from the commuter

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

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


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


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


"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


"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


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.


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.

Tuloy sa Don Bosco Streetchildren Center may need your help by  becoming one of its 'Angels.' Please visit to know how. Thank you and God bless you!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Manila walker

I had the feeling that when they planned the whole of Manila, the city planners were not putting into consideration the many pedestrians and commuters who were to inhabit the city later on. Just look at our LRT/MRT stations. Any person using those should have a physical age of less than thirty-five to effortlessly manage those steep steps. The elevators usually render useless to the rest of the aging and disabled population; you're lucky if the escalators are working. The overpass obviously was to clear the main intersections and streets of pedestrians, and was to give pedestrians additional spiritual workout since the newer foot bridges had been constructed so high that people could almost reach heaven! I am exaggerating, of course, but I bet you'd hear the same from others.

In addition, the urban planners had entrepreneurs, instead of pedestrians, in their minds. The sidewalk was created for the enterprising Filipinos! If there are clear sidewalks, they are meant for those who are patient to walk all the way to the proper loading area. The impatient ones defy laws and concrete blocks!

With the state we are in, I don't think we will ever make it to any walkers or pedestrians' list for most walker-friendly places. Recently, the American Podiatric Medical Association released its list for American walkers. Some of the reasons that made the group include a city in the list are:

1. There are existing laws and groups promoting the welfare of pedestrians.
2. Improvements in the city’s infrastructures encourage pedestrians.
3. There aren’t many vehicles.
4. Presence of schools keeps cars from overspeeding.
5. Roads and establishments are accessible to walkers and tourists.
6. Extensive public transport system helps commuters around the city.
7. Road system connects all places of interest.
8. There are avenues for strolling and hiking.
9. There is low crime and pedestrian fatalities.
10. Pro-pedestrian schemes are existing in populous areas.
You may check the the complete article through this link here.

I went on to check the internet to find a similar post. The closest I got was a forum discussing the most walkable cities in the Philippines.  Makati, Marikina and  Ortigas seem to be the forum's metro choices.  I don't know about Marikina, but Makati and Ortigas are two wealthy areas; it's expected that they should have better infrastructures and greenery. Another interesting point in the forum is : Ayaw maglakad ang mga Pilipino dahil sa init! I'll have to agree although it's ironic because everybody even car owners is a pedestrian. I think, the moment when we, Filipinos, start to enjoy walking and see it as either a form of exercise or an environmental advocacy, that is the time when we start demanding to have ample and acceptable walking spaces.

For now, there is not much to do but be content with the comforts and discomforts Manila streets cause to a pedestrian like me. With the experiences I have in the streets of Manila, I can say that I'd be more ready and able to tread any big city street in no time.