March 21, 2012 (4:50 AM)

16 min read

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“No way. We are not riding a… a jeepney.”

The jeepney then took off.

Angelo did not expect it; the sudden change from a dull stop to a blazing rush in the vehicle’s speed startled all the passengers in the jeepney, including him. His body jerked and was thrown to one side of his seat as the vehicle whizzed off in the road, beating a nearby traffic light and dodging taxis, trucks, and motorists along the way.

Angelo tried hard to regain his senses. As he did so, a nudge was felt on his left shoulder. Angelo turned his head to see a girl sitting right beside him. She wore a pair of rimmed glasses and her brown wavy hair was tied into a curly ponytail.

He then recognized her; it was Sara. She was smiling.

“Was it so hard to get into a jeepney?”

Angelo ignored her question. “I thought I told you I don’t like jeepneys. Why did you drag me here?”

“It was getting really hot out there. Walking out in the middle of this kind of afternoon? Right now, it would be like a death march, Angelo.” Sara then faced towards a window behind them. Angelo faced the window in response, and from there he realized that Sara was right; he could feel the scorching rays of the afternoon sun singing his sweaty face. He was about to wipe the sweat off his brow, until he noticed that there was a half-open umbrella between his hands. Angelo quickly furled it back and stuffed it into his bag. As he did so, he felt the same stinging warmness that he felt from the window on his umbrella, as if it had been recently baked in an oven.

And speaking of oven, Angelo then felt that he himself was being baked in that same oven. The jeepney’s metallic interior was rigid and tight; there were a lot of passengers in it. The air was as hot as the air outside, only to be made hotter with each passenger pressing their bodies against one another and their breaths felt from one side to another. Angelo himself had his shoulder pressed to Sara’s. They were so close to each other that Angelo could smell the orange scent of Sara’s hair, which whipped against his face with the stinging afternoon breeze.

Angelo then spoke to her. “The jeepney would be no different. It’s hot in here, plus it’s dirty and smelly too.”

“But it’ll be much faster to your home by jeepney.”

“I’d rather walk, thank you very much.”

“But Angelo, jeepneys are fun! Didn’t that rush a while ago feel exhilarating?”

“No, it didn’t. It was… disturbing.”

Angelo fell silent. He did not like how fast the jeepney was going. He had not felt that rush in such a long time and was quite dizzy from it. Sweat poured from his brow once more, and Angelo knew that it was not the hot air alone that caused it.

His dizziness soon faded away when he became distracted by the noisy bustling of different people of different ends of life. He saw an old, wrinkled man in front coughing before passing his fare to the barker; beside the old man was a petite woman scolding her three children who were fighting over kwek-kwek and juice; then there was a well-groomed salesman in the middle grumbling while constantly checking his watch; a college girl adorned with large earrings who was chattering on her sleek touchpad phone; a bearded young man right in front of the boy snoring himself to sleep, despite the whole noisy situation; and more. Angelo then turned towards Sara, who was bobbing her head to the beat of a familiar oldies love song that was playing in the jeepney. He looked at her and thought she looked funny; but he tried hard not to laugh. Instead he pulled a face that was not amused, but Sara did not seem to pay any attention to how Angelo saw her. She was so absorbed by the song that she did not even bother to look at the boy when she spoke to him.

“Come on, Angelo! You’ve got to love being in a jeepney! The rush, the people, the music – doesn’t being in a jeepney make you feel alive?”

“No. No, it doesn’t.” Angelo said. “Don’t you see, Sara? The jeepney smells, the people are dirty, t-this whole thing is dirty! Are you not disgusted by it? Doesn’t it make you want to be anywhere but here?”

“What? You’re over-reacting, Angelo. This whole ride isn’t all bad. Sure, it’s not perfect, but there’s also some good to it. Aren’t you looking at the brighter side of it all?”

“There’s nothing good about this jeepney. Nothing.”

As soon as Angelo said these words to her, the jeepney jolted to a stop. This threw both of them off their seats, along with the rest of the passengers aboard. Angelo peeked outside the window and from there he knew why the jeepney had stopped so suddenly – it had failed to beat another traffic light.

It did not take long for the jeepney to wait for the traffic light’s signal to go. Just a moment before it could turn to green, the jeepney started moving again. As it began to pick up speed, Angelo began shuddering on his seat. The afternoon breeze blew against his face, forcing Angelo to brush the clumps of his shoulder-length, unkempt hair that was fluttering with the wind. He soon grew tired of brushing his hair and looked away from the window. He decided to peer through the jeepney’s rear entrance instead, where he saw pedestrians and other vehicles distancing themselves farther and farther away from him and the jeepney that he rode on. Among the vehicles that he saw, he found one that did not distance itself away him. It went nearer and nearer, until Angelo could see it well enough to describe it.

Speeding towards the boy was a steel carriage, worn from years of running along dusty roads and then smudged on its sides with a mix of dirt and mud. It was scarred with scratches from its front, and Angelo could swear that it struck something or someone once – a small yet noticeable dent could be seen on its bumper. Its huge headlights glared at the boy coldly. It wheezed and sputtered black smog from its rear. Angelo then pulled out a handkerchief onto his face. It was a jeepney.

“It looks like a mess.” He muttered to himself.

“Don’t say that! It’s beautiful.”

Sara had overheard Angelo; her words, either by its suddenness or by the message itself, struck him. Assuming it was the latter, Angelo tried to find truth in what Sara said; but he could not find it on the mobile scrap heap glaring at him. The jeepney eventually overtook them and whizzed off ahead, but not before another jeepney followed it. And that jeepney was followed by another. Another. Jeepney after jeepney sped past them, and all Angelo could do was look at these jeepneys with his eyes squinted. A look of disgust formed on his face. As he grumbled to himself, he pulled out the umbrella that he had furled earlier from his bag. But before Angelo could even unfurl it, he heard that familiar voice of the soft-spoken girl who he had talked to earlier.

“What are you doing, Angelo?”

“Sara, I’m leaving. Now.”

“But we’ve just got here! Don’t tell me you’re going to walk home!”

“That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

“Come on, Angelo! You can’t be afraid of jeepneys!”

Angelo then reached onto the handle bar above him. Two of his fingers clung close to it. His knuckle rose above his fingers until it touched the roof. Sara knew what it meant.

“Angelo, don’t do it.”

Angelo was silent this time, but his knuckles were still at the ceiling. It seemed that he was ready to knock it.

Then, three knocks were heard.

The jeepney made a full stop, throwing the passengers off of their seats again. After a moment of grumbling and murmurs, a little schoolgirl with a backpack who was sitting beside Sara pit-pattered off of the jeepney. But the vehicle did not speed off yet, as another person stepped in to take the little girl’s seat – a rather stout, middle-aged lady holding bags of unripe mangoes and dried fish. Her single step jolted the whole vehicle like a small earthquake as she made her way into the vacant spot next to Sara. Her large frame pushed Sara and Angelo towards the very end of the jeepney until the two’s shoulders pressed each other.

Sara and Angelo were at a breath’s distance from each other, and the littlest of whispers could easily be heard. Sara was the first speak.

“I should have known you weren’t going to do it.”

“Well, I was going to…”

“But you didn’t.” Sara said. “Angelo, why are you so afraid of jeepneys? They’re never going to hurt you!”

“Hurt you… right.” Angelo was unimpressed. “It’s exactly the reason why I hate them.”

“Hate them? But why? What can jeepneys do to hurt people?”

Angelo fell silent with that question. But then he made his response.

“They move so fast.”

With that, Angelo turned away, leaving Sara to herself. As he did, he saw the scenery at the rear entrance of the jeepney. He once again saw pedestrians and other vehicles distancing themselves farther and farther away from him and the jeepney that he rode on. He looked at one of the people walking along the street – a young man in school uniform with shoulder-length, unkempt hair, wearing a little knapsack and holding an umbrella to shade him from the afternoon sun.

Then it hit him: The young man looked just like him. ‘No, it couldn’t be’, Angelo thought to himself. The boy rubbed his eyes and gazed outside once more. The look-alike was still there; he was walking along a pedestrian lane. But this time he had someone accompanying him. It was a girl. She wore a pair of rimmed glasses and her brown wavy hair was tied into a curly ponytail. Angelo took a closer look at the girl’s face and knew it was not Sara. But she looked very familiar.

Angelo rubbed his eyes again. The two figures were replaced with a jeepney that sped right through the pedestrian lane. As the jeepney neared Angelo, the boy saw the same pair of large, round headlights that stared at him coldly.

Stricken from what he saw, Angelo looked away from the rear entrance and returned immediately to Sara. He saw the girl looking at the front and at the windows. Angelo tried to see at where she was looking, to see what kept her attention away from him. The boy realized that Sara was busy admiring another, more different kind of scenery.

He thought he was going to see another series of smog-sputtering jeepneys, cars, taxis, or trucks, but he didn’t. He saw a series of stalls, bakery shops, houses, and other buildings that were blurred by the jeepney’s speed. He could see banners and flags of different colors from the poles in the middle of the road, which were for the upcoming festival in the following week, turned into a rainbow stream that faded away in the distance.

It was a surrealistic scene; it contrasted the one that was inside the jeepney. Angelo could not help but become entranced in it. But as soon as Angelo began to gaze longingly outside the window, he threw everything out of his head and out of the window. He had just remembered when that last moment of joy was in his life, and he did not want to remember it any longer. He stopped looking at the window and shuddered on his seat.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

Sara then smiled. Angelo saw her smile, and he could only pause in response. The girl had such a brilliant smile, more radiant than the bright afternoon sun. Her rimmed glasses glimmered from that sun’s rays, but these did not hide her eyes that sparkled behind them. The feeling of warmness that Angelo once forced out returned to fill the boy from within. It made him lay a weak smile – he had not smiled in such a long time – in return.

Then, it struck him; he knew why he did not stop the jeepney. But at the same time, he felt that she was the reason that he should have stopped it. These thoughts circled within his mind, causing so much confusion in Angelo. He grabbed his hair, as if trying to pry the thoughts out of his head.

Sara noticed what Angelo was doing and raised her concern. “Are you okay, Angelo?”

“I’m okay.” Angelo lied. “I was just… just reminded of someone.”

“Of someone? Who?”

“A…A friend of mine back in high school.” The boy brushed his hair. He could feel the rush of the jeepney’s speed as the wind blew against it. He then shuddered in his seat. “Damn this jeepney moves so fast.”

“Yeah. If only it could go slower, no? I love this ride so much that sometimes I wish it would never stop.”

“Yeah, if only it was slower…” Angelo weakly replied. He could tell that Sara did not understand what he meant. He was disappointed at first, but then he realized that it was okay. She did not need to know. What mattered was that she was enjoying the jeepney’s ride, that she saw the brighter side of it all.

He then wondered if he could do the same thing. He stopped looking at the rear entrance and joined Sara as she stared outside the window. At first he stared blankly, as if waiting for something to happen, then longingly. The hot afternoon breeze rushed into the window and began to brush against his face, but 97 BANAAG DIWA 2011-2012
this did not annoy Angelo, unlike before. Instead, he felt the breeze embracing his soul in a certain kind of warmness that he had never felt in a long time.

As he stared outside the window, he then noticed a familiar vehicle rushing on the road. It was a jeepney, which looked like the one that he saw earlier. But this time, the jeepney looked colorful. A rainbow of props and paint littered around the jeepney; its front adorned with little flags from Independence Day and streamers of the warm colors of red, orange, and yellow fluttered in the scorching breeze of the afternoon. The driver, or whoever decorated the jeepney, made sure not a single part or inch of the vehicle was left untouched. Metal ornaments of different shapes and sizes littered around it, with the crème of the crop being what looked like a solo corral on its hood as it was donned with a brilliant white stallion standing within an iron ring.

Angelo was finished observing the outer details of the jeepney and assessed that it was a mess. A terrible, colorful mess. He could describe the whole thing as a mobile scrap heap splattered in paint so no one would notice it was actually a scrap heap. Yet, no matter how hard Angelo would bash the artistic taste of the jeepney’s decorator, a feeling in the boy told him that it was in this whole mess that there was something in it that could be appreciated.

The boy muttered to himself. “It’s beautiful.”

Then, three knocks were heard.

The jeepney made a full stop, throwing the passengers off of their seats once more. Angelo peered towards the jeepney’s front to see if anyone was leaving. But unlike before, not a single person left their seat. An eerie silence filled the scene.

Then, Angelo turned to see Sara. Her arm was raised towards the jeepney’s It was Sara who stopped the jeepney. “You were about to miss home. Isn’t this where you should be dropping off?”

“Yes, but… but how about you?”

“My home is still far away. Good thing for you, yours is nearby.”
“But…”

“You don›t need to walk home for me, Angelo. Don›t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Angelo stared at Sara. He was not sure what to do. The passengers were taking glances at him and Sara, as if wanting either of them to leave. Even the thoughts in the boy’s own mind was telling him that he should leave. His thoughts reminded him that the boy named Angelo hated jeepneys after all, and that moment was the perfect opportunity for this boy to leave the jeepney, once and for all.

But Angelo did not want to leave. Not after all this. He may need to leave the jeepney sooner or later – he could not stay inside forever – but that moment was not the time. Not just yet.

So Angelo made his decision. He did not move.

“Angelo, what are you doing?”

“We started the ride together. I›d like it to end just the same.” He then smiled. Sara had never seen Angelo lay such a wide, joyful smile before. She smiled back in response. It took a while for the jeepney to wait for anyone to leave and set foot on the ground – from there they should continue their trek – or for anyone to board it – and continue their journey on the road. But there was none to do any of the two for the moment. The jeepney then took off.

Angelo did not expect it; the sudden change from a dull stop to a blazing rush in the vehicle›s speed startled all the passengers in the jeepney, including him. His body jerked and was thrown to one side of his seat as the vehicle whizzed off in the road, beating a nearby traffic light and dodging taxis, trucks, and motorists along the way.

Angelo tried hard to regain his senses. As he did so, a nudge was felt on his left shoulder. Angelo turned his head to see a girl sitting right beside him. She wore a pair of rimmed glasses and her brown wavy hair was tied into a curly ponytail.

It was Sara. She was smiling. The whole scene felt so familiar, until she asked a different question:

“So, does that mean you›ll be taking a walk back home after this?”

With that, Angelo replied an even different answer:

“No way. I’ll be taking a jeepney instead.”

– J.A. Dubouzet



End the silence of the gagged!

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