I slept over at friend A’s house the other day. I had been emailing her several times in the past to inform me should she ever be in from Bicolandia, but had not gotten any response from her. Finally, I got a text while at work asking if I can come over that night. Turns out, she read a very recent (not yet deleted) email I sent her (thankfully) asking for some chika time with her. (My, my… could it be?.. the way batchmates Mara and Pabs call me Queen of Chika?..hmm..) Truth is, I really just wanted to know how she’s getting along. Heard some news, you see… But this isn’t the time or place.. I’m no tell-tale, beh!
And so, after packing a few needed items for an overnight, off I went.. in true lakwatsera fashion… hair tied up in a knot, backpack in hand, whistling an out-of-tune version of Hotel California as I settled on the empty seat of the jeepney, and mindlessly brushing away a tiny speck of brown from the spotless white of my blouse. But wait… oh sh_t! I have not changed my uniform! This spotless blouse would well soon be – what was it those kids call it in the toothpaste commercial? – ecrue, grey, off-white… haay!!!!
I arrived early and so decided to pop in at neighboring friend J’s house. But alas, the house was oh so dark when I got there. Nobody was at home. To pass the time while waiting for A to arrive, I squatted on an empty chair at the corner where a middle-aged lady was furiously fanning out embers in her make-shift streetfood stand. Already starting to get hungry, I ordered a stick of isaw (grilled chicken intestine), made sure it was cooked through, dipped it in spicy vinegar and began my nibbling. It tasted good. So I ordered one more, then another, and still another. (Whew! It sure was a hepa trip.) Lookie, lookie here...
Feeling certain she was already home, I left the barbecue stand smelling like I was the one that got barbecued. The night was spent doing what else but chika. And that would mean keeping in touch through tears, rants and revelations more. We slept so late that it was so hard to open my eyes a few hours later. After saying goodbye by the jeepney loading area across the terminal where A rode her bus to work, I too readied my mind for another day’s grind.
Halfway to the plant, I noticed my co-worker who was also in the jeep. I went to sit beside her and tried to make small talk while the driver steered our way through several traffic we found ourselves in. Co-worker M paid her fare when we were already near the Balibago complex and started relating why she doesn’t immediately pay the moment she gets on a jeep. She makes sure she has not yet paid so that whenever the notorious gang of cellphone snatchers would happen to get on the jeep she is riding, she can readily get down soon after without having to pay a second time on the next jeep she rides in.
She further relates it’s usually several men who spread out inside the jeep, making damn sure to squeeze themselves so tightly in between already seated passengers. These guys, she says, are so good at stealing cellphones and wallets without the people knowing they are being robbed. My co-worker says she has even seen how they do it, right in front of her. She got so scared and got off the jeepney when she saw other ‘knowing’ passengers whispering and hurriedly alighting too. I was however so bothered by her revelation… more than the fact that she does not pay almost ¾ of the way already should she encounter such happenstance again! By golly, if this indeed has really been going on, why aren’t the people doing anything? Rumor has it, says my co-worker, that these guys have some connection with the police in the area. The gang has been going in and out of jail. And have for some time now been plying the route of Olivares-Platero Hiway in Biñan.
Pity on those who have been victimized by this gang. City councilors, kagawads, hey where have you been while all this was going on?