from the commuter

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

Friday, November 22, 2013

Something new

I am writing this Post in Nigeria, my home for the next few years. I have been here close to a month now, and I must say I welcome anything new. It is exciting to be in this part of the world. It has its challenges, though. But like the adventurous person that I claim to be, I shall make my stay here memorable. I now work at the Philippine Embassy in Nigeria, you see, and the work here has slightly changed how things are compared to what I did back home. For one, I rarely commute. I walk to my office from my present accommodation, and I have a driver. Yes, Commuter now has a driver at his beck and call. hehe. Having a driver and commuting less have a direct effect on this blog. I am contemplating on changing the theme; I am not sure yet. I am still adjusting to work at the Embassy, and I will give more time to blogging once I have adjusted well.

Also, between last post and this one, I turned 30. I have to admit that there were things in my Life Plan  which I expressed in the blog and that I was not able to meet. As simple as taking the train in Manila, I was not able to do. Another is I was not able to get myself a car. Nevertheless, I do not take them, particularly the latter, as failure. There were reasons, of course --- practicality, my departure for Nigeria, and ever-changing priorities.  

I am embracing the decision I made to go to this part of the world. In fact, I am happy I made the decision. My moving to Nigeria will surely be an adventure, and I hope you will still be there as I make them, whether I am on a camel or with mosquitoes buzzing my ear. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Zamboanga Crisis

Day 17 of the Zamboanga Crisis, I went home to Zamboanga. I could have gone earlier to check my folks, but flights were all cancelled. When the Aviation Authority finally ok'd the resumption of flights, I made it a point to catch one home the soonest.

There aren't any Krispy Kreme nor JCO Donuts in Zamboanga

Zamboanga Airport

Airport Security

The media had their field day every day. This is the Solar News Team getting ready to beam live from Zamboanga
I thought that living in Mindanao had prepared me for wars, but I was wrong. When I set foot on the airport, I already sensed the mood that was devoid of festive chatter and noise that usually come with every arrival. My folks could not bring their car to the airport parking unlike before, and I had to walk some few meters out of the airport complex just to meet them. Suddenly, no well-wishers and pushy tricycle and taxi drivers asking the passengers if they needed a ride; men in military fatigue seemed to outnumber the arriving passengers in the airport.

My mom and aunt accompanied my dad to pick me up. They did not have work; school and work had been cancelled for days then. We talked of nothing but the crisis. When we got home, the local tv was on broadcasting images of my city's sorry state. The footage showed the dismal condition at the sport complex housing the 100,000 plus evacuees. Huge smoke coming from the conflict area indicated that families were losing their house.
Rush hour in Zamboanga Downtown

UV Vehicles calling out passengers to depart before the curfew
I went to the downtown, the name we give to the city's center. My parents advised me to bring with me an ID in case I am asked. Shops were closed and streets were almost deserted. I tried taking pictures, but stopped after taking three. I did not want to be interrogated for the photos I was taking. During those times, everybody was cautious. A face, any face, could be suspected of gathering intelligence for the other side. I hid my phone and went back home to make it before the 8 pm curfew imposed on everyone. After 8, no one is supposed to be out unless one thinks that a night at the police precinct is like checking in a luxury hotel.

Common sight in Zamboanga
The curfew made Zamboanga a sleepy town with sporadic gunshots and bombs being detonated elsewhere. Business was heavily affected. The prostitutes were not spared. At 2pm on my way back to the hotel, I heard girls in sleeveless  shirts shouting at me from the second and third floor windows of a massage parlor, "Pogi! Pogi! (Handsome!)" There must have been six girls calling my attention.
Camins Street in Zamboanga used to be one of the busiest streets in the city. Checkpoints abound vigilantly checking on each vehicle

I thought I was prepared for war; no one is really prepared. I went back to Manila after three days of seeing how that crisis would change my beloved city forever. I arrived in Manila on the 28th of September, the day when the Government announced that the crisis was over. It is never over, really.

Flight to Manila

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Since I do not have a car, and there is no one to pick me up from the airport after an official trip abroad, the logical choice was to take the cab. Lucky for me that I live near the airport because had my residence been far, I would have scrimped and took the jeep instead. Airport cabs in Manila are twice and even more expensive than the regular ones. It was late at night, you see, and all I ever wanted was the comfort of my bed as soon as possible, after staying out of it for days!

I revealed my destination; the taxi dispatcher wrote it down and radio'ed someone. Few minutes later, a yellow taxi pulled up in front me. The driver was overly friendly and hinted that a tip in a foreign currency would make his day. I have not met a driver as enthusiastic as him in my several years of commuting, and then I analyzed his behavior. The only possible reason I could think of was that he must have mistaken me for a returning OFW. I was not offended; in fact, there probably were reasons for him to believe so. I had a huge luggage; I came out of the terminal 1 airport with many returning Filipinos; I dressed casually unlike my colleagues who wore their business jackets. However, I was not the jewelry-wearing kind which I attribute to some seafarers and OFWs that I know.

I managed to inject that I was government employee, from the DFA,  returning home after a meeting abroad. After my revelation, I must have blown his bubble because he no longer pushed for the dollars that I was not earning. He changed the topic and started asking me about passport processes, and I answered briefly for I was nearing my place. 

The trip left a sad taste in the mouth as I got off. I gave him forty pesos extra as consolation, so he would not feel so bad that he got a peso-earning passenger. I wonder if his previous passengers felt the same as I did. What I felt should not be experienced by anyone; that was not a nice welcome, and certainly not a nice first-hour experience in one's native land. That all OFWs are rich seems to be the perception of many. This kind of thinking should stop. Can't people just wait to be tipped? What I know and what everyone in the service sector should know is that tipping is for exemplary service rendered. 

In hindsight, I told myself that the driver got me home safely, and that was what the forty pesos was for. 

As for the events that happened before that taxi ride, I was in Brunei attending a meeting. Technically, I was working there, hence I can be called an overseas Filipino worker, but not the dollar-earning type. The work is not worthy of discussion in this blog. The things I did after the meeting is worth mentioning, however. We were able to squeeze some picture-taking activities and  a little sightseeing on our last day before we departed for Manila.
That is the Brunei Airport which was still being renovated. The country is preparing to host Leaders from East Asia Summit.

I heard that car to people is 1:5.

Jollibee lords supreme in Brunei. There are more Jollibee stores than Mcdonald's in Brunei.


This Times Square will do, although Times Square NY is also something to look forward to.

Brunei Street

The captain of our ship. We cruised in Kampong Ayer, Brunei's famous water village.

Houses on stilts like in my hometown.

Their water village is very organized.

Our boat

Beautiful and organized structures at Kampong Ayer

Mosque with gold domes

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This comfort called FX

With the implementation of the Integrated Bus Terminal Project at the Coastal Mall for southern provincial-bound passengers, many of my colleagues at work take the van/fx at the Mall of Asia. The new system prohibits provincial buses from entering the city and has designated a terminal to load and unload provincial passengers. This has caused problems for and complaints from both provincial passengers and bus operators. The passengers complain that they have to take multiple rides to reach their destination. The bus operators don't quite like the strict policy of dispatch, giving them only five minutes to load passengers. In fact, bus drivers staged a protest yesterday leaving commuters stranded for the most part of the morning.  On one hand, the good news, in my view, is that there are fewer buses on the streets of Manila, no more crowding at Roxas Boulevard corner EDSA. The AUVs and vans are, of course, exempt and thus enjoy the freedom to ply the city from any point of Luzon. Like me, most would rather take one straight journey (and it can be cheaper, too) than hop on and hop off several vehicles even though buses are slightly more comfortable than the vans/fx.
At the Integrated Bus Terminal at the Coastal Mall in Paranaque

While I acknowledge that taking buses is more comfortable than taking the FX, my choice is still the latter. I still take it knowing that my knees will touch someone else's when I face that someone, or that I will have to settle for a small share of the seat. But complain I shall not do.

Yet,  I have to understand the "in-out, in-out" dynamics in public utility vehicles, particularly in FX. I find this an interesting topic to observe as it covers gender, age, and physical factors.

Just what dictates who gets to take a full space in a room full of passengers in the FX?

More than two decades of commuting could not give a me a definite answer to my questions. I do have observations, however. More than anything, I think it's one's comfort that makes a passenger claim his/her well-deserved butt space. It is with this thought that I look forward to having slender girls as my co-passengers in the FX. Usually the person who is last to enter has the unfortunate distinction of being 'out.' More women than men tend to go 'out' without being forced to do so; men are likely to squeeze their seatmates while women don't want to be squeezed. I suppose, at times, there is powerplay in the game; the passengers who have their right share of space assert themselves, knowing perfectly well that only three and a half people could comfortably sit in the car. The 'half' passenger must know his or her place. Young ones with their headsets on are likely to ignore everyone else and be oblivious to the rest as long they are seated properly and enjoying their music. Although I see people ask that they be let out if they cannot sit properly, most still go on with their journey uncomplaining. Those who try to make a big fuss would get comments such as, "Mag-taxi ka na lang (Take a cab)" or "Bumili ka ng sarili mong sasakyan (Go buy your own car)."

Those Asian Utility Vehicles can accommodate four  passengers in the backseat regardless of the shape and size of the passengers. THEY MUST ALL FIT. Through the years, I have seen different models of cars, not exactly AUVs that are made to be "FXs." There are now vans that are being used. AUV Express as it is known has been gaining popularity among the riding public. The FXs, Revos, HiAces provide some comfort, airconditioning, and terminal to terminal service to the growing middle class who do not wish to take the jeeps, ordinary buses or multiple trips. The FX riding public has developed patience, understanding, apathy and selfishness all at the same time. Who is to blame? Conditions, presented to them day in day out, make them the way they are. 

Does this mean that car-owning individuals are a different breed of their own?

I am not so sure about that, although one thing I am sure of is that we all take the same road. It is how we deal on the road that spells the difference, whether you are in a car, taxi, bus or FX. 

Random picture on the plane. Unrelated photo.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Remiss, revisit, retell and reflections

So I have been remiss in a lot of things, such as blogging and even failing to greet friends on their birthdays. One dear friend said she did not expect that I would miss her birthday after greeting her the day after.

Yes so much has been going on that I have no blog post for the previous month; last month should have been a great source of posts because a lot happened. But, no, I did not write any.

It has very been very busy. But I was thinking of topics to write.

First in my list is this:

I plan to take the train by October. I have no idea where I am going, but I'll definitely be riding on one.

You see, before the year ends, I will be going somewhere, a different continent, for a long time. Taking the train in the Philippines is certainly in Commuter's must-do list. 

I hope to be able to write something on this train ride I will be taking.

Another post worthy of its own post but I am not doing one is my Sagada trip with my good friends. It was a well-deserved break, a total contrast from the life in the city. It has been weeks since that trip but I am still raving about it. Enduring the 13-hour ride to Sagada and back was nothing compared to the experience of the culture, nature, the people and weather of the Mountain Province, a northern Philippine province, that we were able to enjoy for two whole days.

At the Pasay Terminal of Victory Liner. Baguio bound.

Mountains upon mountains welcome you as you make your way to Sagada. Truly breathtaking.

Rice terraces abound.

The Big Falls in Sagada. It was a long trek but worth every step.

Market day in Sagada

American influence, not Spanish, is evident in Sagada. There are very few Catholics in this predominant Anglican society that still honors the indigenous traditions of Sagada's ancestors.

Traditional burial site

Cave formations

A day-long wedding celebration that I was very fortunate to gatecrash. Native dances and instruments provided entertainment to the guests of the bride and groom. For me, this was one genuine cultural experience.

Good things must come to an end; hence, a trip back to Baguio must be made before heading toManila.

The randomness of this post is similar to my "Northern Exposure" adventure I had. I was with adventurous and sometimes 'random' people that made the trip more enjoyable and memorable.

Baguio became part of the itinerary because Manila-bound buses were scarce, and we had to wait until the evening to get our ride. In the process I got to see a bit of Baguio. This was a place I enjoyed going to when I was younger, and up to now. Call it stupid but foggy places such as Baguio bring me joy. Just imagine how happy I was when the city was (nearing) one-digit visibility.
Fog in Baguio

I did pray for a safe travel back to Manila, knowing quite well a typhoon was wreaking havoc in some places in Luzon and Visayas at that very moment. My prayer must have been heard because nothing untoward happened on our descent to Manila. The days after that however became witness to the might of "Maring" that left Manila and large parts of Luzon underwater.

Sunday night, August 18, I was out from church when the rain started to show signs that it was not stopping. I spent the next two days at home as work was called off, and there was just absolutely nowhere to go with the unceasing rain.

Dark clouds in the horizon. Taken from my window.

Sister approaching the building. She had our food with her so it was important that I meet her at the ground floor. hehe.
The reports of the typhoon showed the catastrophe brought by typhoons, clogged drainage and human irresponsibility. On Wednesday, a holiday, I simply had to go out for I missed the outdoors terribly. On the main road, I saw for myself the post-typhoon scenario: shops were still closed; garbage, silt, mud were everywhere; children were playing in the puddles. I hopped on a jeep and, to my surprise, initiated a talk with the driver. He was not able to work for two days, the driver said. I sat patiently and quietly as he waited for more passengers to ride his jeep.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ode to my Nokia Phone

All pictures appearing before this post were taken using my handy Nokia E63. My Nokia phone has accompanied me to all trips I took and to all places I commuted to. Our relationship has officially come to an end with the arrival of LG. My Nokia phone has served me well, documenting my life's little adventures and aiding me in this endeavor called blogging. I am retiring my Nokia phone because it is starting to die on me. It is understandable; after all, it has been with me for close to five years. But let me share with you some never-before posted pictures.

My Nokia E61, my blogging companion since I started blogging. This picture is taken using my new phone.
Whether it is taking India's most famous monument or its snake charmers, my phone has been a very handy companion.

Taj Mahal

Snake charmer

New Delhi Airport

Taj Mahal up close

Classical Indian dance
 Below is a shot of a homeless man in Singapore! I never thought Singapore would have one. Well, Nokia phone has proof!

Singapore and its single homeless person (see preceding picture)

Ninoy Aquino Airport

New Delhi's premier attraction

Lotus Temple in India

Manila City Post Office
Sale at a Manila mall

View of Metro Manila skyline taken the rooftop/helipad of the DFA Building

Pedestrian Crossing

"Family Car"

It's more fun commuting in the Philippines!

There are more photos taken by my Nokia E63 that have not been used. It is not a total divorce, I am telling you. I guess, like everything else, there should be an upgraded option.

My Nokia phone has a two-megapixel camera. My new phone hass five. I hope that I could get better pictures with it this time, in the same way my Nokia phone did.