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Bus rides

I was 16 when I first started going on public bus rides regularly, first as a college freshman at DLSU, then as a college freshman all over again at UP Diliman.

From our house in Las Piñas, the trip to Taft was more comfortable. I'd take the Tas Trans bus from outside our village, bear the traffic along Alabang-Zapote Road, always watching for the old trees that line the way, and get off right outside La Salle. I loved the Tas Trans bus line, with its clean modern buses and friendly drivers and conducters. I always felt safe. I could leave my school bag with the driver if I had to sit by the back, and I would be sure to get it when it was time to get off.

The trip to Diliman from Las Piñas, on the other hand, will always be a taste of hell, the gates to which can be found at the Alabang Viaduct. The difference was made clear to me on my first commute as a UP student: as the Fairview-bound bus turned to enter the Quezon Circle, the driver had a fight with another motorist. There was a flurry of angry words, and steel pipes were pulled out. I thought I'd have to try to escape a bloody bashing at the only point of exit. Thankfully, traffic cops quickly intervened.

I was scared while it was happening, but when it was all over with the intervention of traffic cops, I told myself, "I'm in the real world!" Of course, I was a naive college student, more a country girl than a city one, raring for any taste of adventure that wasn't anything like my sleepy suburban home.

Compare this to my worst memory of taking the Tas Trans line, which involved having to ride the bus "round trip," all the way to Sta. Cruz and back, because my "bus mates" and I couldn't get a ride in front of the campus. It took us four hours to go home, because of flooding and heavy traffic in Manila. We were starving, but we managed to get off and buy boiled sweet corn somewhere along Taft and still get back on the bus. The commute was horrible, but the experience wasn't really that bad.

When I learned to love travel, long bus rides meant going to Sagada via Banaue or Dumaguete via Cebu. It meant going to Baguio and eating local snacks at each stop. It meant shuttling from a Point A to a very different Point B, and signing up for a momentarily suspension of life in between. For a couple of hours, you can watch life changing outside your window as you deal with a simplified, unignorable now.

I really, really need to get on a bus soon.

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