Tuesday, July 06, 2004

terminal watch

My phone buzzed at 5:30am. I heard it but never made any effort to snooze the alarm. My mind was awake but my body was still craving the warmth of my bed. After the 4th alarm (with five minutes interval each), I said that it is time to wake up. Today is going to be another interesting day, I suppose, what with the first order of the day a one hour trip to Tagum.

I arrived at Tagum around 8:30am. I was supposed to meet Bebot for a little document turn-over and fast strategizing of stuff that he would be doing in the next few days. However, the man texted me a little past 7:00am and said that he would be late, around 9:30am it is. I think that’s fine, a little waiting wouldn’t hurt.

So I sat myself on one of the benches and engaged in one of my favorite past times: people watching. And there I was looking at the buzz of people around me. I remembered that the bus terminal is one of the most frequented places for me in my more than 2 years of adventure here in Mindanao. It has been interesting for me to look for the intricacies and the nuances of every bus terminal from that of the others.

And as the seconds turned into minutes, and into an hour, my bottom began to hurt, my stomach began to grumble and my mind started to play. I bought some white corn from a vendor for PhP10, enough for a quick breakfast. While eating, I observed the behaviors of the different people around me, and came up with this little list. (I love making lists these days).

1. People come and go. The terminal is always a place where no one actually stays for long. Every time a bus comes, as passengers vacate their seats, more buns fill them up soon after. The hustle and bustle of activity is highly evident with the shuffling of the feet of the vendors as they chase every bus window and the avoiding eye of customers, trying to sell anything from bottles of water, softdrinks, to foodstuffs bibingka, eggs, peanuts, siopao, to sunglasses, earrings belts, lighters and towels. A wild grocery it is, only this time the things for sale are held in the hands of the vendors, not in shelves. I wondered why the benches are still there in this flurried environment. And maybe those are for those who wait.

2. People wait. The bus terminal is also a place where people wait. Whether the lingering is about a person or a particular trip, of a particular bus company, of a particular bus, there is always a sense of longing of people in the place. The noise could never deny the silence of waiting in the eyes of every person. The vendors wait for the next passenger who would buy their stuff. A guy in cargo pants sits quietly, neck craning for the next aircon bus that would take him to Davao. Is he waiting for employment? Or is he going home? A couple awaits for the arrival of another bus that could be probably carrying a daughter or a son, or a relative. But their excitement overflows through their smiles and just could not be contained by the time that separates them from their loved one. And I looked at my cellphone watch and sat and waited, patiently for Bebot to arrive. Around 10:00am, hopefully he would be arriving.

3. People heal. After almost two hours of waiting, Bebot arrived at 10:30am. But minutes before he arrived I came upon a scene that is unique for this terminal, this day, this minute. A bus conductor suddenly rushed to vomit. His companions were saying that he has fever already, but still pushed to travel. (Talk about dancing the limits). He squatted in front of the bus, his back against the people. And as his back arched once more to call on another round of “dwarf”, the lady beside me were saying that to anyone who listened that he should not have traveled if he is not feeling good. While another rushed to him and asked if he is ok. He didn’t answer but the lady seems convinced that she should help him and so he began to massage his chest and his nape. Then people crowded the scene, all wanting to help in anyway he or she can. The events pushed me back and next thing I saw was a blind man massaging the person who has turned pale already. I do hope he is going to be alright.

When finally, Bebot and I sat down to talk, the slowly drifted away from my observations in the last two hours and concentrated at the task at hand. We talked some more until our business was finished.

But all this time, people were coming and going, were waiting and healing each other in more ways than one. A chopsuey of events enfolding for any audience who care to watch.

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