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.

My Mt. Pinatubo Experience (2)

It was only in 1999 when Genesis (bus company) extended its route from Balanga-La Union to Balanga-Baguio City. Prior to that, we had to endure the tiring cutting trips from Balanga to San Fernando, Pampanga to Dau, Pampanga to Baguio City. There was an alternative route though. Balanga to Olongapo City to Alaminos, Pangasinan to Baguio City. Pick your choice! (I pick the second one as I’m in love with the greenfields in Zambales and the seas in Pangasinan!)

The alternative route was less tiring but travel time was longer by 1.5 hrs. There was a time when a big flood hit San Fernando, Pampanga so the Olongapo-Gapan road was impassable. The bus (Victory Liner) would have to re-route to Floridablanca where there was a shallow river.

When I was younger and not as street-smart as I am today, I would meet “friendly” strangers along the way. Blame that on the 12-hr travel time; seatmates tend to develop affection for each other. Lol! The first one was named Gerry, a father of two and separated from his wife. We exchanged stories, I told him that I was a freshman at SLU, NBSB (No Boyfriend Since Birth) and blah blah blah. When we stopped over in Sison, Pangasinan for a 15-min. snack, he treated me with sandwich and soda. Afraid that the soda might be laced with sleeping pills, I didn’t drink it. At the zigzag road, my motion sickness began to attack so I was pale and quiet. Gerry noticed it and gave me a hug. Too bad, two of my classmates were aboard the bus and they kept on asking me a day after if he was my boyfriend. Gerry called me up when I got home (PV Boarding Houses) and he sensed that I was not pleased with him playing lovey-dovey to me. He stopped communicating days later.

The second stranger was a self-confessed ex-shabu user. If he was boasting or trying to cut a deal with me, I don’t know! We exchanged life stories and telephone numbers. I told him that I had a handsome boyfriend when he fetched me home. (No, I’m not being cheap, the man was too insistent!Lol!) He called me up when he got home and just like with Gerry, I told him that I was not comfortable talking with a man who was not my boyfriend. He never called after that.

Then there was a Korean sister who gave me the sweetest pomelo from Davao. An old lady who took care of me when my motion sickness attacked. An old man who tried to deceive me while one of his companions was slashing my backpack. All of them were part of my Pinatubo experience.

Yeah, there must be a topic about “bus incidents” but my point is, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to bond with these people had we had a normal travel time.