By Florence Anne Taino
It was not a ticket-buying line for my favorite alt-rock band. For Pete’s sake, it was a line for a jeepney ride. I was a student a few hours ago, but before I could go home, my career took a turn into becoming a real-life zombie. My bodily fluids in the process of evaporation alone were brutal, and yet, nothing is worse than those stares, as I make an awkward entrance not knowing where to sit.
If one were to need therapy, the jeepney is the perfect place—there are great deals of shoulders to lean on, thus, the absence of a void. No emptiness. Each of the passengers, including me, agonizes over the fumes of the sweat trickling in our bodies. And my eyes would search for that person who would show even the tiniest reflection of compassion in their eyes, as if saying, “Dito hija, may maliit na space pa.”
Then suddenly, I met that stranger’s eyes that would save me from this agony.
Despite my innocence, all I can receive is a criminal offensive side eye while I’m bent down, almost kneeling as if paying for my crime. But there was one woman who finally shouted,“Umusod na kayo, para makaalis na!”. And though the woman’s intention was not merely for my sake, I was half-delighted with my glutes suffering in the next few minutes of this story.
In my moment of existential dread, I just wondered about the potency of all of this—the reason why I did those things and for whom I do them. Ironically, jeepney rides make me look at the great grand scheme of things to be reminded that these are insignificant while sometimes, I notice just a single ride taking most of my time. Perhaps, I have been seated on a jeepney for nearly a quarter of my life. And even though I see it as time wasted in traffic congestion from deeply problematic Philippine concerns, I try to look beyond it—how many strands of hair have been into the mouth of the person sitting beside me? That taught me the art of tying it without a hair tie. The way I felt loved by a stranger was when he did not bother waking me up while my head leans on his shoulder. The day I vowed to start a movement because I thought, “Humanity is lost.” after a woman shouted at me for not being able to hand her fare. Heck, I was asleep! And God knows how I prayed that the extra three pesos I gave to Manong would be a blessing because I was too shy to ask for my change.
Oh God, no. Is this a love-hate relationship with my jeepney ride?
I must hate it for all the time it took from me—the way it made me realize that we may be exhausted from the things that we do, but it is far more consuming to not have the time to do the things that we desire to.
How many dreams have stayed in my imagination because I was stuck on a jeepney ride? How many pairs of men’s eyes have scared me of being scrutinized? How many strangers have I been at war with inside it, and how many loud ones tried to talk to me while I was trying to get a nap?
And the butt cramps!
The bumpy roads when I’m trying to hold in a fart!
The times it has humiliated me for dreaming as if I was falling from a building!
But I realized that it could have also been beautiful.
To embrace the culture of every existing jeepney ride: Our innovation, our spirit, and the art of resiliency. But how could we? In this place, we were instilled with the thought that making it live also means embracing the rotten core of our system.
So while I’m stuck right now in the four corners of my room with the disbelief of how much I’d miss those times, I thought that maybe my jeepney ride realization was right. At the moment of all our waiting, we figure out the little things that we want to do with our lives; to eat a savory dinner with our family, to sleep tightly on our beds the moment we get there, to build our own dreams—and for all one knows, to never make our jeepney rides a distant memory.
(Photo by Zedrich Xylak Madrid/FEU Advocate)