Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ode to my daily commute

I started commuting on my first day of college as an ‘Iskolar ng Bayan’. Fresh from 17 years of being shuttled to and from my Katipunan Alma Mater, I found a semblance of independence in commuting – to me, it was a novelty… THEN. After 4 years of college and 2 and a half years of working (which also meant more than two years of my daily commute to Makati), I realized that there is more to commuting than increasing fare, frustrated grunts brought on by Manila traffic and random meetings. Commuting or public transport is a gold mine of insights, everyday wisdom and ideas. Allow me to give you some examples.

Musing 1: I’ve always believed that you learn a lot when you’re commuting and through your everyday journey you chance upon a bunch of different characters. Just like in books, in commuting, there are protagonists, antagonists, lovers, heroes and side kicks. The lovers always hope that they get the two slots in front so they can co-exist in their own world while the antagonists won’t stop at anything when some passenger who didn’t fall in line gets a ride first. Heroes and protagonists on the other hand are my favourites, they’re the valiant men and women who give up their slots for the elderly lady despite knowing that their tardiness is imminent, and they are polite to the drivers and to their fellow passengers. This casting of my daily commute makes things interesting despite the shuttle that takes 30 mins. to arrive or the barker who plays favourites with regular terminal goers.

Musing 2: Commuting acquaints you to the myriad of gadgets available in the market. The gadget craze has definitely caught fire in the Philippines. Almost all the guys and gals in my terminal have some gadget of sorts. Most prevalent of them all is of course, the mobile phone, which occasionally doubles as an MP3 player for some. Not to be outdone, the iPod is also very common especially to those commuters who want to zone out everyone while on their way to work. There are days when new gadgets come to play as well such as portable video game players or even battery-operated hand held fans.

Musing 3: I get my daily dose of fashion rants and raves when I’m commuting. On days when the line is really long, I check out the outfits of commuters that get in line for the FX. There are conservative girls and traditional men who find comfort in wearing their polo barongs, button down shirts with pinstripe pants while there are also their confident counterparts – the ladies who are not afraid of prints and a splash of color in their corporate attire and the brave men who walk the walk with pointed leather shoes and don slim ties. Kudos to the latter, because they don’t let public transportation get in the way of looking and feeling great.

Musing 4: Believe it or not, commuting is also a test of patience and character. Some individuals stand firmly by their contentions while others try, but for the lack of extra will and assertiveness, get shoved off to the least comfortable seat in the shuttle a.k.a the last seat left, the ‘we’re-all-comfortably-seated-so-just-try-to-squeeze-yourself-in-whatever-space-is-left’ seat. There are those who arrive at the terminal in such a hurried state and come boarding time, refuse to ride because they know that taking the remaining seat would mean an hour or so of constant shifting and discomfort. There are those who just go with the flow and who are easily swayed by the barker to take the last bit of space left – they are who I call the settlers. In terms of patience, people take rush hour traffic in different ways – some complain constantly as if their frustration could ease up the traffic, some just sleep their woes away while there are some who settle with a good read or who call on all saints while praying the rosary.

These are just some of the many musings that could go on forever because the world of commuting is really a wide wide world. Although my stint as a daily commuter has ended since I left for a new job closer to home, I will always have my musings and realizations handy. To most, commuting is just a routine, to some, even an annoyance. It’s quite different for me. Commuting has become an extended education, my opportunity to people watch and my source of daily drama (no need for reality TV). Try it, try looking at commuting with a different perspective and maybe, just maybe, it won’t be just a routine.

Wearing your patriotism on your sleeve

The 1800s had the Maria Clara, the baro’t saya, the patadyong and the Katipunan’s signature red folded pants and white kamisa de chino to show that indeed they were Filipinos. Today, the 21st century is witnessing a come back of patriotism – not just in action, but also in clothing. Everywhere you look, you could see random people donning the Philippine flag or other Philippine icons whether it’s designed in their shirts, shorts, caps or other fashion what-have-yous.

Way back then, patriotism meant giving your life for your country, not bowing down to the overlords and selling out to the captors and all other heroic things in between. Today, patriotism has evolved into something easier to grasp – it could be doing a good deed for your fellow Filipino, paying your taxes diligently or even wearing your patriotism on your sleeve.

But what exactly is wearing your patriotism on your sleeve? It’s a declaration of who you are and what you believe in through your clothes and other daily accessories. It’s a stylish way of saying that ‘I am a Filipino and I’m comfortable in my own skin.’

With the commercialization of outfits that show off your patriotism - from the Pilipinas collection of Collezione, wares from island Souvenirs, team Manila, Bayo and many more, Filipinos are imbibing nationalism one shirt and accessory at a time. Local ingenuity is showcased in various shirts with the Philippine archipelago, the Philippine flag and other notable only-in-the-Philippines images. For newbies in patriotic fashion, there are lots of little stuff you could begin with, such as coin purses made from recycled tarpaulin painted with the country code +63 or the peso sign or the Philippine archipelago. If coin purses aren’t your thing, then maybe you’ll find T-shirts more interesting. There are shirts that declare love for the country’s capital city, Manila, while most pay homage to, again, the country’s archipelagic shape while some to the eight-rayed sun and three stars of the national flag. Other stores even offer bags, hats, cardigans, vests and dresses emblazoned with anything that says ‘I am Filipino’.

I have become a fan of this thing I call patriotic fashion, not only because it adds character to my wardrobe, but because I believe it makes the wearer a bit more appreciative of being Filipino. It also educates, not only foreigners about Pinoy culture, but also fellow Filipinos who have forgotten.

Those who started this trend should be very proud of themselves, because today, it may seem like a fashion statement, but soon, it could become a revolution, a state of being, a way of living and a commitment to a country in need of patriots-in-training.