insane train

life on the tracks

Friday, August 03, 2007


Familiar with the drill, getting into the trains is fairly mechanical. One who is used to the process can do it brain dead: get in the procession, fidget around as the line slowly nears the ticket window, pay the fare, get your ticket. Go to the turnstiles and platforms and trains and you’re off, off to wherever. It’s really routine. One evening though, on the way home from work, there was a most unusual sight on the MRT. It’s actually very common along the streets of the metro, but on the train concourse, it was something I’ve never seen before.

There were beggars.

Mother and daughter were asking for alms from the people in the ticket lines. To elicit more pity (and more cash?) the younger of the two was holding out a medical certificate, which stated, generally, that the elderly woman she was assisting beside her was sick. The quiet, frail mother kept looking down to the floor, avoiding eye contact with anyone. The daughter, built for tough times and strong like a bull, held and supported her sick mother in one arm and carried a bag and the certificate in another. She looked at the people in line with eyes that pleaded, and repeatedly said in a low, beseeching voice, “palimos po, pang-gamot lang po ng nanay ko…”

It was a sad sight to see. The situation made me think of how they were similar they could be to the people they were begging from. Then, maybe, just maybe. We may not be dressed in shabby clothes or have deeply-lined faces that draw stories of despair, but we all beg. People buying their tickets along with me, people in the train, on the streets, in their houses, everyone asks for something they don’t have. Everyday.

“Please give me money, I need it so very badly.”
“Please let them be ok.”
“Please let me get what I need, what I want”
“I’m desperate for attention, please look at me.”
“Please love me.”

It’s very human to desire, and when our desires are not at all met, it’s natural to find ways to augment our deficiencies – to request, to implore, to beg. We pray, we work, we find thousands of ways to move mountains. And despite our seeming nonchalance and indifference, behind the confident veneer, we silently break down when we realize we can’t get what we want. It can tear you apart, the realization that you have to beg for something but can’t have any at all. Dignity is how you keep that to yourself, and carry it with stride, knowing that you’ll be ok despite the gaps. Then you move with gentle acceptance, live with the strong driving force that is hope.

But not everyone is lucky enough to pass through ignoring desires and needs with grace. When last resorts fail and desperation drags you in the mud, you turn to something you choose to be what don’t really want to be. I doubt that the mother and daughter in the train enjoyed what they were doing, being grim eyesores in the business district station. In a lot of ways, in our mended clothes and full stomachs, we were different. And it is certifiable.

The line was quieter than usual; people were fidgeting less than the normal. Some people gave money, but you can see that it won’t be enough. Caught in the vicious cycle of begging and then begging for more, you can predict that the tandem will be facing pretty tough times.

Getting to where you want to go isn’t always so smooth.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Happy Strappies

My friend Mundi calls the train handles, the ones you hold for balance when you’re standing by the middle and the bars are too high this apt name: hepa handles. How witty and true my friend’s comment is – the short straps (made from god-knows-what material the lowest bidder made them from) are low quality, or just really overused, making them quickly turn ragged, yellow (therefore hepa?), old, and most icky-ly of all, dirty and full of harmful microorganisms.

So, for the sake of all the neat freaks and OCs out there, let’s keep things safe and bacteria free as the trailblazing train inventions present: The Happy Strappies!

A pair of Happy Strappies is all you’d need to de-germify your train experience! Just strap’em on to the bar and taadaa!!! You don’t only have a personalized strap to keep you in balance, you’re also safe from train strap germs!

The Happy Strappies will come adjustable in all strap thickness, lengths, material, and designs. The concept is as limitless as there are stars! Just think about it - Happy Strappies in basic black (perhaps satin, with a bit of faux pearl/crystal beadwork/accent, if you’re going for classy); Happy Strappies in fun kool-aid colors, pastels for preppies, metallics to match that fabulous bronze tote, neons for to brighten up your day! In the future, even the big brands will invade the Happy Strappies space, and when that time comes, watch out for Spongebob, Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, Barney, and other huge names on that silver train bar.

It can even work as an accessory, a functional bracelet, so you can wear them the whole day! How versatile! How chic! How useful!

The train doesn’t have to be a bland, boring, dirty space. Happy Strappies will make sure you enjoy that trip in place, and have a strappin’ good time.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I haven’t been blogging for quite some time, and a lot of things have happened. And it’s amazing how so many things have changed within a short span of time without you noticing how quickly it all occurred.

It’s as basic as alien abduction, only more realistic. It all happened so fast. Hmmm. Lemme gather my thoughts one by one.

The Liquids Ban
This happened maybe around the 3rd Quarter of 2006 – but I’m really not sure of the exact date. It’s is still currently implemented. Basic principle of this order is that liquids are banned inside the trains – bottled beverages, frappe/latte cups, takeout drinks, and the like must be finished before entering the train, or must be surrendered at the bag inspection area.

I really really understand this safety measure. I mean, we’re not really sure if C2 isn't counted as a Nuclear Supercritical Mass, right? Or if the Gatorade of that athletic person in the ticket line is actually a Molotov. Paranoia, paranoia, paranoia. The only message I get out of it is that someone administering/managing/lording over the train has a mantra which follows: we will dehydrate you. Result being inconvenience for the passengers and longer queues at the bag check. WHICH I ABHOR.

Every now and then I sneak a bottle of Nestea or two inside the train, craftily hidden inside my knapsack. I have no evil plans for it, and there’s really no rationale behind it, save for the feeling that every time I successfully slip one in, I feel like I’ve beaten the system. And that, my friends, feels real f*ckin’ good.

MRT Radio
This happened around October 2006, I think. They initially launched with some unknown relaxing jazzy tunes (which I actually liked) then went on the chill out, which therefore gave me the notion that I was listening to some form of Elevator Music derivative (which I really wasn’t so totally against since Elevator Music = zone out… and I do like zoning out…). At that time I felt great neutrality towards it – I mean, I’m there for only a couple of mins a day, it won’t really wreck my nervous system.

Eventually, they got to play more mainstream songs. Now you can chance upon a wide range of artists, which could be anyone from Astrud Gilberto to 50cent. And I confess, I love this variety. It’s a bit gung-ho, and adorably so. The MRT radio seemingly plays everything – I don’t know it they tried to find out what music most train riders would prefer, but then again coming up with musical programming which would fit the train riders’ demographic is practically impractical. As the rusty cliché goes, you can’t please everybody. So let’s get songs from everyone, from Gary V. to David Gray, and hope we hit a good chord.

And even if you didn’t like it, would you really not ride the train because the music sucks? I don’t think so. So we’re kinda stuck with it. My best recommendation for those who hate the MRT Radio is: get a music player, and travel in isolation.

If they have plans of making it better, that’s the extra mile. Me, I’m cool with the tunes. It’s a step up as it is, and deserves kudos.

Other stuff that keeps me entertained about the MRT radio. Hmmm. There’s the public service announcements, which remind you not to hold on the train doors and hold the safety handrails and give your seat to those who need it more, yada yada… Over and over again! It’s such mental conditioning, that I don’t mind it if people absorb it and actually live it. It’s all about train etiquette and safety, those ads, and while at times the repetitiveness of it all gets me irked, it’s still good stuff to follow.

Then there’s the jingle – yes, it has a jingle! It’s about 3secs long and made up of not more than 3 notes, but so catchy! And with vocal blending too!

A curious feature, though, is their e-mail-in greeting system, called MRT Greeting Card. I’ve never tried it, but I have a lot of questions about it, but Ive written a lot already and I'm now already too lazy to ask.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sa mrt, nakakita ako ng...

...kamukha ni Kevin Roy. Kahawig na kahawig talaga.

Pero babae.


Friday, September 15, 2006

A Rainy Night On the Train

Late night, dark streets. The raindrops trickle down the windows tirelessly, endlessly. They draw vertical lines, creates harsh, sharp angles, but eventually surrender to the train’s speed, fall to the tracks silently.

Inside the late train, all is quiet, save for the rumble of steel underneath. Sluggish bodies sway gently; droopy eyes are rocked to sleep. Somebody’s safely tucked away in his own world of sound, earphones at work, player in tow. One commuter huddles over her bags, a gentle, protective embrace. A couple kisses, the guy leans over as the girl coyly smiles. A mother texts (her children? Her husband? A friend?). Another reads from a thin book, a romance novel. A lady adjusts the straps of her shoes.

I look out the window; I catch a glimpse of the dark metro.
Cars pass by at a leisurely pace, the asphalts too slippery for road rage. People pull their jackets closer as they carry umbrellas, creating a safe space against the cold weather. They avoid puddles as they walk the shadowy streets. Buildings are bleak, closed, silent. An ambulant peddler in an old plastic parka sells his wares, his merchandise covered with ratty plastic. A man rides his bike, his helmet dripping with rain, his jacket fluttering against the wind - a superhero braving the rain on wheels.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


The Frontpack

I noticed that in the train, a lot of people wear their knapsacks in the front. I know this is a usual precaution taken in thief-prone areas, and from the population of backpack wearers who don this style of lugging, it’s obvious that the train is one of those hazardous locations as well.

So, I propose that some manufacturer create the ultimate theft prevention bag: ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the Frontpack!!! (insert sound of clapping)

(read with infomercial-like voice) Why bother using the backpack when half the time you wear it in the front? Might as well create a bag that you can wear properly in front all the time! The Frontpack creates a world of advantage, for men and women, the young and old. You will be seeing your stuff right under your nose, literally! So you can keep a close eye on your valuables, and see those scruffy hands that keep on trying to steal your stuff! Also, women need not feel uncomfortable anymore about men trying to look down their shirts! The Frontpack can hide their assets, therefore securing them of a long, peek-free journey! Men too have advantages when wearing the Frontpack. With the Frontpack covering their precious jewels, they can guarantee that the women around them will not be harassed since their magic sticks are tucked, covered, and behaved!


(now back to regularly scheduled blogging) I personally hate this particular backpack-slung-front kinda look. I acknowledge it’s usefulness, sometimes I even do it myself (defense: sometimes we do the things we hate anyway, why not protect myself in the process. But it looks sooo unkempt, and my knapsack protests to this – backpacks weren’t made for this sort of thing). So why not incorporate a design that will execute this look/protection properly, right? Right.

Well, it might not be the epitome of cool, but it's practical, and not being a victim of theft? That's awesome.

Monday, July 10, 2006


We’ve seen it in the bathrooms. In elevators. In escalators. I even saw that sign once, by a public stairwell. It made absolutely no sense but with an OUT OF ORDER sign, you never question it. It’s not working, and that’s a statement we all seem to quite easily comprehend: everything breaks down at one point or another.

I should have expected it, therefore, when it happened to me one innocent day.

As I was walking to the LRT2 station I noticed that there was a heavier than normal crowd of jeep/fx commuters on the streets. It should have been a sign that there was something unusual going on. But me, little old dense me, I ignored this strange phenomenon and continued walking until I reached the entrance to the station. When I got there, the grills were down, and there was a guard who seemed to be enjoying a newfound power as he shouted over a bullhorn.

“(crackle) Sira po ang tren dito, sa susunod na istasyon nalang po tayo sumakay… pasensya na po, sira ang tren… (crackle) ayan, may jeep, djan na kayo sumakay… sa susunod na istasyon nalang po… (crackle)”

The train was out of order.

I was late to work, and it was hot. When all the facts tied up – the crowd, the train, my tardiness - I could barely keep my cool. Immediately I planned out the quickest way to get out of this rut.

Okay, my usual route goes this way:
1. I board the LRT
2. Go down at Cubao and board the MRT
3. Go down, then I’ll get a jeep/fx/bus, depending on vehicular and traffic conditions, going to where I work.

So my step 1 was disrupted with this disorder. Even at the station there was a huge throng of people, so the chances of boarding a jeep or fx seemed tough due to competition. We all wanted to get outta there, but how?

Like an act of the highest angels of heaven, an empty jeep stopped right in front of me. I didn’t even ask where it was going – I just boarded, and so did 19 other people. The driver just went, “hanggang sa susunod na istasyon lang ho…”, meaning, he would just drive us to the next station, then it’s up to us how we get the hell to wherever we’re heading.

I paid my fare, and in a while we went zooming outta that mess, with that guard still dominating the irritated mass of desperation-on-foot with his bullhorn.

We all got down at the next station. My dilemma now was that I was one station away from the MRT, and I had a decision to make: how to get there.

Basic fare for LRT: P12.00
advantages: fast, clean, no pollution
Basic fare for jeep: P7.50
advantages: savings of P4.50!

Deciding to be a cheapskate, I took the jeep. I got to the MRT late, but what the heck, I already am, there’s no saving this morning. I rode the train, and before I knew it things were pretty much back to it’s normal routine.

I got to the office late, haggard, and sweaty, but yeah that’s normal too.

I sure hope the coffeemaker’s working.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Recently I obtained a nasty gash/wound/battle scar while on the train. And since you’re reading anyway, I’m gonna tell you all the gory details.

It happened one hot hot hot summer morning in the Cubao platform. Temperatures were up as the trains were all packed and it took a long while before you can board a train. Most of the people were cranky so early in the morning. But who could blame them? The crowds were thick and dense, trains were late, the sweltering heat breeds discomfort, and everybody was sweaty. It would get to your nerves.

I went to the side of the throng, where, from experience, I knew I could successfully wedge myself into the train’s sliding doors. If you’re a good wedger, this position and attack works more than the layering up from behind the crowd, as if in line. No dear, that’s old school. This technique works, but only for the skilled few (ahem). Listen to my tip, and sooner you train yourself, the nearer you’ll be to enlightenment.

So I was there, ready to squeeze into the first train to arrive in the station. When it arrived, I heaved myself, prepared for war, and dove in.

Pressure. From. All. Sides.
Cannot. Breathe.
Must. Get. Oxygen.
Must Get. Into. Train.


I’m inside.

I lifted my head to inhale. Some people were still ramming themselves in, so I moved deeper inside the train. While moving in, some lady was being bratty and was complaining loudly about the people who were stuffing themselves into the train even when there’s no space left. But then again, she only voiced out the thoughts of those already boarded on the train. Irritation was evident all over the faces of those who were already inside the train, desperation was in the ones trying to get in.

That’s the mood. This is how I got the wound.

As I was moving into the deeper bowels of the train, I scraped my elbow on some lady’s bag/brooch/zipper/random sharp object. I knew it was something of hers that because she did not move at all as I squished into the crowd. She was more resistant to movement. If she swayed with the crowd, the bag/brooch/zipper/random sharp object would have moved along with her, which means I would not have cut myself. But she defied it.

I’m accusing a stranger, she’s guilty until proven innocent, I know, but I have a wound, motherfreakers, I HAVE A WOUND!!!

What about my flawless arms? What about my dreams of becoming a flight stewardess? Of being an elbow model?


The train is a battle field. The red cut on my left elbow proves it all.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The train is sometimes a lonely place.

I mean, in a bus, you’d inevitably have to talk to the bus conductor. In a jeep, you’re face to face with a whole bench of people and would either need to hand their fare, or for them to hand yours. But the train is all steel that absolutely makes it unnecessary for you to interact with people if you choose to. “Miss, isang Cubao” is the most you can muster. From the moment you get in until the moment you get out, there is a series of highly mechanized machine-ized systems that spares you the effort of talking to anyone. Most you can do is watch, if you’re one for observation, or shut the world out, if you’re one for apathy. You can even face the windows if you don’t want to see the people inside the train.

Even when you’re being pressed on all sides by people, you’re alone.

I dunno, I guess sometimes I’m just sad. And the train is conductive to solitude.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Congratulations, It's A Girl

For those men who have never been on the MRT, you gotta know: THE FIRST TRAIN IS FOR SENIOR CITIZENS, WOMEN AND CHILDREN. I feel slightly Babylonian as I say that, but I can’t help it, that’s the law. So you guys out there, don’t even try, because there’s a guard on an elevated chariot-looking contraption there by the first train platform ready to verbally whip (or maybe even physically club) any man who dares cross the sacred train. And he means business – he’s pharaoh to the whole 20 feet of platform he guards. So men, beware.

The first train, or the girl train (sorry lolos and kiddies, you’re special people in a train that’s 98% female) is usually roomy. Coming from the horrible experience of having to squeeze into a morning train brimful of human carcasses, I can say that this is a relief. The men, I don’t pity. We coldhearted b*tches believe that men can fend for themselves, as the cavemen did in prehistoric times. But women, women are delicate beings. They need to be pampered, lavished, and thus be given their own train. And having your own sacred place makes you feel like the goddess Isis.

Ok, so maybe not so sacred. In the tradition of MRTs the train is still dingy, unstable, and hazardous. It’s still at the mercy of power shortages. Sometimes the aircon is low, and therefore you sweat. Otherwise, it’s pretty fine. The main purpose of the train is to provide public transport to people, not luxury. Luxury, you get from Rustan’s. But getting to one place to another without traffic, that’s the train.

And besides, the female train smells so much nicer than the homogenous trains. And that already adds so much pleasure to the train experience (or I’m just so inexorably tied to my olfactory nerves).

Female train-riders can still ride the other trains, but this I cannot understand. Once you’ve experienced the comfort of the girl train, how can you go back? I mean, it’s understandable how some girls can rush to the male trains because the train just arrived and it’s the nearest door to them once they’ve arrived on the platform and they are desperate to get on the train but the femme train’s just so far so they’d have to settle for another train (*breathe*), but not waiting for the girl train? It is, for me, unthinkable. The government is doing you a service, ladies, won’t you take advantage of these few rare privileges? Aside from the physical comfort, there’s a world of psychological ease in the girl train. Your sexual harassment red lights are minimized, if not completely gone. You feel more relaxed. It’s more comfortable, and there are higher chances for you to get a seat. Now you tell me: ain’t that nice?

Ok, it’s not all nice. Some fellow stranger b*tches stare at you like they have a vendetta. Some kids, their tiny-ness leaving them to toy around with the floor, associate feet with playthings and mercilessly step on them (paging, parents, your children, please. It’s a pain). Some oldies have as many bags are there were Jews killed in the Holocaust, and they take up legroom. And they take so slow to board the train they create traffic. But the senior citizens and kids, you understand, it’s age. But the b*tches? Hell.

And the girl train is a perpetual motion machine of gab. It’s always noisy. Some are marathoner gabbers, and they don’t stop talking. Gossip. Stories. Tall tales. Small talk. ANYTHING AT ALL. At times you hear stuff that you’re sure are supposed to be private, but just because it’s said so loudly you’re able to know stranger’s secret lives. Oh well. It’s not shamelessness. It’s just volume.

Still, I love the girl train. I don’t have to wait too long because there’s always enough space, I don’t worry about getting felt up by some random maniac. Whoever made this rule deserves a huge hug and a shower of kisses by all the femmes boarding the girl train. And the kiddies. And the grandmas. And grandpas.