Monday, July 04, 2016

Joy in a ride

Joy ride is a favorite past time in my hometown in the 70’s, where the calesa is the main mode of transport to go around town in Tuguegarao. The kutsero steers us to the four corners of the town: Horno and the Cathedral in the East, St Louis in the South, St Paul and Ermita in the West and Cagayan High School in the far North. In between, we pass through Kalye Komersyo and the Town Hall. 30 minutes and a few centavos (25 or 50 centavos) in a slow calesa are all it takes to swing around town. There is no definite destination except to experience the joy of riding of seeing landmarks in a company of friends passing time in a relatively small town.

Described as adventure, expedition, gimmick, or events now, the experience is tagged by the positive emotional experience it brings, joy. No discipline is needed to plan this activity except to gather a group. Just stop a kalesa roaming around the main road or at the side street, declare a joy ride, and hop in. The kutsero’s chuckling sound signals the frail horse to move pulling the over 300 pounds of boisterous passengers to a short distance of 3 to 5 kilometers in slow dragging 1 to 2 hours of ride. His cart serves as the venue for a series of stories, anecdotes narrated spontaneously by anyone on board. For as long as the kalesa is in motion, stories keep on unfolding and unfolding.

The same joy evoked in this calesa ride decades ago was my intention in riding the LRT from Balintawak to Monumento in EDSA. The metro train segment was launched this Holy Week 2010 as part of the 360 degree government project to close in Metro Manila loop connecting Monumento to Quiapo to EDSA via Taft and to West Avenue via EDSA. For P 15.0 I viewed in an elevated platform for the 1st time North Luzon Expressway, Caloocan, Malabon and to certain extent the skyscrapers in Roxas Boulevard at the extreme East. The joy was short lived as it was only a 5 minute ride for a 3-4 kilometer stretch. The thrill that lingered was the excitement of seeing familiar object in a new light and being one of the 1st to do so.

The pleasure of a ride whether in a small town or in a highly populated city was pretty much the same. Even in a double deck bus. This June 2016, in another setting, in an enhanced form of transportation in the company of an expanded group, the word “joy ride” which was getting obsolete resurfaced. Passengers from Metro Manila joined in an excursion to Everybody’s Café to celebrate Father’s Day riding in a double deck bus called Sky Jeepney.

Much like the kalesa, the Sky Jeepney served as a moving platform for the members of the family to share stories, update each other and to recall the food and place of our parent’s hometown San Fernando Pampanga. Not just 6 but 22 were on board. Travel time was about the same as the kalesa ride but the distance covered was twenty times longer and about 60 kilometers faster. Conversation was more intense. Subjects discussed went beyond the trivia and spanned through decades of experiences.

The joy ride in a kalesa was for recreation to pass the time away. So too was the Sky Jeepney but not to pass the time away but to remember the times. In remembering the times, newer experiences were told, deeper insights were discovered, funnier stories were narrated and stronger bonds were established. That ride was not just for the food, for the place nor to celebrate an event. It was not just a ride for joy but a journey of thanksgiving and gratitude for 6 decades of solid togetherness as a family.

When passersby and motorists wave at us staring at the bus with wonder and amusement, I gamely smile back relishing the joy of that memorable ride and planning in my mind the next one.

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