Ah, the pains of commuting in Metro Manila. FX, UV Express, LRT, MRT, jeepney--name it and I’ve commuted on it (except for the Pasig ferry and the Philippine National Railways, that is). The other day, I was struck with inspiration as I sat in the back of a typical 10-seater UV Express van.
The lady beside me had swung the air-conditioner vent in her direction, thereby forcing me to whip out my fan just to get a feel of that slightly cool breeze. There have been worse moments. Unbearable moments. I’d like to think that these items I’ve listed below are things people like me have experienced at one point or another inside these ubiquitous vans. Read on and tell me if you agree.
1. The best seat is the one for the front passenger. It’s easy to get in and get out. You get to hog at least an entire air-conditioning vent all to yourself. The only problem is these seats are really meant for just one person, but they cram two bodies. It’s cramped in front and you have to risk getting your leg grazed by the driver when he adjusts his shifter. That’s if you’re in the innermost seat. If you want to experience the seat as it should, pay for two people.
2. Riding in the middle row has its pros and cons. For instance, if you’re wearing a skirt, you shouldn't be as concerned about accidentally flashing your co-passenger.
3. The seating arrangement should be strategic. It all gets messed up depending on which part of the route you get on and where you get off. It’s always a hassle when someone has to get off and everyone has to also get out of the vehicle just to let that person out.
4. There’s always the inconvenience of getting smushed when you’re seated next to someone on the hefty side. Sometimes, you have to move forward and give up backrest comfort just so your hips don’t get squished.
5. Get ready to be annoyed with some noisy, chattering passengers. They could be on the phone, gossiping with a friend or, worse, in a harutan/landian session with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
6. Drivers speak in codes with fellow drivers via their walkie-talkies. They adopt pseudonyms (I’ve heard 'Taba' aka 'Fatty' once) and use code names for certain roads. They call passengers '5-9s' (five-nines), and at times use too obvious terms ('five letters' to refer to the pulis).
7. Sitting at the back can either be a glorious or a hellish encounter. If you’re one of the last two to get in, you’ll have to grit your teeth as hardly any air-conditioning cools your face from the heat. Your friendly, courteous co-passengers have directed the vents all to themselves. Usually, the cool air isn’t strong enough to reach those farthest from it. Sometimes, you just have to speak up more so they "share" what you’re also paying for.
8. It’s easier to get out from the back than from the middle, provided you have access to your own door. People just need to turn on their side to give you space to exit. This is if you’re riding the 10-seater UV Express vans. The 16- to 18-seater vans will always badger the person by the sliding door, giving him or her official door duties.
9. Some UV Express vehicles--no matter how comfortable and air-conditioned you are--have the worst choice in music. You could plug in your earphones and listen to your own playlists, but you risk not hearing the driver call out your destination if you’ve fallen asleep.
10. Not having the exact fare can be a nightmare if the driver doesn’t have change. Worse, if you’re seated at the back, you have to loudly call out to the driver just so he remembers to give you your change. And sometimes, he pretends not to hear you.
NOTE: This article first appeared on Steppanyaki.com. Minor edits have been made.
Illustration by Raynand Olarte