Sunday, June 1, 2008

Barya

I ride jeepneys all the time.

I've never owned a car, let alone driven one. So I choose to think that commuting, although stressful and demanding at times, does have its own share of joys. For one, you don't have to worry if your car has been stolen. You don't have to drop by the gas stations to pay for the fuel. And you don't have to put up with suicidal drivers.

Yesterday, on my way to the Albert Hall, I rode a tricycle from UP Village to Philcoa. Then I hailed a jeepney that would take me to UP.

"Manong, bayad po." I passed on the hundred-peso bill. It was 9 in the morning. In a jeepney with the sign, Barya lang po sa umaga.

"Wala ka bang barya?" asked Mamang Driver, looking at me through the mirror above his head.

I said no, I didn't have loose change. I said I do have six pesos, but that was two pesos short of the minimum fare.

I expected a tongue-lashing from him. Almost all jeepney drivers have loud mouths. Maybe it's part of the training--to have their voice heard amidst the honking and screeching of the cars in polluted Metro Manila. Instead, Mamang Driver smiled--laughed even--and said, "Sa susunod na sumakay ka dito, bayaran mo 'ko ha?"

A second incident happened when I rode a UP Ikot jeep. The driver, too, didn't have loose change when I handed him my hundred-peso bill. I was surprised when he didn't scratch his head in annoyance but graciously, "Magpapabarya tayo..."

Another passenger came in, also with a hundred-peso bill. "Wala po kayong barya?" asked Mamang Driver, in the most gracious, un-jeepney-driver-like tone I have heard in my commuting life. He too didn't have any other loose change.

The driver continued driving past CP Garcia. Five minutes later, we were in Vinzon's Hall. That was my destination.

"Wala pa rin po kayong barya?" I asked him.

Incidentally, another jeepney parked beside ours. Mamang Driver, after some jeepney-driver small talk, exchanged my money with smaller 20-peso bills. I finally got back my 94 pesos.

But it was time to go. I thanked Mamang Driver and wished him well. May there be more jeepney drivers like him and less passengers like me.

Clearly the lesson of the day was change is for the better.

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