Friday, January 8, 2010

On Pubic Hair, Politics, and Progressive Thinking

I’ve been relying on taxis for quite some time now, and I’ve developed a sort of love-hate relationship with them. I love that they can get me to wherever I want, but I hate that getting one can be so inconvenient. I love that they’re a lot more private than the sweaty, squishy trains, but I hate that a lot of the drivers can be total assholes. What I really, really love about cabs, though, is that I sometimes get the most amazing stories and meet some really fascinating people.

This is why I’ve decided to introduce a new subsection to my tiny little blog: The Taxi Ride Diaries. For as long as I am utterly dependent on cabs as my main form of transportation, I’m bound to come up with stories worth sharing. I’ve actually had this idea in my head for quite some time now, but tonight’s escapades gave me that final push I needed to get started on it.

The first cab ride was rather inconsequential, other than the fact that it had me fearing for my life. I was on my way to Lauren’s place, and as a pleasant surprise, I had no trouble getting a ride during the taxi rush hour on my street (around 7:00-8:00pm). The driver, unfortunately, must have been high on something, as he was noticeably twitchy as he drove. Things got scarier when I noticed his legs fidgeting, causing his feet to occasionally slide off the pedals. He seemed to be in enough control to get me to Lauren’s place, though, so I figured I may as well just stick with him. Thinking back, that wasn’t really the smartest option, was it?

I got to Lauren’s safe enough, and had a great time eating brownies and chatting with Tita Noemi and watching the animated joy that is The Venture Brothers. It was getting pretty late, and so I went on my merry way home. Now, the walk from Lauren’s home to her village’s gate is a good ten minutes or so, and I sometimes catch taxis on their way out. I usually hail these cabs as they NEVER turn me down (a rarity in this country), and I get pretty spooked by the village late at night. I, uh, kinda imagine seeing dead people where there aren’t any. Stupid overactive imagination.

Sure enough, a cab arrived to spare me from my own silly thoughts. To my surprise, I didn’t even have to hail him. The driver (who unfortunately I never got the name of) was a pretty old man, the kind who shouldn’t be driving at his age, and he was lost. He pulled over to ask me for directions to the gate. I told him that I was actually on my way out, and could use a ride. I hopped into the cab, and directed him to the gate. When we got there, though, the guard told us that the driver’s pass was from the gate on the OTHER side of the village, and that he had to exit from there. Although I was really, really tempted to get down from there and get a cab from where it was closer to my place, something in my gut told me I should stick with the old man. He looked like he’d been lost for a while, and probably wasn’t going to be too good with directions.

And so we turned back and made our way to the other side of the village. I had no idea how huge Lauren’s village was, and I was worried that me and the cab driver might end up getting lost again. The driver was the type of old man who seemed borderline senile, muttering about how he got lost and talking about a truck that he used as a marker but couldn’t find again, mostly because he had confused other trucks for it. Luckily, though, there was a bunch of people along the way, and we were able to get directions to the exit. We found the gate easily enough, handed the guards the driver’s pass, and got back on the road.

The old man turned to me and snickered, telling me he felt like NoyNoy Aquino back there. I asked what he meant by that, and he said (in Filipino)”Like I had absolutely no idea on what to do or where to go. I felt completely incompetent.” I couldn’t help but giggle back. The driver must have taken this as a hint that I was one of those passengers up for a little conversation, as he became more animated and started talking about anything and everything. In this regard, “anything” meant him talking about how he started wearing Crispa briefs when he first got his first bulbol (pubic hairs), and “everything” meant how that very fact was tied into the sorry state of Philippine politics.

He told me about how much he missed Crispa briefs, about how nice they felt, and how they were a far cry from the shorts his mother made for him out of flour sacks. He told me how sad he was that Crispa wasn’t around much anymore, as compared to the brand in its heyday. He found it rather depressing that his favorite local producer of underwear and shirts was taking a backseat to foreign brands, and how that lack of support for local brands was taking its toll on the economy. He made a lot of sense, to be honest, and he got me listening.

He went on to talk about a variety things, like the origins of Ukay-Ukay and where you’d go to buy surplus appliances back in the day, and he somehow managed to connect it all to politics and the economy. I don’t really remember how we got there, but the conversation went back to NoyNoy, and how it worried the driver that NoyNoy might be too-heavily influenced by the Catholic Church.

This was something I didn’t expect to hear from a cab driver, especially an aged one from one of the most strongly-Catholic countries in the world. I asked him what he meant by this, and he went on to tell me something I never saw coming – he used the RH Bill as an example. He said it was a downright shame that the RH Bill wasn't passed. He saw it as a step in the right direction for the country, in that it was a positive method of helping solve overpopulation, which in turn would help improve the economy. He said that the local clergy got in the way, telling people that the Bill was immoral and promoted abortion. The driver argued that the Bill did no such thing, and merely wanted to ensure that students were educated about alternative ways of avoiding unwanted pregnancies, rather than the ineffective withdrawal movement the Church suggested. What we needed, the driver said, was a leader who could stand up to the Church, who’d ignore their outdated badgering and take an active role in shaping the country with a State separated from the Church, as it should be.

Clearly, these weren’t thoughts I imagined my aged cab driver would be sharing, especially since he told me that he never went to school or anything. And yet he was able to argue a most progressive argument for the RH Bill, which was unpopular among many Filipinos because of the Church’s influence. I’d have listened to more, but by then we had arrived at my place. I paid the man, thanked him for the ride, and thanked him for the talk. He let out a kind laugh, smiled, and drove away.

I don’t know why, but the experience made me feel a little better about the country’s fate. Maybe it was because the old man showed me that there really are intelligent, forward-thinking individuals out there who can see beyond the mass hysteria of public opinion. With the elections coming around, I can only hope that these people step forward and take action.


  1. Hooray for intelligent cab drivers! I actually never give cabbies a chance to talk to me because I keep my earphones glued on the whole time. I guess it's different when you're a girl - the need to protect myself is stronger than the need to reach out, cos you never know what kind of perv you might be riding with. :P

  2. I believe "reaching out" is exactly what you don't want pervy cabbies to be doing. :P

  3. taxi drivers got to be one of the most vigilant, educated, updated critics and citizens because they listen to news and well-thought opinions from the radio all the time. i like the noynoy part. and are you sure he's not polsci prof?

  4. he could be a prof from a popular state university moonlighting as taxi cab driver. hehe