Friday, May 30, 2008

Kulturang Siksikan

Here's a funny thing I notice about commuting in Metro Manila: everyone finds a way to squeeze in. Just like in the picture above, which shows a man still getting from point A to B (and paying full price for it too) by being a "sabit sa jeepney." (Literally, hanging on for dear life.)

The extra passenger is so common here that buses get away with causing traffic by overloading. First you hear the ever inviting, "Maluwag maluwag maluwag pa!" (There's still a lot of space) and it morphs to "Makakaupo, makakaupo!" (You'll be able to sit) and when it's absolutely full, "Maraming bababa, maraming bababa!" (Many will get off at the next stop).

Only when the bus is literally popping with passengers (or, on light hours, when the bus has lingered too long) does it proceed to the next stop to drop off those who need to get down. One needs agility and whole-body-awareness when getting off a populated bus--you have to squeeze out without a. stepping on anyone, b. hitting anyone on the head with your bag, c. getting stuck.

And it's not only in jeeps and buses that this happens. In the MRT, you never step in the train on your own--others push you inside. The MRT at rush hour is a tidal wave of opposing forces. People going in don't wait for people going out to get out before making their move. It's become so normal that you actually get surprised when you see a near-empty carriage. Oh, what an unusual treat to find a seat! (Waitaminute--there are seats?)

The trend has gotten so popular that even private vehicles get stuffed--did I mention that in university events, there's a "sport" called car-stuffing? Sadly, the name's no euphemism for anything more--shall I say--athletic. It is exactly what you thought its name meant: a team competition involving as little movement, as little breathing, and as little exercise as possible--the more people you fit in a four-door sedan, the greater your chances of winning.

Typical of Filipinos to make something fun come out of inconvenience. But that's what we're good at. And I'm thankful for the optimism. After all, that most uncomfortable ride is still the ride that brings you (and all those crowding around you) safely home.

1 comment:

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