Monday, October 30, 2006



Cubao is a melting pot.

Go far south to Laguna or Batangas or go far north to Baguio or Tarlac and you’d see busses with the Cubao signboard. Go to Cubao and you’d see the opposite: Busses that are destined for the far north and south poles of Luzon. Go to Cubao and you’ll see hundred upon hundreds of travelers, arriving and leaving for homes both near and far. Cubao is a melting pot and last week, I became a small ingredient in its crazy mix.

My girlfriend and I were invited to a birthday party in Pampanga. Accommodations were provided for an overnight stay and all we needed to do was to get there. The bus was the best option and so we became bus bound for a couple of hours and along the way, we saw the best of what the simplest of things can offer.

It was a gray day, meaning the sun wasn’t shining and there was no hint of any impending rain. Along the way, we saw ducks and kids swimming in ponds as big as a city block, factories spewing evil dark smoke into the heavens amidst a backdrop of lush green. By the highway, a trio of best friends sat by the steps of an unused overpass by the highway. Any bus ride to the province can give anyone a glimpse of things that are good and true, all you need to do is look.

At the end our bus trip is the DAU Terminal which is a horse shoe shaped facility with the inner part serving as the drop/take off point. Entering the place, you’d see a lot of things:

1. Food Stalls. What would a bus terminal be with out food stalls. By my estimate, I’d guess there were 40 of them in the whole place and what’s funny is that they all sell the same things: bottled drinks, junk food, boiled quail and chicken eggs, grilled barbeque and hotdogs, sandwiches, load and local pastries such as hopia and ensaymada. Some sold coffee but I guess sales for this product only picks up at night and in the morning. I also saw a pseudo pharmacy that sold a lot of medicinal oils and a couple of basic medz.

2. Beggars. What would any public place be with out them; everyone has a personal belief system when it comes to beggars, I keep mine to myself but then I also have advice for those who will encounter the ones operating in bus terminals.

First, know that if you give to one, there is a good chance that word will spread of your generous tendencies and you’ll be hounded by more beggars. If you want to give, then have a handful of change at hand as preparation for the alms influx.

Second, if you don’t give, be prepared to stand your ground for a minute and 30 seconds or so. The beggar will stick with you for the duration of this time, hoping that you will change your mind. Break
and you’ll find yourself facing the scenario above.

Third, be careful of the kids. The writers of old call them street urchins and there is a reason for this. Kids are more brazen than the typical adult beggar. They will touch you a lot. Give to one and you’ll be
faced, again, with the first scenario. Don’t give, and be prepared to get touched, a lot.

3. Ambulant Vendors. They are an extension of the food stalls and they operate on this premise: why wait for the customer to go to you and buy food when you can go to them and sell. Going home, while seated on the bus, these were the vendors who came by to peddle their journey grub:

The Chicharon Dude / 3 medium sized bags for a hundred bucks

The Quail Egg Person / P10 for 5 pcs, all conveniently wrapped in ice candy plastic with a pinch of salt

The Hot Dog Person / I didn’t get the price, but then it sure was funny how a 5 inch wiener was stretched to 10 on the stick with some creative spiral cutting. Note that the hot dog person also sold hot dogs on buns and, yeah – they looked really good.

Oranges! The dude sold oranges at 7 pcs per 50 Pesos. Nada bad deal I guess. Also, I love people who eat oranges in busses. Peel one and the whole bus gets enveloped in scents of orange goodness.

The Beverage Man. Water, bottled-flavored-cold-tea, canned sodas; of all, it is this dude who earns the most because no matter what you eat, you will always need some drink to wash it down.
4. Travelers. They come in packs usually, and they carry loads and loads of cargo. They also have a hard time getting rides because of their need to move as a group versus the limited seats on the bus.

The DAU terminal is a miniature Cubao except that the place carries a much more relaxed atmosphere. In Cubao, make a wrong step and the lingering predators of the place will pounce and steal. Here, in DAU, well, nobody seems to mind you or your business or your destination. What you’d see in contrast of Cubao is this charm that’s etched in the faces of all the travelers who pass by; moms and dads with kids in tow, lovers of varying passions, the old with their young wards or the young guiding grandmas and grandpas. Everyone is anxious in a good way, everyone is waiting for the adventure that the road trip ahead offers. And as I wait, I smell the barbeque smoke that hangs in the air.

curiosity killed the cat:

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