Last Monday I was given orders to personally deliver a package to an office located somewhere in Ermita. It was just a one-day thing: I leave for Manila on Tuesday night, only to return to Naga City the following night.
It’s been a while since I last had a “solo-mission,” and though I had difficulties in my trip to the designated location I was able to once again take in all the chaos that is the Metro.
I arrived in Manila via bus at 5 in the morning. I then immediately checked-in in a traveler’s hotel along EDSA. After a short nap, a breakfast of Tapsilog, and freshening up, I started my trip to Ermita at around 7:30AM.
Despite the allowance provided by the office I resisted all the urge to hail a cab. Morning wasn’t rainy, and I wanted to feel the flow of the city again. Back in college I was all into public transportation as it was cheaper and easier.
I took the LRT2 train to Recto (which wasn’t a problem). I just realized that the crowd inside had thickened. Back in college not much people were still using (or even aware of) the LRT2. I still love this train line. It runs smooth, it’s wide, and the people inside are orderly.
The other lines — MRT & LRT1 — suck.
When I got out of the train my real ‘adventure’ started. I thought I was all ready because before I took the Metro trip I had consulted with Google Map to check which jeepneys to ride. I had even consulted with a correspondent from Ermita to ask for some advice on which route to take. I thought it was gonna be easy. I was fucking wrong.
Holy shit there were a lot of possible jeepney routes. And the small, confusing markers in front of the vehicles didn’t actually help. I got confused and so I started asking around — from security guards, to traffic enforcers, to street barkers. They all gave me confusing directions.
I took Plan B: I walked along Recto. I looked at my watch. 8:15AM. Not bad. Perhaps I still had time.
While walking I took in all the details: people waiting for their ride, dogs chained in the street corners, people sleeping on cardboards, shops selling similar wares [DVDs, clothes, cigarettes, electronics, gadgets, etc…], sidewalk stalls selling watches and jewelries, cheap cinemas featuring X-Rated movies, people smoking everywhere, the symphony of engine sounds — everything.
Upon reaching Escolta I saw a bridge. Should I cross it and continue walking?
I stopped. A lot of jeepneys converged in the area and I felt that it the right place to look for the right ride. For the last time I asked help from someone. This time from a random guy who was also waiting for his ride.
“Just get the one with Mabini and Baclaran,” he said. “Ask the driver if he’ll pass Sta Monica. If he says yes — that’s your ride.”
“Will one pass by here?”
“Of course,” he answered. He got on a jeepney a few seconds later. Lucky bastard.
I waited for more minutes. The morning heat was getting heavier. My shirt was all damp with sweat and dirt. I looked at the passing jeepneys. The one with the “Mabini-Baclaran” route was nowhere to be seen. I looked at the bridge, I remembered the printed map. Was I still that far? Should I just continue walking?
An empty cab was right in front of me. Should I get it. Fuck no. Not yet.
I waited a little longer. I thought I spotted a slow-moving jeepney with a “Mabini-Baclaran” route but I wasn’t really sure, and it wasn’t stopping. I ran after it.
I asked the driver if he was passing Sta Monica. He nodded. Yes. I got in.
Aaaand Ermita was still far. Good thing I decided to get a ride. We passed by Intramuros, then Luneta, then United Nations Avenue. When we got to MH DelPilar the view became familiar. I finally spotted the right landmarks: Andok’s Chicken, 7-Eleven, Amazonia Bar, and a small red plaza. Thank god for Google Street View.
When I saw my target (Ermita Center) I asked the driver to stop. I thanked him. I went inside the building and successfully delivered the package. It was 9:30AM.
Going back was easier.
Achievement Unlocked: No Taxi.
After my business trip I went to Katipunan to check some art supplies at the Common Room, to check for new titles at Fully Booked, and to grab some lunch. I thought about visiting my alma mater across the street but I decided not to. My feet, still encased in battered Chuck Taylors, were getting sore. After eating lunch I looked at the sky: the clouds were getting heavier. I decided to go back to the hotel.
It was a good choice. As soon as I arrived in my hotel, the rain started to fall.
In the evening I passed the time in Cubao X. I was tired. I bought two bottles of beer. I looked above and noticed the mix of old and new structures. The place continues to evolve into a complete stranger. I have lost my ties with this city years ago.
The music was just fine, the people weren’t rowdy (it was still early), the sky looked lovely. How I wished for Ahj to be there with me.
I used to go to the Metro every year to remember my old self. These days it just sucks to be in the urban chaos alone.