One weekend I bit off more road than I could chew. There was a conference in Tagaytay City which my friend requested me to attend and as I had work during the day, I decided to take the bus bound for Tagaytay after work. It cost around 150 Php (roughly 4 USD) and was pretty straightforward. All you had to do was get to the station, buy a ticket and be on your way–or at least that’s what the internet said. They just didn’t mention that unlike other provincial buses, the ones that regularly traverse this Manila-Batangas route have a designated cut-off time.
So, after having left the office, rushing home for a quick shower, dinner and some packing, I hitched to Cubao only to find that I had to cross EDSA to get to the San Agustin station. Upon arrival at the station, I got worn out by the pitch-blackness of the place and determined though I was to hitch one of their buses, the man on the sidewalk said, “Lady, no more buses until 6 a.m.”
There had to be another way. This is what I always say and this is what often accounts for the wild string of adventures I end up having. Indeed, there was another way which involved waiting for the Baclaran bound bus and taking it from there. A few other passersby and some jeepney drivers said that my best bet would be to get a ride from Baclaran to Tagaytay via the E. Aguinaldo Highway. Some good twenty minutes had passed before the bus came and in what felt like an eternity already, I pondered my decisions–I thought of my parents and how stupid they would think this was–in fact, maybe you think the same too. But anyway, one thing I’ve learned on the road is that the people we expect to be the most vicious are often the nicest, most sincere. The same goes for honest people who work hard at honest jobs.
I arrived in Baclaran close to 11pm. At this point, my friend who was waiting at the hotel was slightly worried but she arranged for check-in so there was no need for her to wait. I was just instructed to make my presence felt via sms and told the time for breakfast the following day. In the meantime, the adventure had really begun. There were no more buses headed to Tagaytay–or at least none that would stop for random passengers. I panicked again–sweaty palms and all but then the barker, those guys that collect money and act like conductors for jeepneys, said that I could just take this one headed for Dasmarinas. Naive as I was, I rode the jeep and handed the driver a twenty peso bill. I was confident that this jeep ride would only last a while and that fare would be the usual eighteen pesos or less. At this, I got some strange looks and a short but terse, “You realize we’re going to Dasmarinas, right? Cavite is a few miles away.”
I paid my dues, travelled by jeepney to Dasmarinas. By now, I realized I had to take a jeep at each stop and–as in one of my favorite childhood past-times–connect the dots. From here, I would get another jeepney to Silang and hopefully, yet another one that would go the rest of the way to Tagaytay. It was nearing half-past midnight and in the jeepneys bound for Silang, I was in awe of my companions–most of them workers who had just called it a day. This was their everyday route home. Because of this I couldn’t bear complaining. Tough day at the office, sure but to travel like this, at this hour, daily? I’d go nuts. Who wouldn’t?
There were hardly any sounds out on the road that night save for the roaring of the jeep that I was on. From inside it, a great beam of yellow light emanated. At one point, most of the passengers had left and there was only the driver and two other people. I struggled against making eye contact with the two others because I could smell the faint hint of alcohol on him and I was wary of what a little eye contact might do to boost his confidence. As soon as they left, the driver and I spoke stealing what little utterances in between engine roars. He was as amazed as I was about this journey.
When I managed to reach Silang, I could feel the temperature change and it was pleasant. The town was completely silent with the exception of one lonely convenience store. I stood by the road a while hoping to see a jeep pass by but as there didn’t seem to be any, I entered the store to make inquiries. Apparently, there was only one way to get to Tagaytay and that was by tricycle and I would have to pay three hundred pesos for it. This was twice the price I was willing to pay for my bus ride and it was with some annoyance that I bought a cup of coffee and thought hard about what to do next. The lady inside, seeing me and my backpack, provided ample comic relief as she said, “Ate, pasensya na. Wala na talagang ibang daan. Saan po ba kayo pupunta? backpacker who ba kayo?” (Apologies, there really isn’t any other way to get there. Where are you headed? And are you a backpacker?)
Surreal. “Yes,” I said. I was one. It was the truth after all. Through our quick exchange, I had learned that she too was stuck here but headed in the opposite direction. She hoped, as I did, that we were headed on the same one so we could split the fare but alas, we weren’t. I bade her goodbye and set out on the road again. There was one last pitch to be made to the drivers–I had to tell them that I really wouldn’t like it if they screwed me over. The one that gave an assurance drove me past Silang all the way to Taal Vista. I took a photo of the sign just to prove to myself that I had arrived. It was quite a night.
Often you hear people say that the destination matters much less than the journey and while I sometimes roll my eyes at this, there are days when even I realize why cliches exist. This is quite possibly the most tedious commuting I’ve ever done in search of friends and a good view.
But I must say, this scene at breakfast proved everything worthwhile–as most real journeys often do.