By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
On the Fringes
WATERWORLD, Philippines — For the past few days, thunderstorms, occuring usually late in the afternoon, have resulted to heavy flooding and traffic, leaving many “bosses” of this administration, at least here in Metro Manila, either stranded or forced to wade through the filthy flood water, or both.
But I did not want this predicament to ruin my day. So, as I sat in a cramped FX heading home, my mind went though the light moments of the day, even though deep inside, I was an inch close to throwing a tantrum. I also thought, why not write a part two of my colleague’s On the Fringes entry titled, “Maddening thoughts while stuck in traffic?”
1. Pahingi po ng barya.
Is it out of volunteerism? I don’t know. But each time a disaster would strike, mostly young and half-naked men, would be out there, taking control of the traffic situation. They are our usual “kuya” or “boy” that one could just wave at and they would come running, ready to answer your query.
“Is it flooded there?” our driver asked.
“Yes, up to here,” one of the boys answered, pointing to his waist.
The two then discussed the best way to get out of Manila’s waterworld in España as if they were long lost friends, even exchanging a joke or two.
Then, just when the driver was about to roll up the window, the boy blurted out, “Kuya, pahingi po ng barya.”
2. Dito na lang tayo matulog.
I have been on the road for more than two hours but was still nowhere near our house. I could hardly feel my rearside and my legs seemed paralyzed.
Our driver then proudly said that the heavy traffic goes only as far as Morayta in España. He then blamed light vehicles for braving the flooded streets only to chicken out later when they realize that they could not handle it.
But one passenger countered him, saying that there is still traffic in Morayta.
“Matulog na lang tayo dito,” our driver quipped.
3. Tataba ang bangus dito
While wading through the flood, our driver suggested that Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada should just turn Sampaloc district into a fish pond.
The flood water, after all, never goes away.
“Naku, tataba ang bangus dito. Pati tilapia,” he said.
He then went on about possible engineering projects that would help end the perennial problem of flooding in Metro Manila. Good thing, methinks, it does not include “blasting” homes of urban poor dwellers near waterways.
He focused on the improvement of drainage systems, which, by his estimate, was built during the Kopong-kopong era.
Our driver also assailed the widespread corruption in government. The funds that ended up in the pockets of a few people in power could have been used to end the flooding.
I’m sure he talked about other things, but my mind had wandered off to Sinigang na Bangus, and my stomach was grumbling.
4. Gago, ‘wag mo ako lokohin. Pagod na ako.
Yes, when we are pushed to the wall, we all have violent tendencies.
Over the phone, one of the passengers, a woman, said, “Gago, ‘wag mo ako lokohin. Pagod na ako.”
Apparently feeling lost, she was asking a friend for directions since our driver diverted from the usual route and explored the inner, minor roads as he zigzaged his way to avoid flood and traffic.
5. Naawa lang ako, ibababa ko sana kayo sa España.
This was our driver’s statement at the end of our trip. I’m sure all of his passengers wanted to give him a hug.
Though he eventually decided to cut his trip short, he made sure that we will get off in a safe, flood-free area.
My usual one-hour trip lasted four hours. I am even luckier compared to those who had to wade through the flood or wait for hours to get a ride on a jeepney or bus.
And as much as I want to regret what I had to go through, I won’t. Tonight – riding a packed public vehicle with passengers of different temperaments but were all grateful for reaching Manila dry and in one piece albeit hours late, and discussing issues with a driver with a can-do attitude — I learned more of how it is to be the government’s “boss.”