Wednesday , May 23, 2018

Olsim: The bus ride

IN SEAT 27, the cloud of ponderings caught the reflections in the glass window again. Slowly, those thoughts were drowned away as the bus passes along the thirty-sixth streetlight. Another village just faded away. Even in that chilly midnight, the bus just had to turn it’s air-condition to its coldest. But, it is a six or seven hour trip, and after a few long swerves down, the moist in the windows will surely dry up to the lowlands’ warm air. Little by little, he started doing a better job in re-learning a balancing crash course to catch a nap.

The best memory I had with my father was on that bus trip going to Manila nine years ago. I was a fresh graduate then, planning to land a call center job in Manila. My father wanted to show me how to survive the urban jungle, just in case I decided to pursue the corporate path. It was my first time to ride a bus going there, so it was really one of the most highlighted pages in my adventure book. Sensing that I was still awake, he switched places with me so I can enjoy the view (?). "Remember to always take the seat on the right side of the bus... the left side commonly suffers the worst in accidents," my father groaned as he recovered from his momentary musings. Just before he could hang his feet, we reached the first stop over.

We were heavy weights when it comes to food as the bill reached to a thousand for just the two of us. He would tell me his stories when he was a young vegetable truck driver going to Manila to trade, proudly pointing to the roads he mastered by experience. I would tell him about my dreams and plans, and he would just nod and smile. It was perhaps the best father – son conversation we ever had.

The inviting sunrise in the plains of Pampanga revived our exchange after we both dozed away unknowingly from the journey. The auburn hue of the skies which inspired countless poets must have fueled our spirit to share more of our life stories to each other – a moment I have saved in my mind until the present to be used in moments of gloom and gray. Then after a dozen strange billboards, he said, "Asideg taun."

He acted as an eager tutor, showing me the ropes using EDSA as a guide; of Cubao and Pasay, of acting confident when using Taxis to deter the swindlers, of avoiding dangerous corners and learning to read suspicious circumstances. I would then realize to learn my folly as a rebel teen who pretended to know it all: but, I was only an ignorant kid. After the interview, I found him waiting in a local shop just fronting the building where I spent three hours waiting and marketing myself. He cheerfully ushered me to another eat-all-you-can restaurant – the man really knew how to encourage his son. “Entan Magawid” he said eager to get away from the chaotic scene of the mega-city.

We boarded the bus an hour later after sharing meals to some poor young souls on our way to the terminal. I can never get used to such sight– poverty seen in the streets will always be a shame to the modern “progressive” society of high-rise buildings and malls. “So will you work here?” he asked. I paused, and replied, “Maybe, not now” I remember being embarrassed – I was not ready to go away and take that venture yet. We let the hours slip slowly with his cryptic closing reminders I would only understand some few years later.

It was finally five in the afternoon and the bus was climbing the wavy highway of Tuba. Ironically, we were seated on the left side which gave us the thoughtful view of the melodramatic sunset only seen from our mountains. Then, night fell quickly just after we arrived home... just like how he passed away six years ago in that rainy August.

Every time I ride the bus to Manila, I think about those profound moments with my father. He was a simple man; born and died in August, lived only up to fifty years old, a government worker, and a family man... above all, he is my father who taught me that simple joy of the bus ride.