I needed to be somewhere slightly North last Friday (I live in the Southern part of the City) and required the use of the local train (we call it the Mass Rail Transit or MRT, similar to what the HKongers call their public train system). Unlike the HK train transit which is very convenient and you can literally shop in between train schedules, the Philippines’ MRT needs further refinement. But it is also answered prayer to many who deals with traffic, errant buses and malfunctioning traffic lights. When you need to get from point A to point B, Manila’s MRT is the way to go.
But of course, the thing with the MRT is that it’s also not the best means of transportation if you are utterly claustrophobic, hates contact with other human beings or OC about cleanliness.
And so, I braved the chaos of EDSA (that’s the national highway) for me to board the train on the nearest available station. The first thing that hit me is the foul stench of pee. Apparently, uncouth, unlearned Pinoy males use the base of the MRT as public restroom. Guys like these should be castrated. in public. with the castrator (?) leaving them just an inch of their peen (haha! referencing Hedwig and the Angry Inch). Seriously, this is waaaay on top of my “Stupid and Uncouth Things My Countrymen Do” list. Waaaaay up there, lumped together with spitting in public, braving a Do Not Cross sign and refusing to use a deodorant yet riding public transpo.
Going up the long flight of stairs was a painful reminder that I needed to lead a healthier lifestyle: I needed to lose at least 40 pounds, get rid of excess fat and eat healthy. I was nearly out of breath and sweaty when I reached the top of the stairs. This is my motivation when I decided not to climb another much longer flight of stairs just to cross to the other side. I chose instead the elevator which was screaming for Public Safety Hazard notification: slow, creepy, creaky and smelly. I shared the ride with a host of characters the most notable include a mom carrying an infant whose nose was oozing mucus, an old man who kept pressing the close button even when the door IS closed, and the female half of a boyfriend-girlfriend pair who seemed to be arguing (the guy was left outside and had to take the stairs when the lady refused to yield on the OVERLOADED notice). I eyed the lady and steeled myself not to breathe: she was chewing gum, her hair bunched on her head, she was standing on one foot, shifting uncomfortably). It is obvious that she didn’t took a bath. When the door opened, she was met by the guy on at the door — giving her the evil eye. She screamed, “O ano ngayon?” (So what?) and they began quarreling right there, blocking the door for us who wanted to pass through.
I survived Romeo and Juliet, bought a ticket to an (obviously) tired but smiling attendant and hauled my ass on the station. The local MRT had female-only designated couches, and knowing that I’ll be sharing limited space with a host of foreign bodies, I chose the female-only couch–my butt pressed on someone else’s butt, my face inches away from the colegiala-looking pretty student to my left. I now know what it’s like inside a sardine can. One squished-up passenger kept saying “ang sikip…ang sikip…” (it’s too crowded), sounding annoyed and giving everyone the attitude. When the doors opened on the next station, I was tempted to push her off the tracks. Lady, you can take a cab and stew in traffic if you don’t want strangers pressing up against you.
After 15 minutes, I was already at my stop. I extracted myself from the mad and crazy knot of bodies, almost tripped on the platform gap, lined-up for the turnstiles and got out.
Outside, the sun was shining and I couldn’t be happier breathing fresh air.
(Of course, fast forward two hours after, I was again on the same station, making my way back)