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Useless Amuse Less

I don’t go home for lunch. I have not done so even during the pandemic. (Yes, I still managed to find some eatery which had the resources to survive in the alleys of Penafrancia.) So, I don’t really take public transport at noon. If I remember right, before the world got Covid-crazy, you have to pay 9 pesos for a regular ride on a jeepney. A lot of things happened between then and now, and now, it’s 12 pesos. Judging from the jams on the traffic on the roads which I simply don’t understand, we would think many people would be packing those public utility vehicles, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh.

These recent weeks, I had to rush out on the road during lunch break, to get some documents and buy important stuff. In the old days, lunch time used to be rush hour. (I guess, it still is.) Initially, I did not notice it, but I eventually did. In the middle of the 11 am to 1 pm window, the jeepneys I was in were all relatively empty. On the low end of the spectrum, it was just me and my companion and no other passenger; on the high end, the jeep was some 75% full, with a good space still within, which is unnatural for a time when students and parents or guardians and employees would be filling up the seats to go home to get lunch or get going back to school or work. Most of the time, the seats were less than half filled. Since I already noticed that in the midday, I did an observation on the situations on the late afternoon when the rush hour should be starting, and some of the jeeps were empty or unimpressively full. (Of course, there were some which were decently loaded.) but shouldn’t they be rushing with passengers? Later, passenger volume does pick up to the “customary” level. But there is a noticeable number of “walkers” along the roads, who have opted not to take public transport at all. I’m talking about roads with multiple private and public schools from kindergarten to college. This same road leads to the City hall and all those offices around it, and of course leads to Bicol Medical Center. You know what I mean.

Where have all the passengers gone? I suppose, with the increase of transport fare and other commodities, commuters resorted to resourcefulness and some clever creativity. Along the roads, you would notice that the kids in uniform are walking to small eateries who have taken advantage of people who would rather stay and not go home to save fare money. A large number of school children have made it commonplace to eat their lunch in the same classroom they take their classes in. I suppose, adult employees do the same thing.

How would that go for the jeepney drivers? They spend too much time on street corners and school gates, hoping they would get some additional load. Yes, they get one or two. But, if they were getting enough, they would not be stopping unnaturally and making terminals of almost every student exit and just cruise through the streets. So, I thought. Could it be that despite the meager 3 peso increase of the regular fare from then to now, it would all be useless to push up the take home pay? I could imagine the driver’s frustration.

I guess you can’t blame the public’s reaction (I mean, the commuters.). When the going gets tough, they would rather stay or start walking. While we’re waiting for rice to be priced at 20 per kilogram, many of the products have significantly shot up since July 2022. (I’m not trying to imply anything political. I’m just saying, all the sugar and onion price increase started around that time.) People have to be creative to continue. Again, on the end of the driver, all the fare increase would be useless.

I heard some employees begged not to be required to be there, but they were made to be there, nonetheless. The president was here recently. Have you heard about the housing projects in some parts of the city? They’re nice; you have to admit. You have to get yourself listed and get a form. You have to have a certificate of employment and be a Pag-IBIG member. (You might be thinking, of course, you have to have those.) But would simple folk have employment that could issue them with a certificate, and spare some thousands a month for the loan? At the end of the day, when the dust settles and the smoke clears, for the intended beneficiaries, that project would count as useless

““Behold, all of you have seen it; Why then do you act foolishly?” -Job 27:12

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