The Battlefield

A calming silence echoes in the air as I take cover behind a concrete road block. I’m still trying to regain my focus when my infantry commander, who had taken the lead, gives the “all clear” signal and orders me to push forward. I check my equipment and brace myself to charge out into the open battlefield. I take a deep breath, look both ways, make a step forward, then VOOM! This tricycle comes out of nowhere and almost levels me!

Ok, so maybe I’m not really in a warzone. Just maybe, my infantry commander is actually my 15 year old sister who crossed the street before I did. And maybe my battlefield is really just the white pinstripes painted on the gravel called the pedestrian lane. Either way, you’d have to agree that crossing the street in the Philippines feels just like opening sequence of “Saving Private Ryan.”

See here in the Philippines, cars don’t stop for people who are crossing the street, they don’t even slow down. In fact, most of them would actually speed up. You’re on your own in the middle of the pedestrian lane here. No one is going to save you but yourself. This is where your true character comes out. This is where you either shine in the headlights  or fade away into roadkill. This is the battlefield that I must cross everyday!

ZOOM, goes the crazy taxi cab right in front of me, as if I didn’t even exist.


I took half a step forward but find myself nine and a half steps back, hiding behind a telephone pole. My sister rolls her eyes in discontent, pretty much calling me a coward through her look. I should walk over and beat the living crap out of her that little piece of….. WHOA!!!

SHOOM, goes the scooter, barely missing my toes.

“I’m on the goddamn sidewalk here! WTF!”

It seems that there’s no safe place to hide against these insurgents. Damn terrorists!

At this point, my back is against the wall all the way at the other end of the sidewalk. Some stray dog licking his balls stops for a moment to stare and mock me.

“Pussy!” said the stray dog. Ok, well he didn’t really say that but I think that’s what he was thinking and would have said if it could talk.

“WELL AT LEAST I DON’T HAVE TO LICK MY OWN BALLS!” I accidentally scream out loud towards the dog.

The fast moving crowd in front of me stops for a moment and they too stare for a second. My sister, still across the street waiting for me, looks down on the pavement from utter shame and disbelief. “Hurry up!” she yells.

I flick off the stray dog and slowly muster back my composure. I walk towards the outer edge of the sidewalk and wait for a clear path. Five minutes later I’m still waiting. My infantry commander gives me the signal that she’s about to leave me if I don’t move my ass.

I look to my left and see the coast is clear. I take a step forward when… SQWWWWWWEEEEKK! A pedicab (pretty much a tricycle but with a bicycle instead of a motorcycle powering the thing) coming down the wrong way barely breaks in time to avoid hitting me.

“The traffic is going that way! You’re going the wrong way! WTF!” I scream.

Without missing a beat, the pedicab simply goes around me and moves on with life. I too needed to move on, for now.

In the middle of the street, I see a small opening in front of me and make a dash for it but…. WHOOOOSH! A jeepney cuts me off and stops right in front of me. In the middle rush hour traffic, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the road, this jeepney just stops. With the road in front of him clear as the sky, while the traffic behind him honking their horns like all hell was about to break loose, this jeepney just stops to let off his passengers in the middle of all the madness. The passengers get off, cross the road safely and the jeep drives away. I, on the other hand, am stunned and frozen in my tracks. The oncoming traffic honks their horn and I snap out of it, ready to finally make it to the other side.

Then out of nowhere, this young boy comes up to me and starts selling me Sampaguitas (it’s the national flower of the Philippines which locals pick and weave into a necklace). Out the corner of my eye, I notice a huge truck headed straight for us. I scream at the boy and tell him to save himself. In what seemed more like an act of child abuse, rather than heroism, I quickly shove the unwary child out of the way. He actually just gets nudged a bit, gave me a death stare and walked away.

“Go young one, go and live another day! Don’t thank me. I’m just doing what I have to…” I say to the grumpy child.

Yet my trial has yet to end. I still had half the road in front of me while trucks, jeepneys, crazy taxis, tricycles, pedicabs, street vendors and Megatron headed straight for me! I sum up all my videogame experience from old school Atari Frogger all the way to Grand Theft Auto Vice City. I leap, skip, hop, jump, run and roll my way to the other side.

Finally, I make it through the battlefield. Pants a little bit damp, but still with my freedom and dignity!

“Oh, I left something. We need to go back real quick” whispered my sister.

“Why you sonofa….” VHOOOOSH!!!!

 

 

Traffic in Manila

Traffic in Manila

Traffic in Manila 2

Traffic in Manila 2

Tricycles

Tricycles

Pedicabs

Pedicabs

Jeepney

Jeepney

Selling Sampaguitas

Selling Sampaguitas

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One Response to “The Battlefield”
  1. byron 16 February 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    nicely written! you couldn’t have put it in a more descriptive way!

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