Amidst the noise and haste

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Sunday, August 17, 2014


BUCKETS of rain battered the flimsy layer of steel and a flood of water and rage fell in rapid cascades against the concrete, where shoes suffered the displeasure of Olympic-sized puddles and unfinished cigarettes. No jeep in sight. (Was twenty pesos enough for taxi fare?) A shiver. A sigh. A swear word. And a reproachful glance from the old lady beside me. My cellphone vibrated violently, Tatay’s fifth missed call. When at last I found myself warmed and sheltered inside a jeep, the perfume of sweat, rain, and exhaustion permeated the air and I thought to myself, “What a wonderful world.”

Song reference aside, there was nothing quite as relaxing as finding myself smack-dab in the middle of a heavy rain with no umbrella. While the white t-shirt spills from the thin paper bag I was holding and onto the wet, muddy streets, I thought of how little room there was for silence in 97,530 square kilometers of land. A testament to our Filipino-ness, to be shy of silence when we are so fond of sari-sari store gossip and karaoke nights.

There was a certain reassurance in this disarray, as if a needle in a haystack meant the world could not be so perfect. To perfectionists who suffer panic at the thought of not being good enough, this is the Sunday morning to six days of Mondays.

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I was not alone in my thoughts. You seldom are in public transportation. To my right was a twenty-something man whose thumbs furiously typed away on his 3315 phone (“I luv u, babe plz talk 2 me wlanakoy load’). A fellow student sat slumped on her arms, L-shaped and bent as her slippery, bony pillow. Heads almost conjoined and arms pressed against each other, one cannot help basking in the consciousness that the jeep is an agora for learning.

Nobody is a monarch; fare is not exclusive to the middle-class and proletariats. The “konduktor” is not as stupid as he looks; after all, God knows Hudas not pay. For all its size and glory, public transportation is not as fast and convenient as it looks. And silence, for all its esoteric splendor, is taught, not inherited.

Silence does not require isolation. I think of the jeep setting: People from all walks of life—from the bank teller whose smudged make-up testifies to a long day at work (and in the rain); to the student with the pink bra transparent against her wet, white uniform; to the average Juan in baggy shirts and basketball shorts still and quiet on his seat—find it in the burgeoning distance. Silence can be found when, in the words of Max Ehrmann in his poem Desiderata, one “goes calmly amidst the noise and haste.”

The jeep speeds along the highway, like a shooting star against the cold, wet pavement. The rain has been reduced to a calm drizzle. Nothing could be so relentless for so long. We are almost there. Some eyes are wide open now. Silence is deafening in my ears, so loud was it that I did not hear the konduktor’s shrill shout. How long has it been? Where were we? A knock. Brakes. A screech.

“Kuya, Jollibee NHA lang, please,” I said.

“Nilahosna man ta, day,” he answered. We have already passed it, Ma’am.

And I thought to myself, “What a wonderful world.”

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 17, 2014.

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