Street Corner Society (54)


On to the next leg of a vacation-cum-advocacy work in the homeland. No, it is the opposite: it is advocacy work that looks like a vacation, which is good.

So there is only one way to go to Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, to the campus of the state university there, and I have to take the Florida bus, that bus that comes in baby pink color, at least that is how the cabbie I hired to take me to the terminal in Sampaloc described a Florida bus. It is a description that is applicable to all.

Which helped me remember how this bus looks like, the same bus we have taken to Banawe two years ago to attend the 6th Nakem Conference hosted by Ifugao State University. Except that, of course, I cannot figure out the shades of pink from pale of whatever kind to the dark of whatever kind.

But this is not about colors.

It is about the story of this young taxi driver, Lorezo Cruz (a coded name), who drives an old cab that makes the burumbumbum sound, and drags its body to kingdom come. Never mind that the door locks have to be prayed over first before they open, or before they lock. In this metro, I have learned to become praning with the stories of small-time criminal preying upon unsuspecting taxi passengers by holding them up while on their way to their appointments, and while on the cab.

To have the semblance of safety, one must lock his door right after getting on the cab. This big city has bred so many mutants whose genes are into criminality—as all cities are: breeders of criminals and criminal-minded outcasts, people who fall into the cracks and crevices of city life, or what passes for one.

Where are you from, I asked. The investigator begins his work.

From Calumpang.

You mean you are from here?

I have lived here.

Do you come from any province? You do not sound one like you are coming from Calumpang, or you are coming from Marikina. You have the sound of someone coming from the south, or something.

Ang tagal ko na dito, sir.

That is not what I want to know.

Are you from Bicol?

How do you know, sir?

I can sense you are from Bicol.

Yes, sir.

Dai ka magpararibok. Oragon ka. That is me, with my few Bicol sentences.

A, you know how to speak Bicol. He becomes happy. A while ago, he was forlorn, unable to make a transaction with me about contracting his services. I had flagged a cab before him and he asked that we make a contract because, he said, there is traffic and it is far.

I told him, Go off your greedy ass. I told him: You know, I can give extra but you do not tell me how much I will give you. I do not need your services. I go look for one.

And that is exactly what I told this guy, Lorenzo. Bring me to Florida. Have your meter on.

He scratches his nape.

I get in, put my two bags at the back, my reliable backpacks that contained all I need to get around in this homeland of my soul.

I do not know where that Florida terminal is. That is him.

Why so? That is me.

Been a cab driver for three months only, sir.

What were you before.

I drove a truck.

You do not know the city?

I know only some parts, but not the kind that taxi drivers should have knowledge of, not yet.

What truck did you drive?

Delivery truck. I drove for many years, but I was under an agency, and I was paid Php430 a day, no benefits, no overtime. And the work is for 12 hours.

You are telling me the facts?

Yes, sir. And so I quit. Got married less than two years ago, and now I have a son. We could not survive with that salary. Before the 15th or 30th, we would be in debt, and we have nothing left.

How much that would give you each payday?

Less than five thousand, sir. But with a small son, and with my wife not working because she takes care of our kid, it has been a hard life for us. The small savings we had before, we have used up all of that.

What about now?

It is a bit better. I can earn a Php700 minimum if I am lucky. And we can save a bit.

You like driving a cab now?

It is better, sir.

Okey, take that road, I instruct him.

And than began my one hour of instruction to him on how to get to Florida in Sampaloc, the passenger instructing the cab driver where to go.

--Sampaloc, Las Islas Filipinas, 24 de Julio 2013

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