Sep 27, 2008
It was during the flower fest several years ago, it was nighttime and getting a cab was quite an ordeal. And not just because there were lots of passengers and not enough taxis to go around, but also because a lot of the taxi drivers wouldn't take in passengers if they didn't like the destination. While waiting for a cab, we bumped into a couple of friends who have also been waiting for a ride home for hours already. Finally, at the corner of Gov. Pack and Harrison, we were able to flag one down. We lived in Quezon Hill then, and our friends lived in Irisan, so we decided to just share the cab. When we told the driver our itinerary, he refused, saying that he won't take the short detour through 1st Road before going to Irisan. We offered to pay for the flag down to Quezon Hill, and then he can reset his meter for the trip to Irisan, and yet he still refused. I asked him then to drop us off instead at the Baguio City Police Office for two reasons: to subtly remind him that what he's doing is illegal and also I thought we had a better chance of flagging down another cab in front of a police station. After a threatening "A, ganon?!?," he pulled out his radio and called for back-up. Not knowing exactly what was happening, I told him to just let us out and we'll just try to hail another cab. He refused to let us out, he kept going. He finally stopped at the corner where Baguio Patriotic School is and in a matter of seconds, three other cabs surrounded us. We immediately got out of the cab but we were practically held hostage by the four cab drivers, hurling threats and provocations while preventing us from leaving. We had just finished shooting the Dial 117 infomercial at the time and luckily, we still had the mobile phone number of a policeman who helped coordinate the production. I called the number and when they heard that I was talking to the police, they rushed back to their cabs and drove away.
I recognize the pros of having cab drivers equipped with communication equipment - they can easily call for help during an emergency, they can update each other on road traffic situations, report criminal activity that they chance upon, etc. But, as in most of us who are given even just a hint of power, like those abusive police interns who think that their uniforms entitle them to lord it over private citizens, we abuse that power. That's what those two-way radios have become for taxi drivers: power, power that they abuse. That piece of communication equipment have turned local cab drivers, once known for being among the most courteous and honest in the country, into thugs, some kind of a mafia no one should dare go against. And it's not even a case of a few bad apples ruining the whole lot in the basket - on the road, they fill up the whole side of lower Abanao Street or Session Road, to wait for passengers, unmindful of the traffic mess they create in doing so. They drive like maniacs on busy roads endangering both themselves and pedestrians. Going to Loakan, or San Luis, or Tam-awan, or Tip-top at night? Good luck finding a cab that will take you there, and if they do, more often than not, they'll charge you double for "backload."
See, at the end of the day, remember that ditty, "May Pulis Sa Ilalim Ng Tulay?" In that song, beginning with seeing a policeman with a rotten bag of pancit under a bridge, depending on which version you know, it goes on to say that, "namatay ang aso na kumain sa patay na pusa na kumain sa patay na daga na kumain sa panis na pancit ng pulis sa ilalim ng tulay." While it is necessary to investigate the death of the dog, let's not forget to look into that rotten bag of pancit and what that cop was doing under the bridge in the first place. While we do need to look into the alleged violation of the journalist's basic rights in this case, and perhaps even the alleged conspiracy between the cab driver involved and the arresting officers to file trumped-up charges against the journalist, let's not forget to look into how it all began - cab drivers who illegally take up half of Session Road at night and abusing the power they get from those two-way radios.
Sep 20, 2008
So, here you are.
Yup, here I am.
So, here is… where?
If I were to write a play on how I feel now that I have reached what may be my life's halfway mark (that would be nice, if that's the way this year turns out to be: the halfway mark), it would be a very short performance. Every week when I set myself in front of the computer to write my article for this column, I stare into space for a few moments listening to myself, trying to figure out what's affecting me the most at the moment and if that would be worth a couple of minutes of the reader's life. Well, today I know that the following is what's been eating me up lately, and it's worth all the world to me.
So I am here. Next to me, sleeping on the mattresses on the floor are a good woman and three wonderful children. Somewhere not too far from here are two equally wonderful children and in my mind all of them are together right here with me right now, as they always have been since they came into my life. Hundreds of stories and thousands of photographs and a million triumphs and regrets and 35 years later, they're all I have that truly matters to me. They will be right here tomorrow when I take that long drive home, they will be right here the next time I take a bow in front of an audience and the next time I curl up in a corner in shame. Nothing can take them away from me, as there is nothing that can take me away from them.
They say that a man's life is divided into 7-year phases – the first 7 years I was introduced to the world I live in; the next 7 I tried to fit in, 14-21 I looked for my own specific spot in this universe, all of the 4th phase I questioned my choices as much as I believed them, and the last 7 years I tried to realize what the point of it all is.
Today I begin the 6th phase knowing what truly matters to me and the rest of my life: that beautiful woman who has shared my life since I began believing and questioning my choices and all through out the years when I was trying to figure out what this is all about. And the 5 wonderful children who are at different 7-year phases themselves: two of them just woke up and game me a hug and a kiss and said, "Happy birthday, Papa," while the same message just came in on my mobile phone from the eldest of the five.
Yes, right here.
But really, where's that?
Thirty five years seem to have passed all too quickly, and I know the rest of my life will be over in the blink of the universal eye. But that's ok, everything's gonna be alright. Because now I know that this is what it's all about: The people I love with all my heart and the people who have loved all of me with all of theirs. And nothing else. I will hold their hands and face the rest of our lives together, no matter what.