Essay

Road trip

By on January 5, 2007

And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Much to my surprise, I found myself riding an L300 van bound for Calamba, a small town in Misamis Occidental. It was a choice I did not embrace readily for at least two reasons: convenience and safety. This van particularly defied its intended seating capacity. We were already 22 on that trip but the konduktor (or the person that collects the fares) claimed there is still room for 3 more passengers.

The old lady on my front was headed for Dipolog. She was engaged in a hearty conversation with the young man on her right. He was also bound for the same place to sell a bag full of rubber sandals. The guy relied on his memory of a small barangay in Dipolog where he once peddled some goods. It turned out that the old lady happened to live near there. It didn’t take long for both of them to establish familiar relations. The two were complete strangers but they sound like they know each other for quite some time.

While stopping over in Oroquieta, an 81-year old man joined our trip. For the old man’s convenience, the young guy quickly volunteered to transfer to the last row in the van. One of the passengers quipped, “tagaan nato ug chance si lolo kay milaban pa ni ug World War II para nato” (Let’s give this old man a small favor. He fought in the World War II for us).” The konduktor also gave him a considerable discount for his fare – from Php 30.00 to Php 20.00.

The view of the countryside – rice fields, mangroves, and clean rivers provided an idyllic background to the other conversations that transpired during the trip. For a while, I thought I was in a parallel universe – where everyone knows their neighbors, where you can actually live a full day without spending a single peso and where it is still possible to safely crawl across the road at anytime of the day. My version of this universe consisted of an entirely different scenario – where everyone wants to get rich the fastest and easiest way possible, where you will never trust the person beside you in any public vehicle and where a safe and clean drinking water would cost you Php 55.00 for three days.

I asked myself how the old lady or the young man selling rubber sandals or the 81-year old war veteran could find their respective places in this rapidly changing world. (This is poignantly captured in Joey Ayala’s song). While the government is confident with the creation of the Super Regions, I do not know if the people riding on that van would embrace or even understand this endeavor.

I arrived at my destination safely. I saw my old friend waiting for me at the Calamba terminal. We grilled a big fish for lunch. He later got some fresh coconut meat (which will be then mixed with condensed milk) for dessert. After a few hours, I dragged myself back to the terminal to catch a bus back to Ozamiz.

On my way home, I asked myself the same question – where can I find my place in this rapidly changing world? I do not have a definite answer to the “where” but this road trip interestingly pointed me to the “how.” Aside from not eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, it reminded me to thank God for every small miracle in my life, to treasure relationships and to find meaning even in the familiar.

It is so easy to be lost in a 4 ft x 4 ft cubicle. I am just thankful for the passengers on that van for allowing me to hear their simple conversations, for making that trip comfortable and for helping me back on my road again.

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December 11, 2006

January 31, 2007

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8 Comments
  1. Reply

    atticus

    January 7, 2007

    i asked that question when i was 16. the only thing i was sure of was that i didn’t want to live in die in zambales, after talking to an old man who had yet to set manila.

    the desire was so powerful. i wanted to see more, know more, do more. seeing edsa for the first time made me ask that question. where will i fit in? will i amount to something?

    fear is a great motivator.

  2. Reply

    baktin

    January 8, 2007

    “What would you do if you weren’t afraid”from Who Moved My Cheese

    Our pastor told us one Sunday the difference between two remarkable fishes: the shark and the barramundi. If placed in a small aquarium, sharks will never grow to become the ferocious and huge creatures that we saw in Spielberg’s movie. The Barramundi on the other hand, if placed in the same small aquarium, will amazingly increase its size despite the space constraint.

    It’s a matter of choice. The Barramundi does not only adapt to the conditions of its immediate environment. It also responds to it.

    It’s good that you asked that question when you were still 16. At that time in my life, I was still, in Oprah’s words, living unconsciously.

  3. Reply

    deeken 8-)

    January 10, 2007

    I’m glad there’s stuff to read out there when things just get boring. 😎

  4. Reply

    Jed

    January 14, 2007

    Its what we do with fear thats important…

    Like what Atticus said, “fear is a great motivator.”

    It can be a lot of other great things if we put it into good use.

    Just my two cents…

  5. Reply

    Ryan

    January 16, 2007

    Nice piece of yours bro!

  6. Reply

    baktin

    January 19, 2007

    deeken, word of advice. if you’re in the office, don’t be caught reading this blog 😉

    jed, i couldn’t find the Youngblood entry anymore. there’s a good chance that i read it somewhere in december or january. i just wish that the Inquirer keeps Youngblood archives online.

    anyone who could help us search for the article, here are a few tips. it was a farewell letter written by a third year medicine student. she said farewell because she finally decided to pursue creative literature (or a similar course).

    ryan cool blog with cool entries. and oh, it is also embedded with cool codes. can i have your cool codes on my cool blog too? 😀

    i have never gone to Davao. but maybe someday, i could drop by the place. you could then treat me to that famouse durian coffee.

  7. Reply

    ryan

    January 23, 2007

    thanx bro! sure! why not? care to link? durian candies ayaw mo? hihihi.

  8. Reply

    baktin

    January 30, 2007

    ry i added you on my list. san ka nag-aaral ng med?

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Brennan Mercado
The Philippines

Brennan is an electronics engineer by profession. From time to time, he gets to travel beyond his office cubicle, try new restaurants or catch up with his terribly long list of unread books. He likes museums, spicy food and talking with habal-habal drivers. For now, he's still deciding on whether to play Pokémon GO or not.

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