His hoarse voice reminded me of Inday Garutay, the gay impersonator of the late showbiz icon Inday Badiday. But nothing about this taxi driver was remotely effeminate or funny. In fact, he confessed, not without a hint of virile pride, that he has kept eight live-in partners (even siring a child with one) through his 38 years of cab driving. He bragged about his womanizing all the way to my apartment building’s red gate.
Like any city-dweller, I have encountered some interesting taxi drivers, including Manong Chickboy above. When I’m in the mood for interaction with a stranger or when I just want to make sure my taxi driver does not snooze on the wheel, I strike up a conversation. It usually doesn’t take much to get these guys talking. But sometimes I regret presenting an opening in the first place.
One morning, running late for work, I decided to hop into one of the cabs that lined the street near my apartment.
“Manong, MRT Quezon Ave lang po… May bagyo ba? Maulap tsaka mahangin eh.”
“Ay *toot* na PAGASA ‘yan! Di na tumama! *Toot* Babagyuhin daw tayo nung isang linggo. Kinansel na ang klase pero, *toot*, ang taas ng sikat ng araw! *Toot*... *toot*… *toooooooot*”
Outside the sky was gray and tree branches swayed back and forth. Inside the cab, I soaked in a full-blown storm of profanity and government-bashing. I theorize: Manong Toot, due to nonstop exposure to AM radio, has channeled the personalities of the opinionated announcers—sometimes even modulating his voice to mimic Mike Enriquez’s rapid-fire monotone. Unfortunately, he’s yet to learn journalistic self-censorship. Worse, there was no commercial break to provide reprieve. My ride took only 10 minutes, but it was 10 minutes too long. After I alighted, Tagalog curse words of every kind rang in my ears. Please nobody step on my toes in the train…
There are times when it’s the taxi driver who initiates the interaction. One early morning in October last year, around 4AM, I rode a taxi to the International Airport. The taxi driver—let’s call him Manong Victor (as he seemed a huge fan of Victor Wood, playing the bygone crooner’s cassette tape and singing along too)—asked me where I was traveling to. I told him I was going to Japan to visit my sister.
“Tapos, sir, maghahanap na rin kayo ng trabaho dun ano?”
“Ah, hindi po. Bibisitahin ko lang ate ko.”
“Bakasyon… Saya nyan ah! Malaki siguro kita dun. Dancer ba si ate dun? Singer?”
At that point, I didn’t know whether to take offense or laugh. I thought it was sad that any Filipino sister, aunt, or even mother who goes to Japan is immediately assumed to be a “japayuki.” I also thought it was funny, because the thought of my sister dancing and singing is, well, amusing! (Sis is in Japan for graduate studies in law. The closest thing she’s gotten to singing publicly there is at Pinoy karaoke parties, and even that required a lot of prodding from kababayans.)
Here’s one more. Let’s call him Kuya Gamer. I hailed his cab past midnight after working overtime at the office. Within seconds of riding his taxi, the sleepiness that I had been fighting off since 10PM totally left me. He was speeding like we had a life-and-death emergency! Did I look like a pregnant woman whose water bag just broke?! (Bogart would take offense!)
“Bro, di naman ako nagmamadali. Hinay-hinay lang.”
“Ganito talaga ‘to, sir. Para di ako antukin, mabilis dapat ang takbo. Iniisip ko na lang na nagvivideo game ako… hehe.”
“Ganon? Eh pano pag na-game over tayo?!”
Thankfully, he listened to reason and slowed down, enough to convince me that I would live to at least see the fruits of my overtime work the following day. My pulse began to stabilize. When I got home, I was wide-awake as a caffeinated call center agent, and yet so badly wanting the sleepiness that had been left stranded somewhere along EDSA…
Looking forward to the next interesting taxi ride and taxi driver.