Wish me luck

The article below was written back in 2003. If I remember correctly, I wrote this on several pieces of crumpled paper while cooling my heels at the pier at Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro. I was in for a five-hour wait for the next boat, it has been such a stressful trip so far, and my nerves were frazzled. It was the first time I traveled alone, the first (and only) time I got marooned by a typhoon, and the first (and only) time I bought cigarettes for myself and smoked two in a row out of sheer frustration.

One of the charms of traveling, even the most inconvenient trips, lie in the incidents you come across along the way; amusing little pictures, and melodramas, that somehow make it all worthwhile.

The place was Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. The situation: raining for three days, rendering roads useless with landslides and flooded areas and canceling bus trips to the port. I could not go back to Manila and was subsisting on a diet of Cartoon Network shows avidly watched by the son of a co-worker I was staying with. On the third day I decided that I have had enough and took a chance that a bus might brave a journey, for the rains had eased down a bit.

I left Ate Minda’s house in Sablayan with a secret determination not to come back, as I was forced to do the day before when all bus trips were canceled. I had lunch at the bus station, and I have been waiting almost an hour when a bus mercifully arrived. My relief, however, was short-lived, as barely an hour into the trip we came to a cut portion of the road where we had to get off and walk across. The road was literally cut; you could see the cross-section of the layers of soil: asphalt, rock, brown mud. We walked the roughly 12-foot gangplank slapped across the gap, at the end of which stood a guy collecting a two-peso fee. We then hurriedly got onto a waiting bus at the other side, and prepared to continue the rest of the journey.

We were not so fortunate, however. Our driver was apparently not content with the number of his passengers and decided to wait for the next bus to unload another batch.

It was to be a nearly two-hour wait, and we were in the middle of nowhere, flanked by mountains at all sides, with not even a hint of a cellphone signal. There was just this motley crew of mini-buses, jeeps, some sort of motored carts, a makeshift stall selling candies and instant cup noodles, vendors selling peanuts, some guys standing around talking and waiting for who knew what. There was nothing to do but sit and wait. I was too restless to read my book. A whiff of smoke from another passenger somehow made me desperate for a cigarette and I don’t even smoke. I walked around and inspected the site and stretched my legs, but was driven back into the bus by a sudden downpour, the latest installment in the merciless series of rains that had been causing the entire mischief.

I marveled at the fortitude of my fellow passengers, who were just sitting around there taking it, definitely inconvenienced but basically accepting. There was a group traveling together or at least knew each other, and they led the conversation all around the bus. They talked about the road conditions, the rains, how much longer we would possibly wait.

At one point a bus did come, and added about ten passengers, but our bus still did not budge, and our driver was just one of the anonymous louts sitting by the makeshift stall. One of the newly embarked passengers claimed that there won’t be a bus coming for at least another couple of hours, but nobody thought of actually going up to the driver and yelling at him to haul ass. They did, however, talk about hiring the jeepney parked nearby. They figured that if we all got on the jeepney it would be good riddance for the bus driver and he would finally be forced to go. But talk about it is all they did for half an hour, until finally one guy who hasn’t said a word the entire time got up and said “All right let’s go” and we all started moving. I was thinking of remaining in my seat and waiting for them all to come back, for surely when the bus driver realized what was happening he would come to his senses and finally decide to go. But this, I figured, is a collective action, and in a gesture of solidarity I got up and joined the throng. We crammed into the jeepney as best as we could, some people sitting on their packages on the floor, but fortunately we did not have to stay that way for long. For come to his senses the bus driver definitely did, and was presently negotiating with us to come back to the bus for we would then get going. The passengers stayed put for a couple of minutes, muttering resentful remarks, but eventually we did get off and triumphantly got on board the bus once more. The little mutiny had been a success, it was another case of a peaceful revolution, and if the Oakwood standoff had ended the same way there may still be hope for this country after all.

I’m going back to that part of the world next weekend. Hoping for better roads, cooperative weather, and opportunity to experience the beach this time around. Pandan Island here I come!

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