Commuting Cebu-style

By Denver Ejem Torres

Last year I’ve committed what a Kagay-anon would consider a crime.

Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco
Illustration by Geraldine Sypiecco

After living in Cebu City for over half a decade, I‘ve caved in to the practice or behavior of commuters in this city when in a jeepney. As commuters, people here turn into insensitive, selfish monsters. That moment, my heart raced and I was filled with shame upon realizing that I’ve become the monster commuter I’ve despised and dreaded.

This horrifying awareness brings me back to the Cagayan de Oro I grow up in. In my city, there’s an unwritten commuting code for both drivers and commuters:

1. Thou shall not drive a rickety motorela or jeepney.
2. Thou shall not ride a rickety motorela or jeepney.
3. Thou shall drive a Donsal manufactured jeeps.
4. Thou shall ride a Donsal manufactured jeep (because the Donsal jeepneys pass the Kagay-anon’s aesthetic taste and choosiness).
5. Thou shall not hail a cab that is not a Vios or Avanza.
6. Thou shall eat the driver whole if he dillydallies.
7. Thou shall kick the driver if he does not avoid a pothole (especially true when there are elderly passengers).
8. Thou shall not cause the delay of the departure of the jeep.
9. Thou shall seat at the farthest end if one is among the first passengers. The rule of thumb is first in, farthest end.
10. Thou shall give way to children, women and the elderly passengers. This is the most sacred of all the rules.

Anyone who will not adhere to the last three rules cited above is sure to find himself in the spotlight. Under that spotlight, he will be berated by the driver, conductor and fellow passengers. He will hear these words: “Naka-eskwela ka?” (Did you go to school?) or “Kinsa imong inahan?” (Who’s your mother?). One will be subjected to one of these interrogative questions or both. One should shut up and respond only to say I’m sorry lest there will be more haranguing.

The driver and the conductor are subjected to the same treatment if they cause any unjustified delay. Kagay-anons feel very strongly about these public behaviours. Because they too, like the people of Cebu City are time-conscious and concerned with productivity.

In Cebu City, I’ve observed that we settle with jeepneys that are dusty, rusty and have post-apocalyptic-looking seats. We settle with poor behavior and do not demand for the best. We also appear to be apathetic about our poor transportation system. We don’t seem to care about our deplorable commuting standards.

I wonder why we don’t have a code like that here in Cebu City. It would be nice to have one, methinks.

***

(Denver Ejem Torres has been commuting all his life. He is useless behind a wheel. He believes that Leila De Lima is the ultimate proof of the verity of the popular Philippine saying: Basta driver, sweet lover.)

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