Biking, Fast and Slow

 

The Messenger parked at the office.

The Messenger parked at the office.

The woman wore a light blue mask to cover the tear on her upper lip which doctors had sewn together a few minutes earlier. Her face hit the ground when she was thrown clear from her electric bike, she said. Not only did she skip on wearing a helmet, she also brought along her daughter, who was, fortunately enough, unhurt when they went out for a quick trip to the grocery that rainy Monday night. [See: Biking, Fast and Slow]

A long night

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At about one in the morning of Friday, July 7, 2013, I got off a cab in front of my apartment.
I was home.
I fished an extra P20 as a tip, to express my appreciation for the smooth and short trip the driver and I took from Cubao to where I live.
On the way, we exchanged tibdits of our lives—how he felt about driving for a living and how I felt about bikes and biking, my current—and what is shaping up as my lifelong—preoccupation, besides heckling, drinking, and navel-gazing.
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Morbid, Merry Memories of Marilao

Marilao exit sign along the North Luzon Expressway taken from an inactive ad. (la3rt/sulit.com.ph)

My memories of Marilao, Bulacan — a municipality an hour or so away from Manila — are not exactly pleasant.

It was where two uncles were figured in a freak car accident that seriously injured one and later killed the other (which would eventually turn out to be one of two deaths I would get to witness firsthand).

Everytime I got the chance to pass by the town’s territory along the North Luzon Expressway, I always think about my uncle’s useless, tragic death brought about by negligence, carelessness, and apathy.

Which explains why as a place, Marilao  for all its attractions — whatever they might be — never ranked among the list of places I wanted to visit.

In February 1991, two uncles on the way to Manila was involved in an accident along a portion of the North Luzon highway that was within the town’s territory.

While cruising at regular speed during an early evening trip, their vehicle smashed into a flatbed truck that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Why?

The truck was cutting across the highway.

Let me repeat that for emphasis: From out of nowhere, the truck cut across the highway, navigating through an intersection that existed only in the driver’s imagination.

How was this possible?

Cyclone fences within the vicinity of both the expressway’s northbound and southbound lanes were torn down, allowing vehicles — such as the truck in question — to make a convenient, if very dangerous, shortcut.

This was the same shortcut that the truck driver decided to take.

And before he knew it, a white, two-door Toyota liftback rammed into the truck’s left side.

The truck driver was unhurt, the car was totaled, and both of my uncles were rushed to the hospital.

My uncle who was driving had his right leg and a few ribs broken, took more than three months to recover, and nearly a year before he regained confidence sitting behind the wheel.

My other uncle who rode shotgun died later that night, the first of two deaths that I would witness rsthand.

Moments before he passed away, I saw his nearly-naked body on a steel gurney, covered by a sky-blue hospital gown.

His whole torso was moving in erratic spurts, as if dancing to a morbid rhythm,  the final stages of a sudden, painful transition from life to death.

Minutes after, the attending physician tapped me on the shoulder, informing me of time of his death.

I then walked out the ward, searching for the nearest pay phone to call home to announce the bad news.

Weeks later, a settlement with the truck’s owner was reached and a proposal to sue the municipal government for negligence was no longer pursued.

But my impressions of Marilao changed last March.

A co-worker who lived in the municipality invited me to attend his second child’s birthday party.

Commuting to his place was easy, he said.

And I was only too glad to find out he was right.

It will take anyone a little bit more than an hour  including traffic delays  to get to Marilao, Bulacan from Manila, he said.

And that’s during regular days.

On off hours, travel time may be reduced by a third or even by half, depending on road and weather conditions, my friend added.

In the meantime, the availability of all sorts of buses, jeepneys, and specially-deputized vehicles (i.e., marked vans with set routes) headed for Marilao make it easy for commuters to shuttle between the city and the suburb.

Upon arriving at the party venue, I enjoyed the free food and the free beer and became a member of a cheerful, fun-loving group that made me realize that I had friends inside and outside the office.

Thanks, Jon P. Until next year.
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From the Fine Print Dept. This piece was supposed to be uploaded in March but was ignored for reasons I now can’t recall.