About a week ago, the Editor-in-Chief of our news site suddenly told me to head on over to activist-comedian Tado Jimenez’s wake in Marikina, all the way from our office in GMA’s main headquarters, thanks to the success of a previous article of mine. I almost immediately said yes, though I had to work out another schedule with my dad, as he and I would be picking up my mom from the airport at midnight.
Inside, I was panicking.
A little backgrounder: the one thing I regret about college was not taking more chances to learn how to commute. My parents
were are overprotective, preferring to drive me around to and fro even at the cost of snarled schedules and long-standing irritation. Metro Manila public transportation is unsafe, especially for a girl, they’d often say. I learned how to drive a few years ago, but thanks to a complicated situation and the fear of my damaging the car, I haven’t driven since. My parents would continue this arrangement even well into my first year in the workforce.
Last year, thanks to my job, I learned how to take the MRT. It was a small, but very important step for me. But I still did not know how to get to and from places without a train line and using a jeep or a bus or (god forbid, my parents would say) a taxi. I would have preferred to learn it all slowly and surely, in the company of a friend who knows the area–a bit like riding a bike with training wheels.
But, back to the Tado assignment. My sister and I were living with our grandmother, my dad was in Iloilo, and my mom was in Hong Kong. My grandmother’s new driver could not very well get me there, as he was rather new to the city. I already had coverage in the evening–watching the press screening of “Winter’s Tale” in Rockwell, with my boyfriend tagging along–but my immediate boss and I somehow worked our way around that.
I often complained that my parents need to let me learn to commute on my own–yes, the hard way, because how was I going to learn any other way? I don’t know if the bosses noticed the apprehension I was feeling at the time. But I was out of excuses.
So there I was. I hopped on the MRT, changed lines, asked directions from numerous people, hopped on the LRT and made it to Santolan Station in one piece. I took a jeep down Marcos Highway, all the way to Paket Santiago Funeral Homes, as the driver had been kind enough to drop me off at the pedestrian lane across the street from the home–only to discover that I was at the wrong branch, thereby losing 15 minutes trying to find another jeep that would take me to San Roque. The driver had no idea where that was but told me he could take me to a trike stand. And that’s how I made it, panicking, tired, shaken, to Tado’s wake.
I stayed about two hours, doing the usual journo work as best I could in the face of the rules (no photography) and lack of family members in the vicinity. I panicked again when I heard there would be an artist’s tribute later in the evening, very close to the end of my shift, but I was told I need not cover that. I killed more time chasing one of my interviewees, whose picture I had forgotten to take.
But here was the clincher. I needed to get back on the train. I asked more directions to a jeepney stop or maybe a trike stand. I instead came to a trike stand–and after some trepidation, the driver said he would take me to the LRT station.
For 20 minutes, panic once again balled itself into a fist in my stomach. That was exactly how long I spent in the tricycle, weaving in and out of traffic, in and out of the narrow Marikina streets as dusk fell. My mind was silently screaming: WHAT IF THIS GUY WAS GOING TO TAKE ME TO HIS HOUSE AND KILL ME WILL I BE ABLE TO RUN FAR ENOUGH CAN I JUMP OUTTA HERE OMGOMGOMG–
–Sure enough, he stopped before a narrow alley, then gave me directions to the station. I gladly gave him his fare, then ran.
Santolan to Cubao, change of trains, Cubao to Ortigas to meet my boyfriend (who was late, as usual, but he willingly treated me to a Waffle Time-I hadn’t eaten for 6 hours at this point), then Ortigas to Buendia. Cab to Rockwell, and we got there just in time for the (delicious) cocktail dinner before the movie began. My foot cramped during the (hilarious) romance-drama. Then we killed time in Starbucks before my dad came around and took us to NAIA.
So what is the point of this long-winded narration about my Great Train Adventure? Well, Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “Do one thing that scares you every day.” I haven’t done anything to scare me in the seven days since my adventure, but I think the commute certainly qualified as such. The act proved, not for the first time, that I can rise above my prim, rule-following, Catholic schoolgirl self and become more like the gutsy, curious wanderer I have always wanted to be.
I have been impatient this past year, but now I know that the war for being treated like an adult is a long one, and the battles situated at random distances, times. It’s also not all it’s cracked up to be, but adaptation is a skill refined with age (at least for me).
So, I think I won this round, at least. Can I treat myself to a massage yet?