from the commuter

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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rush hour

Today you leave the house minutes after your usual time. You pray that a jeep welcomes you as you head to the street. But there is none. Then, suddenly there is, but a filled one. You glance at your watch and it says twenty-five minutes until reporting time. You begin to panic as you cannot afford to be late. Just as you are contemplating on taking a cab, an almost empty jeep makes its way for you. You hop on it and give a sigh of relief. The jeep suddenly takes a u-turn for the nearest gas station. You tell yourself  "this will just take a few minutes."The driver fills his tank, and gets the jeep back to its lane. He now stops at every sight of a  possible passenger.  Passengers take their sweet time to get on the jeep. The driver sees there are three more seats left. He makes the long stretch his loading area; at every intersection and corner he stops. You begin to be annoyed and  create a list of invectives in your head. "This cannot be happening," you tell yourself. You are looking for coins in your wallet to pay the remaining seats when all of a sudden the jeep stops.  A cop asks the driver to pull over. You are now made aware of the time because your boss is calling you on the phone.

I'll end the story there.

This has happened to me a lot times.What I don't like about it is the pressure and stress these experiences give me.  To start a day with a stressful morning makes one cranky and irritated the whole day.

The list of bad experiences doesn't end there.

Have you ever experienced getting off the jeep because the driver requests you to transfer because the driver claims to have had a flat tire or some other reasons which are incomprehensible to a passenger who just wants to get to his/her destination?  Ok, a flat tire is understandable, but when you see that the driver simply doesn't want to drive all the way to the end because of the heavy traffic or rain, you would feel duped!

Pretty much like the traffic in Manila streets
Alright, I'll stop here. Recalling all  those irks me already. I'll think of a happier post next time.
The roads aren't the same once they hold a sale.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Commuters blog!/Commuters' blog

When I attempted to start blogging a year ago, I thought of numerous topics to write about. It turned out that I'd be writing about commuting. It's not the most novel and interesting idea in the world, but it certainly was a topic I could write about. But it took friends (Rosa and Noy) and a need for creative expression to fuel my interest in blogging once more; this just happened last month, July 2010.Come to think of it I started my blogger account last year. I'm now on my first month of serious blogging. I'm happy, so far. I just hope I won't succumb to an early blog death like how most Filipinos are with activities they initially do with much gusto. But I am optimistic about blogging about commuting since I don't see myself buying a car in the next months and even years, unless I make good at the lottery which I don't bet in.

In so far as commuting is concerned, I found posts by friends who talked of topics related to this blog. Click on them  ( Hello World! and  A matter of perspective ) to read their interesting posts. People like us will always have to say something about commuting, although not necessarily on a regular basis. There is always something interesting happening, and many not-so-interesting happenings that are still worth telling. I suppose you, too, have a story or two to tell.

I have to admit, though, that  I don't intend to commute all my life. To have a car is one thing I aspire for. And every now and then I check for car promos, ads and brochures because I would like to know the possibility of owning one. Just this weekend, in the Sunday issue of a daily, I browsed through the car section for cars and their prices, and they talked to me; they said " We are afraid you can't own one yet." Duh? Like I didn't know that! hehe.  I was doing some quick math. I realized I have to be earning at least twice as much as what I'm earning now to get a car  loan and still live on a slightly simpler but mobile lifestyle. In my line of work I am not going to get that much. The choice to be in  the 'education' sector is mine, thus, the salary, but I'm happy. My happiness is of utmost consideration in anything I do. But then again, I'd be extra happy to be driving my own car. This 'extra happy' stage will not be very soon, I know. The good Lord will give me one or two or three in due time. :-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Student Discount

One ordinary day, on my way to work, I handed the driver my ten-peso-coin fare for a short-distance trip. He gave me a five-peso coin and asked me to give him one peso. My numerical incompetence couldn't quickly comprehend the transaction going on then; all I wanted was my three-peso change. I may be Mathematically-challenged, but I'm certainly not disobedient. So, I placed the one-peso coin in his hand, and after some time, I tried putting to practice whatever Algebraic knowledge I had to figure out what had just transpired. When the 'eureka' moment arrived, I simply smiled - he must have thought I was a student! Oh yeah, I just shaved this morning I told myself. I must shave often! I was thrilled at the thought that at my age, 26, I was mistaken for a student, hence, the discount! The joy experienced seemed to have overshadowed the 'right thing to do' which is to say "Hey, Mr Driver, here is my one peso. I'm giving this back since you gave me the wrong change." But nothing like that happened. Did I feel guilty? Surprisingly , no. I realized what immense joy one peso could do to a person. This experience kept me smiling the whole day!

Crime Seen

The driver turned off his engine; he finally gave up. The FX was not to move in the next five minutes or so. Passengers were anxious of what was going on; some were fanning themselves; others were trying to see the cause of the traffic. One lady looked very impatient, pissed. Her long face, however, got shorter when the FX moved a measly two meters. There was hope. The next twenty meters took ten minutes. Slowly, they saw the cause of the problem. An accident. Heads turned to see the wreckage. As the FX was maneuvering into the small space left for moving vehicles, the passengers, particularly the males transformed from being irritated passengers into crime scene investigators. " Kasalanan ng pula," referring to the smashed car said one. "Siguradong patay yan," concluded one person. "Nakainom 'yan, " added another. It was interesting to note how these people spoke with authority and certainty in spite of the less-than-minute view of the scene. Some tried to take a second look eventhough the FX was meters away.

Two minutes  after seeing the mishap, the passengers cease their CSI persona to return to their passenger roles. I, instead, would like to pray and thank God that it wasn't me nor my loved-ones whom my co-passengers were pronouncing dead. Amen.

Martian View

In literature class, we were introduced to this poem by Craig Raine. The persona in the poem is a martian who sends a postcard home, thus the title "A Martian Sends a Postcard Home." hehe. The persona describes everything as observed by this martian. A part of the postcard reads:

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home
Craig Raine, 1979

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings 
and some are treasured for their markings-- 

they cause the eyes to melt 
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but 
sometimes they perch on the hand. 

For some it reads like a riddle; for some it's genius; for others it's poetry. But for the martian, it is its way of describing books.

It's interesting how the martian viewed things from its perspective. Here is another, its thoughts on what it thinks to be 'cars':

Model T is a room with the lock inside --
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

How differently a martian sees things. We no longer look at things the 'martian' way. We peer through the car window and see the objects around us as the objects that they are, but it would be great to let that small car window open our eyes to the world that's beyond ours. Wouldn't it be nice if we see the world unfold before our very eyes?  We drive or ride cars with increasing apathy. For as long as we are comfortable, we ignore. 

There is no resolution to this post. I myself wouldn't know what to do once I get a view, whether good or bad, of the world around me. My apathy tells me that I should stick to seeing things like a human. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Slow-moving traffic is nothing but part of the Metropolitan Manila life! I think both patience and impatience are developed in this everyday commuting ordeal. To pass time, commuters do the following:

a. they listen to the in-house music which the driver has carefully chosen for his and his passengers' listening pleasure
b. those who don't want the driver's selection or those who don't want silence, listen to their own music
c. some chat with companions and even with strangers; the topic of discussion can even be a source of entertainment and irritation to the rest of the passengers. this brings me to letter d:
d. they eavesdrop, a Filipino pastime
e. cellphones keep most of the commuters company
f. they engage in people or passenger watching
g. they do sight-seeing of similar landscapes and scenes
h. those who are new or unfamiliar in the area watch with eagle eyes for landmarks and street signs in hopes of not missing their destination
i. some remain in silence and are usually in deep thought
j. a favorite of many: they sleep
k. students harm their eyes by reading their notes
l. lovers engage in 'loverly activities'
m. the unlucky ones become victims of robbery and sexual harrassment

There are other behaviors exhibited by commuters that are observable at anytime in a trip. Another observation worth looking into is the relief seen when the road opens for an uninterrupted journey after a long halt. When that happens, it's road heaven!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kahit Konti sung by Florante, written by Gary Granada

A supportive friend sent me a copy of this song, very apt in this blog. I am also including the lyrics of the song. Listen to the song and enjoy!

"Kahit Konti"

Maari bang, maari bang umusog-usog ng konti
Hati-hati dahil masyadong masikip ang upuan
At kung iyong kausapin, ako nama'y hindi maselan
At payag matabihan, umusog lang, umusog ng konti

Maari bang, maari bang umusog-usog ng konti
Madadaan sa usapan ang maaring pag-awayan
Sakali mang mayro'n kang napapansin, sabihin lang
At kung makatuwiran ako'y uusog din kahit konti

Hindi naman buong-buo ang hinihiling ko sa iyo
Ngunit kahit kapiraso mano'y magkasundo tayo
Iba't-iba ang katuwiran ng tao sa lipunan
Ngunit ang kailangan lang tayo'y huwag magtulakan

O kayraming suliranin, oras-oras dumarating
Dahil di kayang lutasin hindi na rin pinapansin
Subalit kung tutuusin, iisa ang dahilan
Kaibigan, ayaw nilang umusog ng kahit konti

(Repeat Refrain)

O kayraming suliranin, oras-oras dumarating
Dahil di kayang lutasin hindi na rin pinapansin
Subalit kung tutuusin, iisa ang dahilan
Kaibigan, ayaw nilang umusog ng kahit konti

At kung iyong kausapin, ako nama'y hindi maselan
At payag matabihan umusog lang kahit konti


The day before this blog was written, I talked about taking pictures for the blog and my lack of courage for 'jeepney pictures.' The next day,  I attempted on taking pictures inside the jeep. I realized that apart from the danger of putting cameraphones out while on transit, there are also privacy issues that I had to consider. The difference between taking pictures on the bus and in the jeep is that jeepney passengers will be aware of what one is doing , while when a  discreet photographer is on a bus, there is less chance of people noticing; everybody on the bus faces the road and not in front of one another as the case of  the jeep. Jeepney passengers may find it obtrusive that someone is taking their pictures inside the jeep. I , too, would really mind if someone had taken my picture inside a jeep!  But, I thought of being 'brave'  in my part. 'Bravery' or courage is supposed to be second nature to jeepney riders. Imagine the day-to-day jostling, threats from criminal elements, exposure to pollution and life's uncertainties with the daredevil driver. These are everyday realties faced by a commuter that place the Filipino commuter among the ranks of valiant street warriors! hehe. And so I face my own spinelessness. My proof:
There. These five pictures were taken from the three of the four jeepney rides I take to go to work. There is a sense of fulfillment in my photography. It was hard, but it was definitely worth all the risks. These images are priceless. These people brave the streets of Manila every day. But it gives me a greater sense of fulfillment that I experience the same struggles these commuters experience every day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pictures in this blog

I use my cellphone to take pictures for this blog, and as you know, when you use a mobile phone inside a public vehicle, you are making yourself a prey to snatchers. In making this blog, I try to take pictures inconspicuously; I try not to call attention from anyone. I think hard which part of my trip I should take photos. As a result, the pictures may not necessarily be about the blog entry. It just shows you the images as seen through the eyes of an everyday commuter. If you notice, I don't have pictures taken inside a jeep; I'm not that brave yet, but I might just have some soon. I don't know but I feel safer on the bus than in jeeps, in so far as cellphone snatching is concerned. hehe. I have heard of countless 'cellphone' stories of loss, theft, violence and even death whether aboard vehicles or just simply walking to school or heading home. I don't want to be part of the statistics anymore although I have my own share of stories, and there are tons of them. Wherever I may be, I always think of my security. I really should. We really should.

I have had several changes of numbers and cellphone units. Sad to say, the changing of numbers always had to do with commuting. I was once held at gunpoint; they took two cheap phones just after I got off the FX to cross to my apartment building. Twice I lost a phone inside a tricycle; the second time was because I had a few drinks; I had myself to blame here. And there were other stories that reflected my laxity in my possessions. Admittedly, I have myself to blame for most of this; for the other side of the story, the blame is on the devil-possessed criminals whose aim is to put fear on people and rob them off their belongings. I hope this kind of injustice ends. No one should experience any form of fear.

Monday, August 16, 2010


In my pursuit of Academic excellence, and mind you it's a pursuit that will forever be one, I had to go to a library in Quezon City on a weekday, which meant passing through two other cities to get there. It has been an attitude of mine to take routes I'm familiar with rather than take a shorter yet unfamiliar way. I'd rather be safe than sorry. Most of the time, I'm "GC" - geographically challenged, a term I picked up from someone. Like all challenged people, I had to bear the consequences; getting lost in Manila is a difficult situation. I managed to reach my destination after three PUV transfers. On my way back, the jeep I took could only take me as far as Recto. Recto, one of the original places of commerce in Manila, is not one of my favorite places in the world, together with Quiapo. Those who have lived in Manila long enough should know what this place is known for. I kept my eyes open to Lawton-bound jeeps. When I get to Lawton, I'm on safer grounds, I tell myself. To get to the jeep, I had to walk to the area loading passengers up, and it's 25 meters from where I had gotten off. Isetann Mall was in the corner; I had not gone inside this mall, and I had no plans of doing so. I observed my surroundings to note the incredible foot traffic in the area. This was one busy place. I took refuge inside Chowking to observe the place some more.
I turned to observe myself more.

I finished my lunch, hailed a jeep, and went home safely.

What I saw during my observation was a glimpse of me among the crowd.

Upong Piso

"Tatlo pa, tatlo pa!" the jeepney barker called out.

A lady opined, "Tatlo pa? Eh, wala na ngang mauupuan dito." I had the exact observation.

From the looks of it, someone is to have a 'upong piso' or else the jeep won't go. This brings me to ask, "If bathala had known that Pinoys would be riding jeepneys, why didn't he give us the same butt sizes?" It causes an uncomplaining commuter some discomfort when only a small chunk of his or her butt is accomodated. This has happened to me a lot of times. To appease me, I just think of the passenger who will get off soon; I say a short prayer of thanks for the ease that that passenger will give me. But my darker side would like to pin my misfortune on other passengers whose asses should be made to pay for two to three people! I do not dislike the healthier members of our society; in fact, I find most of them to be very adorable. My mom is one! hehe. But, but, but I just want to exercise my right of equality! Equal seating space! I pay the same amount as everyone else, but why do they get more than I do? Hmm....

But I forget that healthier people have the same reasons as me for being there. I seem to have detached myself from their feelings. I was once overweight. These probably have been our thoughts:
Should I pay for two?
I know they are looking at me. I shouldn't mind them.
I'll put on my headphones.
I shall look away. Ignore.
Accept my slow death through embarrassment.
Continue eating the food I have.
So what if I'm fat?
Quietly apologize for being me.
I'll succumb to self-pity.
Consider losing weight.
Accept I'm fat.

And many other kinds of thought cloud a fat person's travel.

I'll leave this at this note.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friends with cars

Anyone with a car is a friend.

This must be a blood-sucking commuter's mantra. This commuter will soon die.

But let's be realistic about it. It is nice to be, once in a while, in a company of someone with wheels. Convenience and comfort are a commuter's unspoken desires. When I have extra buck to spare, I take the cab or FX or the special tricycle trips. However, I am just a salaried employee; most of the time, I hustle my way into a crowded or sometimes-not-so-crowded jeep or bus. When a good friend offers a ride, I gratefully accept, a respite from a commute. I am thankful. How does one show gratitude for the ride? A thank you and smile might do it. Sometimes, it would be appropriate to offer to share gas or pay for the toll fee or parking ticket. The rider should also be an adorable travel companion, and not be the overbearing master that he/she is not. The adorable travel companion should know how to fasten the seatbelt, and let the driver be the driver. The dashboard and the wheels are the driver's; don't change that station unless the good driver permits. And lastly, don't do anything that would put the life of the driver and its passengers in trouble. Again, be grateful.

Back home, in Mindanao, many many miles away from Manila, I don't get to commute as much as I do here in our nation's capital. I've got a nice enough brother and father to drive me to places. I never got to learn how to drive. The most I ever got to hold the wheel was a one-minute supervised drive of our old (non-passenger) jeep. That was it. Our jeep has long retired since. It might take long before I get to see the road from the driver's seat. My dream of retiring from public commute is another story. Until that happens, I will continue writing the experiences of this person as experienced from the passenger side of any car.

Para mis amigos quien ya dale munta conmigo, Muchas Gracias! (English: To my friends who offered me rides, Thank you!)

to be continued....

Drivers and Conversations

"Magkano ang bayad galing Southland pa-ATC?"
"Ocho," the driver at my side said.
"Dies po ang pera ko, " I said wanting of my change since I was near ATC.
"Anong probinsya mo?" he inquired.
"Zamboanga po, " I responded.
"Sa amin sa Leyte, Jis ang sampu."
I smiled and said "Thank you" holding my two pesos as I got off at ATC.

I had a feeling that our conversation would have gone further if I went farther. This was not the first time I got to converse with drivers while sitting beside one. I forgot how many times this had happened. But too bad for them, I am not much of a talker. I usually just do two things when they talk to me -- I either agree by nodding my head or say something like "Oo nga po," or I just simply say '"Ahh..." for statements I don't agree with or for the lack of anything to say. It doesn't surprise me that drivers can talk about a lot of topics. They listen to a lot of DZRH, DZMM or DZBB and other four-letter initials. On top of that, they seem to be the keeping many tabloid publishing houses afloat. However, their topics are mostly on the following (not in any particular order):
1. Politics
2. Oil Prices
3. Road Accidents
4. History (narratives that usually start with "Dati.... with allusions to Martial Law and the bygone eras)
5. More politics

I remember a driver who was passionate about Erap, and I was not; he was talking about how great Erap was and how many achievements the former president had. I managed not to say anything incriminating and critical since my only purpose that day was to get to my destination unscathed.

In instances when they can't establish conversations with their passengers, they talk to their fellow drivers on the road. I'd hear them say, "Mamaya ha...Magdala ka kahit isang lapad...Birthday ni Dong. Papainon daw. Punta ka!... Naka-ilan ka na? May boundary na ba?...Ang hina ngayon. Walang pasok eh."

The street is their workplace. Yeah, like you and me, they've got social lives, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gate Pass

Entering a posh subdivision like Ayala Alabang Village (AAVA) may bring a lot of inconvenience to a commuter especially when he or she is a non-resident. Imagine you have to fall in line to secure a piece of paper allowing you entry into the subdivision. Upon entering the gates, you get off the jeep to show your entry pass or any recognized ID; the security officers check your belongings as well. It is pretty much like the airport, minus the frisking and the metal detectors. And since the jeeps take specific routes, you will have to walk some more if your destination is not along that route. Oh well.You are lucky if you are exempt from this security ritual. I cannot completely blame the AAVA for the measures they undertake; the residents pay big bucks for them to bask in their expensive southern Manila sun.

I remember a few years ago, the AAVA implemented tighter security measures. Few days earlier, there was a reported 'robbery.' Since it was a big incident that concerned some important people, the security personnel took precautions and inspected everyone --- anyone who did not use a private car when entering and exiting the village gates was a suspect. I felt more poor and low every time they would inspect my bag in hopes of finding loots. They failed all the time. In my mind, the thieves were those with cars and not the helpless bag-toting commuters! Later I found out from an AAVA resident and neighbor of the victims that it was a family fight over money that had gone violent. To add credibility to the true story, I read a similar blind item/story on a daily that week. Sad story.

Poor rich people, poorer poor people.

to be continued...