Bus Memories

Photo taken from the web.

It took me to reach my 30s before I finally dared to admit that I have a severe case of biyahilo (motion sickness). They say that Asians are more prone to motion sickness than the other races. My earliest memory of experiencing motion sickness was when I was five years old. It was a long queue of passengers at the Pantranco Station in San Jose, Balanga, Bataan. I probably fell asleep while on our way to our destination so I didn’t feel the motion sickness. But on our way back home, no amount of guava leaves and White Flower oil could ease the motion sickness. My grandmother said that the motion sickness would disappear once I grow older. In between five to eleven years old, I avoided riding on a bus. My jeepney and car rides were equally nauseating but those were short trips as compared to a bus ride. Therefore, my recovery time was also shorter. Because of this limitation, I was never a well-traveled child.


I was in Grade 6 when Ma’am de Dios announced that the top 15 students of the class were invited for an educational trip to Clark Air Base, Pampanga. Of course, I was very excited and forgot about my motion sickness. To boost my confidence, my grandmother gave me some pocket money for the trip. We were traversing the Roman Highway when I felt a little sick. Ma’am de Dios noticed my pale face and commented that I was probably imagining my motion sickness. She knew about my condition because I backed out of a choir competition the year before. The stop-over in San Fernando, Pampanga allowed me to wash my face in the restroom before going back to our bus. While waiting for the coach captain, I told Donna that I was not feeling well. Worried, she asked our classmates if there was anybody who could lend me a face towel. Maybelle did not only lent her face towel to me; she was also the one busy wiping my forehead with the wet face towel. I took a piece of Bonamine tablet and hoped that it would end my misery. It did. The Clark Educational Trip was one of my memorable trips in Grade School. I wouldn’t make it without the help of Donna and Maybelle.


I survived my bus rides in college with the help of total strangers. Those were the days when nobody ever thought that travel time could be reduced to 4 hours when you use the SCTEX-TPLEX-Pozzorubio Exit going to Baguio. Those were the days of lahar and floodings due to the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. A seatmate asked why I looked pale and I told him that it has been hours since my last meal. At first, he thought that I had no enough money to buy food and drinks. Then I told him that I don’t eat when traveling to lessen my motion sickness. During our stop-over in La Union, he gave me something to eat and drink. Maybe out of appreciation, my motion sickness stopped.


As I grew older, I learned that the trick to not having motion sickness is to take a Bonamine tablet on an empty stomach an hour before traveling. This level of security helped me get through my job interviews in Manila. One time, I got an interview invitation to Kraft-Paranaque. I prepared to wear my black blazer, white blouse, black slacks, black shoes, and some pieces of jewelry. It was obvious that I was a job applicant. My seatmate smiled at me and guessed it right. Her phone rang, answered it and both of us laughed.


“Did you understand what I said to him?” she asked.

“Only that part,” I answered.


“I’m an entertainer in Japan. He is my boyfriend,” she said.


She told me a little story about her vacation and how her Japanese boyfriend kept on checking on her. I told her about my job hunting and she replied with a worried look on her face.


“Why don’t you keep your earrings and necklace for the meantime? Then just wear it back once you reached Kraft.”


She had a genuine concern about how I looked so vulnerable in the city. As soon as she unboarded in Cubao, I removed my earrings and necklace. The passenger behind her sat beside me and asked me if I was going to an interview. I confirmed and asked him if he knew of a jeepney ride from Pasay to Paranaque. He said that he was also from the province so he had no idea about it. He asked for my cellphone number and I gave it to him. He unboarded the bus in EDSA-Mandaluyong while I went straight to Victory-Pasay. After realizing that it was not the right time to explore, I took a taxi to get to Kraft. The seatmate who unboarded in EDSA-Mandaluyong called me up to ask if I was okay.


I was on my way home in April 2007 when my seatmate had to courage to ask me if I was visiting Bataan or going home. I was not in the right mood to be friendly so I just said “whichever.” We were stuck in traffic in Guagua and maybe most of the passengers were either bored or pissed off so I finally warmed up to him. I gave him half-truths of the details that he asked about me. Later on, he asked for my cellphone number. I gave him an imaginary number that he found out right away when my cellphone failed to receive his call.


“Magtiwala ka lang. Alagad ako ng batas,” (Trust me. I’m a law enforcer) he said.


“Ikaw ang wag magtiwala sa akin. Terorista ako” (Don’t trust me. I’m a terrorist) I said.

We became text mates after that. He said that I probably gave him a false name and false address because he looked around for me and nobody knew the name that I gave him. One time, I was on my way to San Fernando, Pampanga when the bus stopped in Hermosa, Bataan for an army checkpoint. If I remember it right, those were the times when the reds were active and even burned down a Bataan Transit bus a week earlier. An army soldier went inside the bus and I heard that familiar voice. Because I was just three rows away, he quickly saw me and went near to where I was seated.


“Ingat ka, Ms. Kung Sino Ka Man,”(Take care, Ms. Whoever) he said.


Aside from nice seatmates, I was blessed to have encountered nice bus conductors. After graduation, my first job was in a company in Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Mang Basalio, the bus conductor, knew that I was already employed yet he always charged me with student fare. When I moved to my second company, I tried to look for him but he was not always around. With my second company, bus riding became challenging because I had to be wary of hold-uppers in the Bonifacio area. The bus conductor never failed to reserve a seat for me.

Chaos and greed are everywhere but kindness still prevails in the hearts of many.

Alcohol and Me

This photo is taken from the web. Subic Hard Rock used to occupy the 1st floor of the building next to the police precint.

“Tagay hanggang mamatay” is the catchphrase of Sharon Cuneta’s latest movie, “Revirginized.” My story has nothing to do with her movie but of my own experience in the city that never sleeps, Olongapo City.

I was a late-bloomer in anything related to alcohol. Most of my college friends and acquaintances spent their Friday nights in Spirits Disco while I preferred the solitude of fog watching and stargazing in the veranda of my first boarding house. The first time that I felt the kick of alcohol in my system was one boring January night when my equally non-alcoholic roommates decided to buy San Miguel Beer bottles for our consumption. I ended up tipsy but not entirely intoxicated. From thereon, I realized that I would never really learn to love any beverage with alcohol.

When I say today that the last time I tasted alcohol was 13 years ago, I mean it in all honesty. Take note that I have nothing against those who consume alcohol for fun or social drinking; I just went back to my old non-alcoholic self.

Alcohol is nothing new to me, my father was a heavy drinker and so were some relatives. I was exposed to this kind of celebration at an early age yet I didn’t acquire a taste for alcohol. In addition, while my father indulged in alcohol, he was against women drinking it. We had a patriarchal set-up at home and women were expected to behave accordingly. This was for this reason why I was in my early 20s when I first went into a bar.

In my first job, they had this Friday night gimmick wherein the goal was just to go to the bar to bond with their officemates. It was a rainy August night when finally, a friend convinced me to try to go with them to the Subic Hard Rock. More nervous than excited, I followed them and mimicked whatever they did to conceal my amateurish actions. The place was badly lit as most bars were expected to be. The deafening music of the live rock band plus the cigarette smoke in the air left me with a sore throat for days. In my half a decade of stay in Olongapo, I’ve been to the other bars, too like Blue Note, Pier One, Gigolo (hahaha!), and some forgettable ones that were beyond my photographic memory. The only reason why I went was because of “pakikisama.” If I had my way, I would have loved bonding over a tall glass of frappe coffee. This dream bonding happened in my late 20s when I reconnected with some high school friends. Sometimes, we went to the bar in Balanga just for the sake of drinking. I realize that the more you grow older, the less you become excited about going to the bar. Like, when you’re younger, you have wandering eyes to check on who to hook up with but that looks awkward when you’re approaching your 30s.

I stopped my bar life and alcohol bonding when I started a relationship with the boyfriend who became my husband. He had nothing to do with my decision, I just felt that drinking was never really my love language to stay with a friend or boyfriend.

The Christine Dacera Case

The case of Christine Dacera, a 23-year old PAL flight attendant shocked the morning news yesterday. The poor victim from General Santos City spent her New Year’s countdown in a hotel with three male friends who were also her co-flight attendant. According to the news, Christine called up her family to inform them about her New Year Party. Some reports said that her three male friends are gay and Christine was not aware that there were other guests at the party. The other guests were acquaintances of her friends and were staying in the adjacent hotel room.

One of her friends saw her lying on the bathtub at around 10 AM and thought that she was just sleeping. (Do they intend to wash her to wipe off the evidence?) When he woke up later to check on her, he found her turning blue so he alerted the hotel. The hotel clinic performed CPR but Christine was not responsive.
She was declared dead at 5 PM. The worse part of it is there were traces of sperm on her and bruises on her arms and legs. At least 10 people are now considered as suspects. Her cause of death was aneurysm but the toxicology report could tell if she was drugged.

Looking at her Instagram account, this girl was promising and looked hardworking. If it is true that her friends set her up, it reminds us that not everyone who laughs with us is our friend.
Instead of protecting her, Christine’s friends allowed her to be violated.

I don’t believe that Christine intentionally took drugs. As what I said, she looked hardworking and promising. Any smart person knows that drugs would do more harm than good. Her case is somewhat similar to a casino employee who died of a drug overdose some years back. I don’t know how much to maintain a drug-sniffing dog but I think it would help if hotels would have one to check on drug-carrying individuals.

This is a developing case.

I pray for her family’s strength and may justice be served the soonest.

Update- January 6, 2021
I mentioned yesterday that Christine’s case is under development, and my reaction was based on the news reports that were available online. Now comes the story from the other side of the fence that Christine died of natural causes. Ergo, there was no rape and drugs involved. I read that there’s going to be another autopsy, as initiated by her family, to validate the initial result. By now, the story says that it was Christine who booked the hotel room for them and that she knew the 11 men. I hope that the truth will come out the soonest so that her family can find the closure that they need. In case the 11 men are not guilty, it’s also a lesson for the media and the police to be careful about releasing pre-mature reports.

Instant Love and Instant Good-Bye

Note: I was able to retrieve an old typewritten diary that I wrote in 1996.

Summer of 1996 at the dance hall; I was so tensed practicing our dance steps for the event later as it was my first time in two years to dance in front of  the public. Good thing, I was in the company of Jenny, Ronna and Ness; they were my shock absorber. I wouldn’t be this tensed had the audience were not foreigners! We finished the practice by lunch time and we were expected to be back by 2:00 PM. The guests were expected to arrive by 2:30 PM. I felt exhausted but I had to make it.

At exactly 2:30 PM, 25 Japanese teens and 5 Japanese adults entered the room smiling. We exchanged pleasantries; the Filipinos, in Tagalog while them, in Nippongo. You wouldn’t know by their genuine smile that they came straight from the airport. The program started with a brief speech from one of the Japanese adults. It was followed by a Japanese song performed by the Japanese teens.

The following day, we toured them around the province. A Japanese teen greeted me with a broken “Maganda umaga, binibini.” The tour went fine; the two adults Kadaka and Tosho asked me a lot of questions. Kadaka-san was fluent in English while Tosho-san had a hard time understanding me. I didn’t see myself as a fluent conversationalist but some of them thought that I was!

When we reached Bagac, we got off the tourist bus and started the ceremonial hiking. I became fast friends with Yoshie and Yuka. Yoshie was good in music; she played the piano well. We show them the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Tower.

“Friendship? Like you and me?” Yoshie said to me.

After the tour, we went back to the hall for lunch. Kadaka-san asked the group to mingle with each other. The Japanese teens were distributed and soon I was in the company of Yoshie and Kazume. They were so friendly and adorable, we could be friends forever! A tall, white and handsome Japanese teen approached me and said, “Nice dance.” He was pertaining to the event yesterday. My Filipina friends blushed upon hearing this. He was their favorite! He got a camera and took pictures of us. My heart could melt at that time!

Kadaka-san and Tosho-san teased me if I wanted to go to Japan someday. Of course, I said yes! (Now, I don’t know if they meant going there through a marriage for convenience, travel or work! LOL!)

That night, there was a mini-party at the hall. I was able to meet more friends like Keiko. The tall, white and handsome Japanese teen approached our group. I asked his name again because I couldn’t remember.

“Takayuki. But you can call me Tako,” he said smiling.

He said something in Nippongo and the group teased him. One of them translated it in English.

“He said, you’re the prettiest!”

“Yes, you are a beautiful lady, ” Tako seconded.

Another guy named Yozuka,  the rebel-without-a-cause and the Mr. Nice Guy named Takeshi seemed to agree. I was not used to hearing flattering words; I felt the gush of blood on my cheeks.

The newspaper dance with Tako was a success because at his towering height, he could lift a petite woman like me. He was gentleman enough not to take this opportunity at his advantage. At one moment, I thought I could hear his heartbeat. His hands were cold and I wondered if it was the air conditioner or his feelings that were revealing him. At one point, he asked my age.

“18,” I said, “What about you?”

“20.”

The newspaper dance was tiring so we just rested after it. He asked about my hobby and I found out that we both loved swimming. Yozuka made face.

The next game was trip to Jerusalem. Conscious of each other’s feelings, I decided to be prim and proper by not choosing to sit down on Tako. After the warm-up games, we had disco until the early hours of the morning.

The next day was their last stay in the Philippines. I brought a small address book and asked them to write down their name and address. Tako wrote a heart symbol. The brief and unforgettable time with him became a treasured memory.

“Happy trip, Tako,” I said.

He held my hands and said, “Why don’t you come to Japan?”

“Maybe someday?” I said.

Takeshi smiled at me and said “Sayonara.”

Yozuka bid his farewell and said that he would never forget a girl like me.

The Japanese girls were more emotional, they were crying while saying their good-bye. I found myself crying, too in the company of Yoshie S, Yoshie, Yuoko, Keiko and Kazume. They were my instant friends and what an instant good-bye! It was the most dramatic demonstration of love and friendship that I would cherish forever.

***************************

Fast forward to 2018. As I was reading this piece of shit (joke!), I couldn’t help but notice that my young self was too vulnerable about falling in love. My young self was too naïve and too focused on the romantic side of love (no wonder, I had some heartaches before!)The good thing was, I was able to feel that electrifying moment.

 

 

 

My Memories of BCYFI

Those were the years when I felt I couldn’t make it to college because my parents were struggling financially. My high school classmate, Rowena, showed me an application form. I was too naïve to even know what a scholarship grant meant. I thought those things were just for highly intelligent people; I never assumed to be one.

On that same day, after class, I went to the Bataan Library with Rowena to complete the requirements. We were given an exam schedule. At home, my mother was delighted to know that her daughter was trying her best to get a college education.

I couldn’t remember if the exam was before or after our high school graduation. I remember that it was a Sunday and my parents patiently waited for me at the park, just outside the library. It was a difficult exam; one that I did not expect to pass. After the exam, there was a brief interview held by Ms. Dang.

She asked me if I had a chance to pursue my college even if I failed the exam. I honestly answered “maybe not.” It was not because I wanted her to pity me or to accept me as their scholar; but because I believed that I had no chance to other scholarship grants. Fast-forward, I passed the exam and interview but Bataan Christian Youth Foundation Inc (BCYFI) had to put me under waiting list. This meant that I would have to wait until my second year of college to be able to have the scholarship grant or I had the option to delay my college for a year if out-of-our-pocket expense was not possible. We chose the former case, I went to Baguio in May of that year and I waited for a year for my scholarship.

Summer of the following year, I was visible during the BCYFI events. I wanted to make up for the lost times as I seldom went home when I was in college. I wanted so much to be part of our group; our group of hopeful and ambitious individuals. The best summer that I had was when I met the children of our Japanese sponsors. I wish that email and Facebook were already available at that time to nourish our budding friendship. Takayuki, Yoshie 1 and Yoshie 2 were the most memorable ones.

Ms. Annie (I am not sure of her position in BCYFI) told us that our RKK (Risho Kosei Kai) sponsors donate one meal budget in a day and the money that they were able to save were sent to the Philippines for our studies.

I had a happy two-years stay in the BCYFI group. My happy days were cut short by a personal issue and I felt really bad about it. I never went back to BCYFI not out of ingratitude but rather, out of shame.

I have always wanted to reconnect, to thank Ms. Dang, Ms. Annie and Sir Nestor for all the love, support and understanding but I never had the courage to simply go back to say those words.

Decades later, the 400+ scholars that BCYFI and RKK nurtured are united through a Facebook group chat to discuss our plans for the relocation of our beloved library/BCYFI building. Rina, a classmate and one of the most active scholars during our time, is hurting about the turn of events. To cheer her up, I told her that the relocation of the library/BCYFI building could be a blessing (or a blessing in disguise!) because if the scholars would be united to be part of the relocation and construction, then the new site would have been our legacy.