Painting with words – Phase in, Phase out

Contributor

Samai Dominique Dulag-Belac

FOR as long as I can remember, my mother has always reminded me never to sleep on the jeepney. “You’ll miss your stop,” she says. “You don’t know who’ll try to steal,” she adds.

As I clutched my green Herschel bag closer to my chest, I laid my ever-heavy head on the newfound pillow. Dear heavens, I was tired. Tired and dangerously motion sick. My brain was viciously throbbing – almost like a balloon ever so close to popping. I blew my thin bangs out of my face as I leaned back on the window trying to get some air. This tiredness and motion sickness is something I soon grew to relate to that certain familiarity of a jeep. There always was that certain allure that jeepneys gave me. 

Ever since that first ride I had as a kid, that feeling of comfort never changed. How even for something many would call cramped, the jeepney was comfortable enough for the sleep-deprived senior high students who would board. Clutching to the minutes of rest the jeepney ride gave them, I sometimes found it amusing how, next to their fatigued forms, there were always the rowdy elementary kids of the nearby schools. SPED, BeNHS, Puguis Elementary School, one by one boarding and starting a whole ruckus. Always jumping and laughing. Always teasing and joking. Always being little bundles of energy. I always felt sorry for those senior high students, but I couldn’t help but chuckle with the kids when they discussed their trivial problems. Their problems on how to make and finish a baking soda volcano in a month were a stark contrast to whatever was causing the senior high students their sleep deprivation.

 Whenever the kids go down one by one upon reaching their destinations, the senior citizens of the area would start to come on board with their heaps of eco bags and burlap sacks, all filled to the brim with their purchases from the public market, no doubt. An array of vegetables and fruits were never amiss whenever they came around. Others would move their luggages to make way for the seniors who would squeeze themselves to settle on the cushioned seats. Always saying, “paki-abot anak,” whenever they passed me their change. “Uncle, bayad,” was my ever-constant response in receiving their change. That alluring feeling of familiarity always made jeepney rides bearable and most of the time enjoyable. I experienced this constantly only when high school came along. 

It always gave me a sense of ease knowing that the jeep always takes the same route. You’d always know when and where to stop. Always know when certain students come and go. And yet it always surprises you when someone unfamiliar boards. Be it a pair of far-off students from Baguio, or foreigners trying to get familiar with the area. You’d ever so slightly tilt your head as you’d wonder what they were doing before getting on the jeep. Even with the familiarity I grew so fond of, there was that one percent chance of unpredictability I sometimes get surprised by. But even with that chance, it never would occur to me that that sense of “community” would ever change. How that familiar feeling of bonding with someone just because of the simple vocabulary of “manang,” or “paki-abot po,” never changes with whoever it may be that boards. 

I peeked my head a bit through the window to see that the heavy traffic we were experiencing wasn’t budging. I sighed as I thudded my head audibly a bit too hard on the jeep’s interior. My eyes continued to betray me as they dared to start closing. I soon gave in to their ever-constant begging however as I began to close my eyes for just a moment – saying in my mind, “I’ll open my eyes in a few seconds…” 

Technically I wasn’t breaking my mother’s words, right? 

As I opened my eyes again, however, I was greeted with the blinding light of an unfamiliar vehicle. I blinked my eyes and looked around in confusion as I fixed my posture on the seat. It was abnormally cold for a day that was forecast to be hot. I looked above me to see a large air conditioner pumping out cool air. Ah, I did break my mother’s words. I continued to fix my position on the plastic seat as I checked the road. 

I gave a displeased look noticing the traffic situation. Even in my dreams, I dreamt about traffic. I looked up as I waited for the traffic to go by. The overly white surroundings were quite suffocating honestly. Everything felt so sterile. Like the color and fun of everything was stripped from its very being. Everyone wore earphones and seemed to be in their own world. That feeling of connection dissipated as soon as we entered. The Bluetooth radio above accompanied the stifling atmosphere of it all. Ever since the jeepney phase-out, that certain feeling of comfort was gone. Trips going anywhere now felt like a chore. It was no fun anymore. 

I squint when in these modern jeeps, trying to remember a lively moment inside these new jeeps that are actually mini buses. I frown as I realize I’ve yet to experience one lively moment or connection in one of these vehicles. I lower my head in defeat. I don’t think there will ever be that certain feeling of familiarity again. 

***

A dreamer during the day, a realist by night.

My name is Samai Dominique Dulag Belac.I am a 15 year old, grade 10 student of Cordillera Regional Science High School. I have a passion for writing that stems from the sweetest of poems, to the most articulate of articles. With my writing, I wish to inspire, educate, and enlighten.

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