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.
As he pocketed the bill, he said thanks, hinting that he was ready to call it a night.
He spoke too soon.
Without waiting for him to leave, I opened the gate and climbed the stairs to the second floor where my apartment was located. I walked slowly, trying my best to avoid interrupting the silence.
Unfortunately, somebody else wasn’t too big on keeping still and quiet, even in the wee hours.
From out of nowhere came the sound of an engine that disturbed the peace. It sounded like a chainsaw.Then came a crash—hard plastic being cracked open, glass being broken, and metal being ripped apart.
The cab, I thought, rushing down the stairs and back out the gate again, nervous feet moving faster than my mind, already prepared to shut down.
I was right.
The taxicab that I was on just a moment ago had an accident.
From the looks of it, the driver made a U-turn to get back to the main road and was already in the middle of the intersection when a motorcycle hit the cab’s front left fender.
Onboard the motorcycle were four men—no shirts or helmets, just tattoos and various amounts of of attitude—who were lying on the street, all grimace and heavy breathing.
No one seemed to be seriously hurt and all of them suffered in quiet agony, except for the driver.
He lay beside the cab’s left front wheel where most of the vehicular damage was, clutching his balls and stomach. Dalhin niyo ako sa ospital,” he cried, and to the driver: “Tangina niyo, manong. Ang sakit ng bayag ko!”
The driver stood there, trying to take it all in.
Here he was, at one o’ clock in the morning, in an unfamiliar area, one of several parties involved in an accident. One moment he was getting a measly tip and now, someone else was blaming him for damaging his crown jewels.
By that time, I had already caught up with him and the whole scene.
“Wala pa kayong helment,” I told the group, a remark left unrecognized by the small crowd that was already gathering around the accident.
I then approached the neighborhood watchmen who were first on the scene and asked whether anybody had already called for help. They nodded and bowed their heads, as if they were having confession.
Before any help or higher authority arrived, all four men managed to get back on their feet, hailed an oncoming tricycle, and fled the scene.
No one was able to respond, not even the driver, whose cab was stuck in the middle of nowhere with a motorcycle underneath it.
Then a small man—cap, green shirt, tattoos on both arms—came into the picture, asking which one didn’t wear a helmet. His question forced onlookers to talk among themselves, offering theories, raising possibilities, and suggesting scenarios.
One said the four stole the motorcycle—heretofore abandoned—citing the vehicle’s makeshift plates. Another said they were all drunk and joyriding.
Not long after, another small, young man jumped off from a passing tricycle which slowed down in front of the wreckage. He then jumped right back, perhaps out of fear that his curiosity may cause him trouble.
That was suspicious, an onlooker said, as he gazed at three-wheeled vehicle disappearing into the horizon. “He may have been sent by the four to check on the motorcycle ,” he said.
Again, no one said a thing.
As speculation about the accident hung in the air, cars and vans and tricycles and bikes slowed down, checking whether the accident was worthy of their prolonged attention or not.
Meanwhile, the driver asked me if he could use my phone—which I was using to take pictures of the incident.
It was going to be a much longer night than what he expected, he said to me, as he put the phone to his ear.
I knew how he felt.
After all, I myself was prompted to write about the accident—even if the details were incomplete—a few minutes later.
It was a long night indeed.