Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sunday commute

I'm 30 minutes earlier than usual, dressed in my favorite pink rolled-up long-sleeves, jeans, and brown shoes, waiting for the next FX to pass by along my area of Taft Avenue, just outside the building where I live. I'm on my way to church, roughly a 40-minute ride away, give or take.

A white, newly-polished FX stops in front. The driver motions me to get inside fast. I take the front seat, arguably the best spot. From there I can see the road straight ahead, I get the best airconditioning, and I don't have to pass paper bills or coins around.

Just a couple of years ago, Toyota Tamaraw FX's have become an alternative option for urban commuters. They're a hybrid of taxi cabs and jeepneys—and I like them. They're fast. They're also comfortable, but not as comfortable as taxis, of course. At least FX's can shield the passenger from the grime and pollution of Manila's main thoroughfares.

I hand the driver my payment. "Sa may Delta po."

The driver, in his late forties, folds the 20-peso bill, rolls it between his fingers, and places the five-peso coin beside a glow-in-the-dark crucifix, almost at the same time. He is the epitome of multi-tasking.

He doesn't take notice of me; his eyes are fixed on the road. The streets are clear at this time, with hardly any passengers on the sidewalks. The driver occasionally stops at key places where the throng of commuters usually are—like the Manila City Hall or the area in front of UST. Commuting on Sundays is glorious. The traffic is light.

It's quiet inside. The radio is turned off—thankfully. Not that I hate old music—I actually like them. But I confess to getting irritated at some radio stations, especially those with mantras spoken in fake children's voices.

I'm only one of the two passengers left. As soon the other one hops off the vehicle, I engage the driver in a conversation.

"Madalang po ang pasahero ngayon, ah," I say.

"Ganyan talaga 'pag Linggo. Lalo na mga ganitong oras. Kita mo?" He points to empty buses and empty jeepneys—and laughs at the empty FX's that have zoomed past him. "Walang-wala rin sila."

He tells me the situation improves at around 9 am when sales ladies working in SM Fairview are starting to commute. "Kapag mga ganyang oras na, magbabad na ako kasi marami ng pasahero."

"Matagal na po kayong nagmamaneho?"

week 28 (taft)
"Mga mahigit isang taon pa lang."

"Nakakailang rounds po kayo isang araw?" FX's, like jeepneys, have defined routes which they traverse every day. This vehicle travels from Buendia to Fairview—and back again.

"Mga anim dati, pero sagabal kasi 'yang ginagawa sa Araneta. Napapatagal ng trenta minutos ang biyahe." He refers to the big underpass being built along the Araneta-Quezon Avenue intersection which has created a bottle-neck in traffic flow, especially during weekdays.

He tells me he has to drive fast. He has a passenger waiting for him at Rizal Province, which he will bring to the airport at 11  am. This works well for both of us:  he gets to earn extra (I assume the passenger he's fetching will give him a big bonus) and I get to church earlier, giving me time to eat a quick breakfast.

The driver is in high spirits, something I don't ordinarily see. Was it a college professor who told me that the roads in this country can bring the worst out of people? No wonder why drivers are ill-tempered, often angry. But clearly this is going to be a good day for him.

Finally I reach my stop. I thank him for the ride and wish him well. I probably won't ever see him again—and if I do, I won't recognize him. From the waiting shed, I observe his white vehicle as it speeds through the highway. Seconds later it is drowned in the sea of Sunday traffic until I no longer see it. I decide it's now time to move on.



Anonymous Gihan said...

Hi Kuya Lance! great blog! nice to see you dun sa Lady Med :D

Sat Sep 17, 09:54:00 PM GMT+8  
Blogger Lance said...

Salamat, Gihan! And I dig your sketches! Ang galing mo pala magdrowing.

Sun Sep 18, 05:24:00 AM GMT+8  

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