from the commuter

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

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Apir" part 2

Commuter did not commute this time for this story. He was with his volunteer group who had gone to Manila for the Visita Iglesia last Thursday. He was relieved to be in a private car as they visited 14 churches, mostly in Manila, for the Visita Iglesia. Had he commuted, he would have atoned all his sins.

It was a beautiful day, with occasional winds and agreeable temperature. We left Paranaque at six that Thursday morning. The road was clear, generally. Our first church was Baclaran. It was my first inside the Church. Next was Malate Church. The first time I ever heard mass in Malate was during a Simbang Gabi, after clubbing in Malate way back in college.

Malate Church
Next was the Ermita Shrine (Nuestra Senora de Guia Church in Ermita). It was my first time to be in this church. Since I was not very superstitious, I did not make wishes. My companions tell me that a first-timer in a church can make wishes.
Ermita Shrine
Then, we were off to the walled city of Intramuros. There was a Chrism Mass for priests at the Manila Cathedral. It was impossible for us to get in then. So, we walked a meters to the San Agustin Church. The Chrism Mass might be over after going to San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the country.  Its ceilings never fail to amaze me. This church was one of the reasons for my love affair with Intramuros.
San Agustin Church
When we got back to Manila Cathedral, there was still mass. Manila has many other churches, so we moved on to another historical Manila district - San Miguel.
Even priests have fans. The crowd outside Manila Cathedral  was waiting with banners for their respective parish priests.
At San Miguel Church near Malacanang

As we were approaching San Miguel Church, there was a procession. We did not anymore enter the church, instead we said our prayers outside. I don't know what this procession is called. Do you?

We went to school-based churches after that. There was St Jude, San Beda and San Sebastian. It was the San Sebastian Church that captured my imagination. It was the first and only steel church in the whole of Asia. From its view outside, it was majestic despite the many wires crisscrossing the view.

San Sebastian
If my memory serves me right, this was taken in UST. 
Quiapo Church
After UST, whose campus we admired, we went to Quiapo Church.

"Mall of Asia Church"
We were heading back towards South. We went to that church near the Mall of Asia. By this time we were already tired but we were closing in to our 14th Iglesia. But hungry we were not because at lunch time we were in the area of Binondo Church. We had dumplings for lunch!

Our penultimate church was St Jerome in Alabang.
St Jerome Church in Alabang
14th Church: Tuloy sa Don Bosco ChurchAMEN. 


I think I owe my provincial upbringing how I view almost all new experiences I gain in Manila, and I am grateful for this upbringing. I always tell myself to see everything through the eyes of a provincial lad and a gawking tourist. This way, I experience everything with novelty. This outlook has not changed since I embarked on my college-searching in the summer of 2000 in Manila.

Summer of 2011, Holy Week to be exact, was quite a beautiful cultural experience for me. Only later did I realize it was as spiritual as it cultural.

It started when a friend asked me to buy him palm leaves for Palm Sunday. The idea of waving the leaf by the church's entrance door did not appeal to me. I don't recall ever doing it in the past; perhaps mother did all the waving but never did I. It was simply not the 'wave-my-palm-leaf-kind-of-guy.' But what was I to do with this leaf on my hand?

As the people converged at the door, I was drawn to the strong display of faith of the people. I tiny spray of the holy water was needed. I knew the religious significance of the act, but the desire to share the same experience with the church-goers was what made me wave my leaf.

I felt the water on me. It was a good feeling. I might not completely understand everything that happened, but it surely was an interesting experience. 

I am still awed by the show of faith of these people. I am hoping that I will get to show the same.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


It feels as if I have made it as a writer when an article I sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer was published for its Youngblood section last April 16, 2011.  I was euphoric. I could not believe that I made it there. hehe

Here it is....


MY MOTHER is a good woman. She is wonderful and does good deeds like charity and civic work. But one charity work I don’t exactly approve of is her almost daily contribution to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

This kind of charity, I suppose, must be either infectious or hereditary. My dad and my older brothers support each other in the same altruistic endeavor. It is only me who has not taken after them in this regard. But although I do not support them, there is a part of me that wants them to succeed because their success could be translated into charity work at home. I’m sure I’m going to get a share of any winnings because, as I said, mother is a good person.

My parents have provided us with a beautiful four-bedroom house equipped with all the modern conveniences to keep their grown-up children at home. No doubt they will definitely give us more once either mom or dad wins that huge lotto jackpot.

My mother often talks of giving money to this and that cause, buying us this and that thing, and going to different places should she win the lotto. I listen to her dreams; in fact, I am thrilled that mother can still come up with fairy tale-like scenarios at her age. However, with the excitement I feel when I hear her stories comes the distressing thought that mother might have finally resigned herself to the idea that financial advancement can only be achieved by luck. This thought saddens me more because mother is not the only one who subscribes to this belief. Majority of Filipinos do—just look at the long lines every time the lotto jackpot hits P50 million.

The queues have made the PCSO chairmanship one of the most-coveted government posts nowadays. There is just too much money made in this office, most of them coming from poor Filipinos who shell out at least P10 a day to bet on their favorite number combinations.

I am not sure if the transfer of the PCSO to the Office of the President is a good move. But one thing is for sure: it continues to make money wherever it may be. In its many years of operation, betting in lotto has become a habit for many. Office workers, construction workers and simple folks rush to the betting stations as the cut-off time draws near. The visible outcomes of their constant patronage are the many ambulances parked at the PCSO complex and the assistance that numerous patients get in government hospitals.

To say that the recipients are lucky would not be exactly right. It is either they are indigents or extremely sick. I thank God that I am neither of the two. I do not intend to receive charity under those conditions, although I am certain that help will come in whatever form when the need arises. Filipinos have always been like that.

So, the news about Filipinos being the most charitable in Asia did not come as a surprise to me anymore. I have stopped being surprised at the immense capacity of Filipinos to share their resources. When “Ondoy” happened, there was an outpouring of help everywhere. The typhoons and other calamities before and after that drew the same kind of generosity. What was newsworthy about the survey, however, was that our poor nation was willing to give more than our richer neighbors.

The sight of the poor giving whatever little they have never fails to astonish me. In the school where I work, I see my underprivileged students give out coins from their tattered purses when donations are asked.

When I tried to analyze the matter, I was led to think that it was probably because of our Christian upbringing. Maybe it was, but most, if not all, religions preach charity.

The Catholic church I go to discourages parishioners from giving money to the street children waiting outside the church. Apparently, some people do not heed the priest’s advice. The growing number of street children outside the church indicates that goodwill to mendicants is thriving.

Maybe, this is what fuels charity in our country. For as long as someone is in need, there will always be someone who will give. Or it could be the other way around: for as long as someone is willing to give, there will always be someone who is ready to ask. And who would not accept charity? “Grasya na ’to,” one would say.

Generally, we are a good people. This goodness, whether innate or indoctrinated, is what drives our altruism. Some vicious entrepreneurs take advantage of this goodness to jumpstart their business by sending out hundreds of street minions to seek investments, a.k.a. alms. The good people’s “investment in heaven” turns out to be something else.

The same principle is practiced by many wise individuals or groups who milk people and institutions by coming up with “foundations.” In the process, they shield their precious funds from taxes. I can only hope that the money reaches the supposed beneficiaries.

At this very moment, someone is receiving charity. Before I can even punctuate this sentence, I know someone is giving out charity. Inside a cubicle in Quezon City, Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s staff is still drafting letters to endorse to a third party the many solicitation letters his office is getting.

Before the late night newscast, I wait for my mom’s loud shriek or call to announce that she finally got the winning combination. During those countless evenings that I failed to hear such an announcement, I go to bed and mentally prepare myself for work the next day. Before I fall asleep, I tell the Lord that P2 million will be just fine.

Ralf Roldan, 27, is a teacher in Alabang.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Packing with a P!

Oh well, I made it back to work just after two days of absence. I go back to work today, Wednesday, and there is not a trace of lump anywhere. I am beginning to doubt my doctor's diagnosis; it could have been also the dental cleaning and filling that could have gone wrong, which I had last Friday. I am not sure anymore. I am just glad that things are better now.

There is nothing left to do here in school now. My clearance has been signed, and all remnants of my De La Salle Teacher identity have been turned over to the Personnel Department. Packing will be done next. I brought with me two cloth bags where I am to pack my stuff with. Packing! Packing! Packing! This should not be a problem to me. I am good at it.... More than ten years of flying to and fro Manila has made me a good packer! Too bad, this summer, I am not going to make use of my packing skills elsewhere. I shall be a prisoner of my  fourth-floor three-window unit the entire summer. I don't mind. It will be a blast. I'll just think that while the rest of the of the fashionable and moneyed people fo Manila are doing their rounds of the hottest summer destinations of the country and the world, I shall be basking in my long-deserved break and  will be grateful for the great things that I am enjoying. My summer break will be in anticipation for something greater, something grand.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Happy Vacation!

My last week at work might be spent at home. My doctor told me to stay away from people after she confirmed it was mumps I was having.  This was not my idea of bidding farewell to the people, and if I made it to school, I would limit my interactions with them.
So, I am here in my condo unit, listening to the radio as there is nothing good on free TV nowadays while trying to compose this blog post which I will publish the moment I smell unsecured Wifi connections around.
As I wait for this big lump on my left jaw to disappear, I stay on bed and live the life of a bum, and I am starting to like it. This is life for the next weeks;  I am thinking of keeping  two-day old shirts on me, reheating of  three-day old food, dreaming  and staying on bed. It is  almost like the ideal life, but, no, it won’t work for me. I have other concerns to think of like, how many more pieces of  underwear do I have left until my next laundry which I plan to do in the distant future, or where will the next blackhead grow so  I could prick it with an unsanitized hair pin which I have been keeping within my reach.
This is my vacation, and I have to content myself with it. I don’t mind it though. I am not complaining, but I am not thanking my mumps for making it early for me.  It’s best this way, I guess. I will not have to see my friends’ faces as we officially bid each other farewell, and, besides, it’s not very sightly to see my over-grown left jaw as we do that. But a swollen jaw is preferred to a swollen scrotum which may happen to someone with mumps, and if that happened, that would give me more reasons to let my brother, who is staying with me now,  to do my laundry and cook my meals. And that’s a happy vacation?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day Tour

Countdowns are no longer reserved for New Year revelries or radio's top ten most requested songs. Mine happens to last for few days. Soon, I shall hit April 15, an end to a glorious seven-year stay as a teacher in De la Salle Santiago Zobel School. It will be over soon. And I can't help but feel a tinge of sadness as I leave a school I have served for a long time. I can't claim to have changed a single student's life through my work as a teacher, but I am sure I have made some very good friends whose daily presence will be sorely missed.

Since the students are off to their summer break, all teachers, who are still reporting for work, face the computers, turning the computer area into a common scene in a neighborhood computer shop where some play Plants vs Zombies, spy on Facebook and watch countless videos on YouTube. In between our computer sessions are our long talks and equally-long lunch breaks. We cease to become school automatons who are hard at work, for we resume our more casual selves in our talks and games.

Ten-months of hard work are capped by a relaxing time at school. It can be boring at times, though. (thus, this blog post!) But I am not complaining. Since it is stress-less, I make time to reconnect with old friends and reinforce friendship with present ones.

I finally get to go around and do things without thinking much of work. One such opportunity was my co-teacher's daughter's baptism. I came for the lunch reception at Gerry's Grille - Market!Market! in Taguig, of course. Although late, I still managed to feast on the sumptuous food waiting for me. The food was good as with everything free, but it was not as memorable as my commute to and experience in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig. I have known all along that there was a shuttle to Fort Bonifacio although I have not taken it before. So, I got off at Ayala MRT station after boarding the bus in Sucat, looked for the terminal, and found myself in a quite unusual Philippine bus terminal. I had to fall in line to pay for my ticket; then, I entered a spacious waiting area with  chairs and real order! Is this how rich bus terminals are? Just after a few minutes, our bus came and left with still vacant seats to fill.

At the bus terminal
It was a day tour of Fort Bonifacio as my last recollection of the place was a dinner many months before. I don't mind appearing 'provincial' as I gawked at every structure mushrooming the complex. It was a treat, and also a not-so-true image of the Philippines for it displayed a very rich Pinas. It may not be a real reflection of the country, but perhaps it is a model of how other cities in this country is to become. I hope so.

Pedestrians at Boni High Street
Photographer photographed

Open spaces at High Street
Together with my co-teachers who were my age, I explored Market!Market! and Bonifacio High Street. Like the many penniless beings all over, we were contented with our exchanges of jokes and stories as we took our comfy spot on one of High Street's open spaces.

I left Fort Bonifacio before dusk. It was earth hour that day, and it was no longer fun to be staying out.

Earth Hour scene at our condominium complex