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JEEPNEY RIDES

I ride jeepneys. I dont take the taxi unless I’m running late for work. And despite the inconvenience and dangers attributed to the jeepney, I still enjoy the ride. Aside from it being a good friend to my budget, I enjoy being in the company of the commuting public. If you wanna meet all types of the human species, the jeepney will give you the pleasure of seeing, smelling, occasional talking, slight touching and unintentional snobbing when smiles are just too hard to muster on extremely hot days.

Though I enjoy the public transport, I have a few complains. One might consider them for the improvement of the well-loved symbol of the Philippines.

For one, we need to make them a bit more comfortable. I took a jeepney on my way home today and it was the most fully-packed jeepney ive ever been in. There were 16 people on each side which probably can accommodate 12 medium-built filipino men. It was a feat and the driver seemed to be too pleased as he screamed at everyone ‘sikit sikiti pa, maarang pa na’. The jeepney went off and all the muscles on my legs and arms were constricted I almost felt like I was doing an interminable squat. Some were sitting half their butts and slightly turned to one side instead getting that pair of gluteus maximus properly tucked on the seats.

AIR AND PRIVACY

Air inside a fully loaded jeepney is incredibly scarce one would think we’re all in a dungeon. Everyone’s competing for fresh oxygen and I could hear silent prayers that no one farts. No one has a private space inside a jeepney and you definitely wouldn’t want answering a phone call if you don’t wanna be accused of being ill-mannered, or sending a text message especially when you are quarreling with someone lest, four people would be flashing evil grins that tell you’re such a loser. They will see your text message that says ‘txt u l8r kai naa p q sa jip’ and the the text’s response ‘ayaw q buanga. Ngqyog na pod mo ni Maricel nuh? Yaw pamakak! &@$#*^{expletives&:@&;%^*’. Moreover, it is golden rule that when in a jeepney, mobile phones or any gadgets are best kept in the deepest compartment in your pocket or that secret space inside your bag. Snatchers have developed incredibly extreme strategies to pick them out unnoticed from where people usually keep them. They won’t break a sweat grabbing your iPhone if you flaunt it.

THE SMELL

The smell can also be overly annoying which is an understatement. Think armpits, sweat, flatulence, fake perfumes, feet, halitosis. When a jeepney is full, the odor can be extremely dangerous, one shouldn’t attempt to flick a lighter.

THE PROBLEM

The problem is, whoever is making these jeepneys, they are making it wrong. They are making too small jeepneys. They seem to forget that people have hips and shoulders of varying sizes. Some’s got boobs too while others, the likes of Melanie Marquez, have ‘long-legged’ legs. When they do make bigger jeepneys, drivers get to decide how many people fits inside. They don’t consider the plus-sized segment of the population who oftentimes, must feel discriminated when a barker yells at passengers ‘siyam siyam ni’ when obviously a passenger is inside who takes two or three full seats. And then everyone would be casting their eyes somewhere like they are enjoying the view of new buildings erected around ayala which they probably must have seen a 621 times. Others show their nonchalance by looking for something inside their bags when they knew they don’t have it in there. The rest would, in unison, put their earphones and shut their eyes like they didnt hear anything. There are a few heroes however who would argue with the barker or driver that there’s one heavyweight inside the jeepney to the embarassment of the person in question.

PIMPING IT

Jeepney fares are cheap but there should always be an effort to improve it. Since it is a cultural symbol we so often use in tourism, we might as well pimp it and make it look awesome. Make it an awesomely enjoyable ride for everyone too. There shouldn’t be any jeepney where your knees kiss with the person’s knees across you. It invites perverts!

But it’s not gonna change anytime in the next 5-10 years, and I am really trying to be optimistic here. Rusty jeepneys that belch black smoke will still be blamed for frizzy hair at 8 in the morning. There’s still gonna be those that halt in mid-traffic and those that you fear will self-destruct at rush hour.

I think no one has seriously considered the future of the jeepney for ages. It’s about time. The king if the road isn’t king anymore. It is slowly losing it’s touch and seem to be stuck in the past. If a jeepney has feelings, it has long lost its self-esteem as its shiny counterparts speed down the highway.

I will still ride the jeepney though. It’s a colorful ride all the time. And i never run out of stories to tell. But please, no farting.

Filed under cebu cebu city jeepney jeep pilipinas philippines stories choose philippines

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TALES OF A BOATMAN

The island-hopping we had last weekend was all but fun. It was the first time I’ve been to Hilutungan Island and Talima in the 6 years I’ve been residing in Cebu. The weather was half-hearted as if telling us to have half the fun. Indeed, the Pandanon trip was cancelled. It didnt rain but the weather was teasing us. It was like a joke. We wanted to proceed to Pandanon but we’re already short of time. And so we sulked in the water under the sun with no sand to walk and bask on for the rest of the day. I was content of observing the clouds and sun as it slowly moved westward until it hugged the mountains behind the city creating a beautiful silhouette. It looked peaceful, a stark contrast of the noise and dirt that would greet me later early in the evening.

I had the chance to talk with the boatmen. They did everything in the boat including cooking and a little yelling when the Americans, Colombians, Argentinians, Brazilians and us, didn’t follow instructions. There were 3 of them making the ride comfortable.

The senior boatman sat beside me while I was watching the city from afar that was probably drenched in rain. He asked for a light and I obliged. I just had my cigarette. And then he asked me about the people I’m with, who they are, where they work, what they do. I told them we work in a company who makes printers. He replied ‘Ah, parehas anang mar-printa sa island souvenirs.’ I said yes to end that part of the conversation. And so it was my turn to ask. And he didn’t disappoint me of his tales of the sea and the people he had met on his boat.

He said he had been doing the same job since he was 12 years old. He could tell around what time the big dark clouds from afar will touch land. He told me it will not pass where we were. And it didn’t. I didn’t ask how much they get paid for a trip but I did ask him if they get paid for each trip. He said they are employees – they get a monthly wage. I said it was good that they are full-fledged employees. He said they get the SSS they need just in case. There was that certain spark in his eyes that could only spell sadness when he smiled and said they are happy they are employed unlike some boatmen who are paid on a per trip basis. And so I asked more questions. He said they work everyday even Sundays but don’t get overtime. It was a Sunday when we went island-hopping. He said they weren’t getting extra working that day which made me feel a little guilty. He further told me if his employer would offer to give him a month’s salary for each year he worked for, he would go for it. I told him he doesn’t need to beg for it. he is entitled to it. And then he went on with the tales of other boatmen who were previously employed and were forced out of work. He said they went to DOLE and accepted a settlement. They were paid money, he said, and are now paid on pakyaw basis by the same employer.

The chat with manong left a tug on my heart. His skin are so dark because of the sun- not the kind that you’d want for a tan. His eyes reflect a certain bitterness and anger at times. They have seen so many stories of kids acting like grown-ups and grown-ups being childish on the boat that they sail to the sea each day. He told me of tales of their worst passengers, marijuana-smoking kids and bullies who test their patience. I could tell from his eyes, that he wanted to tell me that if he’d got the chance to live their lives, he wouldn’t waste it. I could tell, just like anyone else, he knows he deserves better pay for the hard work he does each day. For the many times we complain how difficult our job is, there are those that make our island-hopping trips as fun as possible, who are way underpaid and are losing hope on the hyped booming tourism industry.

It was getting dark and passengers will arrive more and more with sunnier smiles in the next days, months and years to come. And manong has to fake a smile that their lives are all but sunny too.

Filed under cebu cebu city mactan olango island summer tourism it's more fun in the philipines pilipinas philippines

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TOURISM-TRASHING

The island-hopping trip we had last Sunday was full of realizations. Some were personal like how I have been missing a lot by being stationary most of the time in a city that demands so much from your time. Talk about traffic! But it has also opened my eyes from a lot of things – the booming tourism industry for one.

Tourism is good for us. It brings in the dollars that we need. We want more tourists. We want them to splurge. And we want to show-off the beauty of our tropical paradise. We want to show them that our country is more beautiful than our Southeast Asian counterparts and that it is more fun in the Philippines. At the outset it’s all flowers and sun and turquoise colored beaches. It’s all happy and exciting. But there is a dark side of the industry too that few really talk about.

We were swimming at Talima Sanctuary when a waveful of garbage swamped at us. There were plastics of all sorts – cellophanes of emptied Korean ramens, junk food, plastic bags, slippers and a back pack. And so some of us started picking up the plastic that got near us. The foreigners with us didn’t say a word about the filth but they were kind enough to initiate picking up the garbage. They probably didn’t say a word not to offend us or might have been talking in their own dialect so that we won’t understand. The experience did say a lot about how we take care of our environment and what is for us in exchange of the dollars we get from tourism. The place is a sanctuary and in sanctuaries, one does not expect trash splashing at you when you’re snorkeling and busy looking for nemo.

It is well taken that somehow, we are bound to give up something in exchange for a booming tourism industry. The least we can do however is to set up ways to minimize its ill effects if not stop it. The thing is we leave throwing of garbage to the conscience of the tourists. But that doesn’t really work most of the time.

The prospect that the industry that feeds hundreds of thousands of Filipinos will be the very industry that would betray them in the not so near future is very frightening. It seemed to me that we haven’t developed a culture yet of instilling care for the environment while enjoying the beauty of our clear-blue waters. A simple reminder at the start of any cruise about the place we are going to visit and the do’s and don’t’s can make a difference. Telling simply anyone who visits the sanctuary that there is a garbage can on the boat to throw in their trash would help. We need not shoo away tourists, we need them however to help us maintain the health of our treasured tourist attractions. But we have to start with ourselves too.

When I was talking to the boatman, he told me that Mactan is not near from submerging into sea. He said with the saddest eyes that buildings have been sprouting in the island like mushrooms in recent years and might be too heavy for the island to support. I thought it was far-fetched. He wasn’t an engineer or geologist or something to make a scientific conclusion over the doom of the island. I tried to read between his lines and I thought that what he was really saying was in two parts: One, the development of the island has brought about a lot of detriment to the beauty of what it once was and second, the buildings he was talking about are not really for Juan dela Cruz’ pleasure.

I couldn’t blame manong. He must have grown up in the island. He must have seen the beauty it was once sans the buildings and when the beaches were open to the public to use. It was difficult for me because from afar, I could only see beauty in the spots of white sand beaches and towering first-class resorts and fun from the house music that reverberates from Shangri La where a BPO company was having their summer party. His view was very different from mine. But for a minute, it was as if I borrowed his lenses and saw what he was talking about. The glistening hotels looked like invaders - almost unnatural. Against the setting sun, the island suddenly cast a certain sadness on me because, true to manong’s word, I haven’t been in any of the posh resorts if not for company summer parties. And so how much more for most Pinoys.

They say we are lucky we are in a paradise. It’s wishful thinking to conclude that we all are.

Filed under cebu cebu city philippines pilipinas olango island mactan tourism it's more fun in the philippines

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Work, School and Living

Now that school is a month away, Im trying to work out my schedule that I fervently pray I can religiously abide by on a daily basis.

Here’s what I got so far and its been 30 minutes that Im stuck with sleep…

Work - 10 hrs
School - 3 hrs
Work out - 2 hrs
Travel time - 2 hrs
Read - 2 hrs
Sleep ?

Rough ride. Im on the verge of erasing exercise. But what about healthy living?

Filed under law school law student university cebu cebu city pilipinas philippines