Monday, April 24, 2006



I call her the oldie with a thousand details. well ok, I really didn’t see a thousand details but I’m dead sure that she bears in her daily life a thousand details. all I need to do to confirm this is to be with her for a week or so.

the bus was unusually cold that day when we sat side by side. I began taking a mental note of the many things she fussed about the moment I realized her busy hands.

make up – yep. even little old ladies have glam foxes in them. she applied, re applied, looked in her little mirror and re applied again. I didn’t see her use lipstick but then she already had some on. Admit it or not, everyone loves a grandma who still strives to look good.

rollers – “she got rollers on her hair” – Rizal Underground. I know a few sure things about Filipino attitude, and this is one of them: the older you get the more social freedom you acquire. The old lady had rollers on her hair that screams I’m-a-steady-lola-so-damn-you-all! It’s just funny how she fixes them from time to time, her rollers seemed a bit… loose; they probably retired a long time ago but then some of our belongings will only retire when we retire. Look at your grandparents and their things and you’ll understand how and why.

the plastic bag with the infinite bottom - I counted three. she had a fairly big black lady’s bag, a medium sized pouch of the same color and a yellow plastic bag that had an assortment of everything: half consumed chips, school supplies, a fan and oddly enough, a pair of old tennis shoes. I realize the intricacy of the arrangement when, it was time to pay, she got her money after checking two of her bags; bills from one, coins from another. I got a bit scared when she curtly said to the Kunduktor: Senior! The poor dude wouldn’t dare ask for an ID to confirm this. I’m glad he didn’t.

umbrella – it’s a local universal thing. every old lady you meet has one which I can attribute to a heightened sensitivity to the sun and rain. The old lady by my side hooked her umbrella on the seat in front of us. But then I guess it’s really a Filipino thing. I’m told that if you go to New York in summer, you’ll know who the Pinoy’s are by looking for those who walk with an umbrella under the sun.

mobile phone – the oldie, I don’t know what power she has, but she sends out an SMS, and then she gets a call. She did this two times without fail, and all her conversations dealt with a couple of ‘bilins’/reminders, or rather, they sounded to me like precision marching orders.

checklist – I didn’t really know what went into her small notebook, I saw small checks alongside a couple of items on its pages. The lady checked and added as the bus rolled along. I could only imagine how the hubby survived such an organized person.

Throughout the trip, the oldie alternately fiddled with her stuff, looked out the window at all the regular roadside things we see everyday and at times, she would casually look at her small black watch. She was 70 by my guess, and she still grabs life by the horns. still rushing into things with an active soul, still minding the time with the knowledge of how easily it can be lost, still striving to be a part of the lives of the people she loves. before I go down, she takes out a small children’s book with a unicorn on the cover. Somewhere out there is a kid waiting for a bus riding lola.

Monday, April 17, 2006


film review: Armageddon

it goes with out saying: if I had a peso for every time I’d see this film while riding the bus, id have enough money to produce the sequel. I’m exaggerating of course but then if you ride the bus regularly, you’d get my point. Okay, here’s the low down in 50 words or less:
big rock hurtling towards earth. firing nuke at it not enough to destroy.
professional drillers hired by U.S. sent to space via shuttle to drill hole in
rock. drillers drop nuke into hole and detonate. Earth is saved.
From the comfort of my bus seat, I realize that there may be some truth to the main premise of Armageddon. the Ice Age is believed to have been caused by such an event, a rock from space hits earth, blanketing the skies with dust thus lowering the over all temp of the planet. But really, if we were to be faced with the same scenario, would the final solution involve a misfit drilling team? I don’t think so. But I digress, lets go back to the film:

What can I say, Bruce Willis gave his usual, standard fare Bruce Willis brand of acting. As Armageddon goes, his performance can be dubbed as good to swell. The other main hero though was a bit… hammy. If you didn’t know Ben Affleck you’d think that he was just an amateur actor who was hired because of budget limitations. Liv Tyler on the other hand, well, yummy eye candy with red lips that can give Jolie’s pair a run for, er, their money*.

But for me, the main scene stealers are Rock Hound (Steve Buscemi), Bear (that big black dude from The Green Mile) and Max (the white fat dude). They have a few lines yes, but then they deliver with so much character and wit that you’d remember their parts more than that of the main stars. Below are a few gems:

Rockhound: You know we're sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good doesn't it?

Bear (while sobbing in front of a psychoanalyst): I am not crazy! I'm just a little emotional right now, ok? Ya'll throwin all this stuff at me, man! Look, I mean, after this is over, can I like get a hug from you or something?

Max: God, it sucks up here.

Rockhound: You want to compare brainpans? I won the Westinghouse prize when I was 12, big deal. Published at 19, so what. I got a double doctorate from MIT at 22, Chemistry and Geology. I taught at Princton for two and a half years. Why do I do this? Because the money's good, the scenery changes and they let me use explosives, ok?

Harry/BruceWillis: Come on, God, just a little help. It's all I'm asking.
Max: I think we're close enough, He might have heard ya.

Bear: So, did NASA find oil on Uranus?

Max (Undergoing medical checkup): Who's that for? Mr. Ed? You stick that thing in me and I'm going to stab you in the heart with it. You ever see Pulp Fiction?

(military dudes talking to Harry/Bruce Willis)
Rockhound: Harry I swear to God man, she never told me her age.
Harry: It's alright, relax. It's about me.
Rockhound: Oh.

All in all, Armageddon delivers the goods. I give it a 9 out of 10 rating. I have to admit, the film is a very good bus ride movie. The story isn’t complicated and even if you don’t finish the film, you can still imagine how the ending goes. Plus, Armageddon has a lot of explosions** and stressful scenes which is very effective in staving off traffic boredom. Kudos for wayward asteroids!

*- this has got to be the weirdest sentence that I have written in my life.
**- fact: explosions are impossible in space due to the lack of oxygen.

Monday, April 10, 2006



I had just gotten off from work. weary and troubled, I ride the bus, trying hard to relax. I can’t. I have some work related problems that I need to figure out. I also have a couple of very small home front issues that need sorting.

the Kunduktor comes:

“sanpo sila?”

“Alabang galing Ayala.”

I hand him a hundred. the fare is P29.

“mamaya napo sukli.”

I nod and shift in my head to a work problem. Less than a minute passes and the Kunduktor hands me my change. I accept it without saying a word while trying to concoct a possible attack angle to my problems in the office.

he leaves. we arrive in Alabang. I stand and as I disembark from the bus, I ask the Kunduktor for my change. we stare at each other. I get pissed and ask him again:

“yung sukli sa 100, Alabang galling Ayala.”

more staring. He relents and gives me my change. I walk towards the jeepney station. I prepare my fare. In each of the front pockets of my jeans is a 71 peso set.

god. I just stole P71 from someone.

I feel bad. I could try looking for the guy but then needles lost in haystacks are a lost cause. Lesson learned: be wary of your change while riding the bus; It goes both ways - I could’ve lost P71. it’s a very common occurrence while riding busses when you give a large bill for the fare:

“mamaya napo sukli.”

danger danger. you could forget that you have change and just go down when you reach your destination and make the Kunduktor richer. or, the Kunduktor could forget that he already gave you change and give you change again; I am a living breathing example of this.

my fear of course, is that somewhere out there is a very angry man who thinks he got scammed by a passenger. and this man remembers my face and he has practiced a revenge scenario in his head should we meet again. Its ok. I remember his face too. All I need to do is look at the Kunduktor’s of the busses I ride; at least for the next few weeks or so.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006



the plan, according to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is to reduce the number of Public Utility Buses (PUB’s) on EDSA by more than 50 percent by the end of the year. Here’s the backbone rationale of the proposal in plain numbers:

busses plying EDSA:
EDSA bus capacity:
busses with legit franchise:
Illegal busses, aka “Colorum”

they plan to reduce the busses to reduce traffic. holy mother of wayward logic Batman, the solution is so simple it scares the crap out of me. first, reducing the root cause of traffic, the vehicles, is not the answer. Them cars, jeeps and busses are there for a reason: for transportation. second, the argument that there are too many busses on the road is just plain absurd; I still find myself standing while riding the bus from time to time. if there is an oversupply, then fear the shortage with leg muscle pain dread.

THINK: A standard bus can carry an average of 62 seated passengers*; 73 if you consider the stand uppers, and close to a hundred when the bus to commuter ratio gets desperate. The space that a bus occupies on the road is less than the space consumed by three cars which in turn can only carry six passengers per vehicle. Do the math and you’ll see its 18 vs. 62; 3 cars are no match against a single bus in terms of the real purpose of these vehicles: to transport people.

but then consider: most cars or SUV’s on Metro Manila’s major roads carry one to three passengers on average. Busses aren’t always full yes, but they easily move around half laden with commuters. Do the math again and you’ll see that the bus still wins.

EDSA is congested, with the wrong vehicles.

Reducing the busses isn’t the answer. Removing private vehicles on the road that carry 3 or less passengers, now that’s a start. But then this suggestion pales in comparison against the best solution to our traffic problems: the strict enforcement of the law. I know, it’s easier said than done but then had everyone followed the road laws in the first place, had it been enforced strictly from the beginning; then the traffic problem would not be this bad. realize that band aid solutions such as reducing busses on the road wont do. I’ll bet my mommas army boots that should the 50 percent reduction push through, that there will still be traffic in EDSA. Maybe then, the LTFRB can move on to plan B: reduce the people commuting.

Bottom-line, busses are essential in the arterial blood movement of any metropolis. So are jeeps and tricycles. These vehicles power commerce. Reducing buses on EDSA would be a bad idea; making bus drivers disciplined and law abiding would be a better one.

*: 11 3-seater benches, 11 2-seater benches, a 6-seater end bench, and a stool next to the driver.

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