start anywhere - snail mail exchanges, Internet chat, group project, lab partners and many more. Jeepney rides are not exempted. But if you see someone winking and looking fiercely at you in a jeep or on a bus, whether it's from a girl, boy, or someone in between, it's best you arm yourself. Or you could always wink back.

I wish all of us love, wherever we may be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bed

My bed, which I purchased when I was 20,  has been a witness to several moments in my adult life: moments of joy, sadness, comfort, rest, ecstacy, warmth, security and love. The moments are mostly good that's why I just love my bed although it's not the most comfortable one in the world. Nevertheless, I know what the value of a good and useful bed is.

Together with my co-volunteers in Don Bosco Alabang, I recently visited a street children center in Bulacan. Hardly any trace of street life can be seen among the kids, mostly boys, of St Martin de Porres Children Center now. They are beautifully housed in Spanish-style houses, fed thrice a day in a Batanes bahay-na-bato-inspired dining area, and educated in a nearby public school. But the center was not like that initially. The boys had to content themselves with sleeping inside non-working buses donated by Baliwag Transit. Sleeping on buses? That's not new to me. However, to sleep in buses for more than five hours every day is a totally different thing. For the kids of St Martin, sleeping in buses was much better than spending their nights on the streets.

Whatever their reason was, whether to dispose off a rotting vehicle or to practice genuine altruism, Baliwag Transit did those boys some good. Equally important to the comfort that any bed does is the care given to the kids in the hours they are awake. I met the likes of Ate Kaye and Sister Nazareth who look after the street children and orphans of Bulacan. I was happy there were people like them, but I was also sad to see many parentless and abandoned children. The presence of the social workers and the religious who devote their lives to the children makes up for whatever love and care the families of these kids fail to give. The heart, no matter small, could never run out of room.

It is through the demonstration of love for these children that my faith in humanity refuses to go away. It is also through this love for children that I have met wonderful people who took that trip with me to Bulacan. We braved a looming supertyphoon that October weekend, yet we  successfully delivered messages of hope and care.

We got back home tired and late at night already, but we felt rewarded. At home, I tucked myself comfortably in bed knowing that the kids we met would be doing the same. The bed buses now are just remnants of their past, and so are the streets. It would be good if it is kept that way.
The actual buses now serving as a 'storagebus' of sorts

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shame


"What motivates the passengers... to pay their fare?  ... the shame component of social capital comes into play. Shame is a self-policing mechanism that prompts passengers to announce their place of origin to the place of destination in paying their fare. The fact that passengers are facing each other and are seated close to one another further reinforces the mechanism of shame. The face to face contact among passengers serves as a deterrent for the passengers to cheat or not pay his right fare. Without this face to face contact, the self-policing mechanism is reduced and thus there is a greater inclination to cheat. Surprisingly, face to face contact is absent in buses and thus you need conductors to collect passenger fares.

"... trust was essential to accomplish an objective - for the jeepney transport system to work."

- Tesoro Tullao, Jr. Understanding Economics in the Philippine Setting

As I was reading this, I tried to draw connections of this simple illustration to other problems besetting this country. I  found it remarkable how this simple system could present solutions to corruption and other ills of this country. But who was I kidding? The very people who are bringing this country down are the ones who have no shame! Even if they do, who's watching them do their evil deeds? I imagine putting these corrupt officials in a jeep. I bet all of them would do a "1-2-3!"

Tullao's illustration makes perfect sense. Truly, the driving force behind the jeepneys'  existence is the patronage and honesty of the passengers. I would think that since face to face contact is the force behind the system's success, jeepney-riding should breed honest people.  However, I am not entirely sold to my own deduction. A majority of our population take the jeep, yet cheating in many forms appears to be a secret  hobby among the jeepney-riding public. On the other hand, the minority who doesn't take the jeep,  is responsible for the many large-scale cheating. This gets me to ask: Where, then, do we lose our shame? How come we cheat?

I had been ashamed of so many things in my life, but I lost them all once I started embracing my own realities. There was a point that I was ashamed of my Mindanao identity especially when I was among my Manila friends and relatives. I felt that I had an invisible negative label attached with me for having been born and raised in Mindanao, but I took out that invisible self-imposed label when I realized it was a beautiful thing to be a Mindanaoan.  To be able to speak at least three languages and have a recognizable culture and accent were sources of pride. I have embraced my identity and have become proud of it since those realizations.

As for cheaters, they have embraced their own label, too; they know they are cheaters and, thus, they willingly play the part. Some perfectly know, though, that cheating is against any social norm, so they only do it when no one is watching. Cheaters will try to get away with cheating if they can.

The thing is anyone can cheat. Whether they're in a jeep or in the government, in a brothel or at school, they would cheat because they know they can. But,  if you see a cheater and you don't do anything about it, shame on you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Boundary

"Ma', sandali lang, " said the middle-aged woman as she was hurriedly alighting from the jeep.

"Sige, kahit magtagal ka pa," replied the driver.

Usually, a driver wouldn't say that. Instead,  he would say, "Paki-bilis-bilisan lang po. Bawal bumaba dito."

I looked around to see we were in the intersection and the red light was on. Whether the driver said that in jest or not, being there was a serious opportunity to pick up passengers.

I sometimes forget that jeepney drivers also work to earn a living. To be honest, it infuriates me to be in a jeep that would stop at every sight of a possible passenger and take its sweet time to wait for passengers crossing from the other side of the road. The thoughts of other irritable passengers: Can we just leave them and go already? I'm already late! I can't imagine what an additional seven pesos can do? Our thoughts don't really matter because the drivers have to make up for their 'boundary.'

The  word 'boundary' takes on a different meaning for the drivers, but it means the same as '9-5', or 'duty' to any working class. In the same way that a seven pesos could save you ten milliliters of sweat from walking, that additional seven pesos could buy the driver about a quarter of a liter of diesel, and eventually could get him passengers to earn more than his boundary. It requires a mind of a worker to fully-understand what those seven pesos could do.

It is the same mentality that conflicts with the teacher in me.

I have a breadwinner student who always absents himself from class. When I asked him the reason, he said, "Walang pera, sir. Namamasada ako sa umaga."

"Eh, dapat may pera ka," I responded.

"May binabayaran kasi, sir."

I found out that our principal had been aware of my students' situation. My principal added that my student had been paying  the tricycle being used through installment. My student resorted to buying his own vehicle as this was the wiser thing to do than shell out money daily for the boundary.

Now, if I don't see him at school, I would understand; if I do see him in school, I can't help but see fatigue etched on his face. It's not halfway through the school year, yet he has amassed a considerable number of absences to send him out of school and give him all the time in the world to earn his living through his trike. Now, do I let that happen?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Street violence or something like it


In one of those few instances when I didn't get to commute during my college years, I experienced my first ever street violence or something like it.

During college every Christmas, I go to Zamboanga for the obvious reason. I had lived a very simple life in high school in Zamboanga; college in Manila, however, was a different story. Zamboanga life was limited to the school, mall, beach and my house, of course; no Saturday night fun at all! But since college came and I was introduced to the fun and thrill of clubbing in Malate, I asked permission from my parents if I could do the same in Zamboanga and attend the  December 30 New Year's party at the most happening club in my city. I also asked them if I could get my cousin to drive our jeep. My wonderful parents said yes to all; finally, at 19, I got to go to my first ever 'authorized' night out! Fun! Fun! Fun!

Being the president of my high school class and quite a friendly character on campus and one of the few who had gone to Manila for college, I danced with all the people in my school circle as if I made up for lost time! I had beauty queens, pretty and simple girls to exchange dance moves with. Apparently, I did not have with me the latest Manila moves, but it was fun nonetheless. Later in the evening, we had a bit a booze and fun stories being exchanged by everyone. I was just too excited to see all my friends in a place like that. Although a bit tipsy, I had my focus on  just them and ignoring everyone else who was a stranger. Like all the good things, this one had to end also.

At the parking lot of the club as I was about to take my seat by the passenger side, I received a sudden blow from my left ear, and then, another at the back of my head. Instinct told me to go to the back seat to avoid further harm. I instructed my cousin to drive but he was also attacked by a man with a steel rod. !@#$! This can't be happening, I told myself. All I wanted was out of there. The people around, even our friends, were helpless. They knew the four guys who surrounded us.

Someone must have intervened or the guards came, this I didn't know anymore. I only saw my cousin hit the accelerator the moment he saw the road was clear. It was one of the fastest trips home. I got off the vehicle the moment my cousin parked the jeep by the driveway. I repeatedly pressed the door bell until my mother, who had sensed that the constant bell ringing meant something, opened the gate to see me bleeding near my ear.

What transpired after that was like a scene in a Filipino soap opera with elements of drama, action and dialogues of vengeance! hehe.

New year's eve we were at the police station and at the government hospital. We were able to identify the main guy who had attacked us.

The guy came with his mother. The police said the most we could do was file damages for slight physical injury. The poor mother was apologetic. No word came from the asshole.

We were not keen on filing a case; I had my studies in Manila to think of.  We just made them see that we were not the types they could mess up with.

The remaining days of my vacation was spent at home doing phone calls and eating the season's leftovers.  I learned through my classmates that the mauling incident was because of my dancing with my beauty queen classmate whom my perpetrator had his eyes on. #@$$#!!! He must have felt threatened upon seeing a new face dancing with his babe. I also learned from my beauty queen classmate that there was nothing between the two of them, and that she was sorry that it happened to me. I did not anymore doubt the veracity of my female classmate's statement. Just one look at the guy and you would know that his match could only be a vermin.

I am heading once more to Zamboanga for the holidays and for our 10th year high school reunion. I will be seeing my classmates' faces once more, only them, I hope. I intend to make the reunion as my only itinerary this time. Holiday visits to the police station and government hospitals are never fun.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Street novelties


I was not born early enough to see double decker buses roaming the streets of Manila, but when we heard a stationary double decker bus serving as a restaurant stationed at the CCP  Complex, my then college friends and I went to Pasay to at least experience how it was to be in a bus of that kind. It was a novelty for me. The food they served was forgettable but the experience on the bus was not. I did not know much about the reason for the demise of the double deckers of the Love Bus franchise, but just one look at the vertical clearance warnings emblazoned on all concrete and steel structures around the city would give me an idea for a possible reason.

During college also, I constantly wandered who he was or what this Chinese guy did to have many streets named after him. I first saw his name in front of De La Salle University along Taft Avenue. I did not hear of any news renaming the Estrada Street to Ped Xing, but I supposed the latter must have done something equally good. Only after seeing Ped Xing's ubiquitous presence did I realize it stood for something else. On hindsight, perhaps he did something good to merit a universal acclaim. He made sure that when we take his lined street, we would be safe.

These were some of the street novelties in my college life; they may be not new to you, but they were to me at that time. Anything new was a source of excitement and fascination. Now, in this busy life, I  rarely see anything new on the streets, maybe because there has not been anything new out there or perhaps the ugly seems to mask the new.

But I know that it's the ugly that necessitates for new things, and I know, for a fact, that we are progressing. With all  the ugliness out there and the development going on, we should have new and better things to see. Perhaps I did see novelty in those rare occasions when I was not busy even though the streets had ceased to become a venue for appreciation.

Those rare occasions were the times when I wasn't working, a payday weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

PWD


For simple folks like me, a birthday celebration is limited to a treat at Mcdo or Jollibee or movies at SM or just 'pancit' at home. Just imagine the simplicity of birthdays many years back when I was still a penniless 'provinciano' college student celebrating with equally penniless classmates.  Broke we were, maybe, but we were happy. A recollection of a birthday celebration of a good friend Joni never fails to bring a smile to my face. No, we didn't have fireworks and the large function rooms; we just had our poor selves as the party. We were walking as a group towards our respective jeepney points near Manila City Hall when one classmate, Toni,  walked ahead of us. For a second, I thought we lost our classmate there because of the heavy foot traffic. Then, she emerged beside a blind musician on the street to sing Joni a happy birthday.  Joni was slightly embarrassed and delighted at the same time because everybody who was walking halted briefly to witness what was taking place. It was beautiful. The group, me included, joined in the singing.

That ten or five pesos 'drop in the (blind man's) bucket' sure did bring so much joy to Joni and to all of us. It certainly did make the musician  happy, as well. This latter image got me to think about the People With Disability (PWD) making their living on the streets. I admire them for working despite their conditions; the only thing I don't like is their working environment. I couldn't completely blame them, really. There isn't much job for them although laws have been passed to create suitable jobs for PWDs. The visually-impaired who aren't working on the streets, work in massage centers. My limited knowledge about them could only think of those two as possible jobs for the visually-impaired. This is sad, my ignorance.

In a trip outside the country I took recently, I was surprised to see a blind man walk by himself, with only a cane guiding him. How did he manage to do that? My frequent use of Kuala Lumpur's train made me observe and infer something. What I thought to be a strange embossed floor design of circles and rectangles on their train stations and walkways was, in fact, a trail guide for the visually-impaired. Its technical name I do not know, but it does serve its function pretty well. I began to notice more visually-impaired people around after that discovery.

Even for a regular person, one's mobility is important for progress. Literal and figurative meaning of politicians'  battle cry of  'roads to progress' should be true to all, whether one is disabled or not. However, our streets/roads aren't friendly to the PWDs, methinks. Thus, their mobility is limited. That was why all day, they were stuck on the streets singing  love songs and happy birthday greetings.

I wish I could end this post in a happier tone like in my introduction, but I simply could not. Maybe you could.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kindness on the streets

The streets are never safe, yet we spend every day of our lives using them and praying that the streets will lead us safely to where we are supposed to go. A glimpse of a police officer in a corner or on the sidewalk is an indicator that the police's presence is still needed to secure our safety; they are there to combat any bad element. I know for sure that the cops will be around and will be permanent fixtures on our streets  for a long long time.

In this age, it's difficult to identify the bad from the good. We would never know when a lady in a sexy dress would prey on old men, or when an angel-faced boy would rob you of your belongings. There really is no way of saying who strikes whom. The authorities would always have a readied answer for this: VIGILANCE. However, no matter how experienced we are in our Philippine street life, we can't seem to be vigilant enough.

With that in mind, I really think hard as to whom in the streets we can actually trust. I would like to think the police, but many may think otherwise. I have had varied experiences with the police, but these experiences will be discussed in future posts! So, I turn on to everyday folks on the streets.

As for trust issues in the streets involving non-uniformed personnel, I have a certain gauge to identify who these good and trustworthy people are. I would like to think that if you are asked for directions by a lost person, you are a good soul. What made me say this? It's hard to admit you're lost in the first place and it's equally difficult to look for a person to help you, right? When you are being asked for directions, you probably fit some notable characteristics:

1. You are non-judgmental, non-threatening.
2. You appear knowledgeable, at least of the area.
3. You are approachable.
4. You seem helpful.

These may be petty things for others, but they speak volume of one's character. I know so because these are the very things I look for in a geography resource person when I am lost. I constantly caution myself, though, that people's appearances and my own perceptions can still deceive me. But when I am being asked for directions, there is sense of pride in me. In return, I try my best to be of help. I just hope that the person asking is only seeking information and not anything else.

I remember back in college in Manila, an old lady stood near the Manila City Hall underpass. In her soft voice she said, "Puedeng magtanong?" A couple in front of me paused and replied, "Ano po 'yon?"

"Puede bang humingi ng pera pang pamasahe ko sa Laguna?" the old woman said.

"Ay, wala po kameng pera. Pasensya na po," the couple was apologetic.

"TANONG KAYO NG TANONG, WALA PALA KAYONG ITUTULONG!" retorted the beggar.

The next day, I saw the old lady again saying the same spiel to the pedestrians. She was good because she managed to get people's  attention every time, but I think she gave up on her second week since she wasn't there anymore in the days that came, or, I guess, she was back in Laguna, hopefully for good.

Of course, there are many ways to see goodness in people on the streets. There is the student who would run after you to hand you the papers that fell from your folder, or the young man who would help an elderly cross the street. The streets may not after all be so dangerous. Investing in heaven may not be all the time done in the church; the streets,  the home, or the workplace can also be your venue to do good.

PS:
Tuloy sa Don Bosco Streetchildren Center may need your help by  becoming one of its 'Angels.' Please visit www.tuloyfoundation.org/angels-in-tuloy/ to know how. Thank you and God bless you!