Sunday, August 16, 2015


ONE of the tricks seniors play on a freshman at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu is to ask this classic conundrum: 04B or O4C?

04B jeepneys take the Capitol route; the latter means commuting along Gen. Maxilom Ave. Up against scheming seniors, no freshman ever answers this riddle correctly.

I suggest trying both. Both routes will help you know this city. Both routes also end in Carbon Market.

After three years of whining about commuting in messy, noisy and smelly Metro Manila, the first ride I took in Cebu brought me back to messy, noisy and smelly Carbon.

We tend to be more forgiving of the shortcomings of our home. It would have given me a deep sense of displacement if I took a whiff just minutes before the jeepney entered the city’s historic wet market and didn’t bombard my lungs with a hefty dose of eau-de-Carbon: a heady mix of essential oils and aroma compounds that overpoweringly exude methane, manufactured exclusively by garbage rotting in dumpsites and 21 times more toxic than carbon dioxide.

If Carbon smelled as usual, at least it looked less unkempt. No mountains of garbage landscaping the streets and sidewalks; no discarded vegetables clogging canals like mutant flora.

Such consolation was short-lived. A young woman with several bags boarded our jeepney. From Freedom Park to UP Cebu, she fascinated me. For a quarter of an hour, she ate three fried lumpia, two medium-sized meatballs, and one lemon candy. She threw outside of the jeepney the plastic bags holding her breakfast-on-the-road.

From bottled water bought from a street vendor, she took a few sips before borrowing the jeepney driver’s Cebuano daily, where she delicately wiped her fingers before reading sports news on the back page.

Seated behind her, I regarded the tabloid-wiping as the coup de grĂ¢ce. Here is a young person able to carry several totes loaded with meat and provisions. She has the energy and will to wake at dawn, make her way through Carbon’s human sea, and dash with all her purchases for a sought-after jeepney seat.

Yet, she cannot carry back with her two empty plastic bags and a wee wrapper, a wad that would fit in an infant’s fist.

Fortunately, the jeepney, with its open doors and windows, is invented for commuters like her. No vehicle is structurally better designed to create utmost convenience for chucking out trash.

A city ordinance requires operators to install a garbage receptacle inside a public utility jeepney. Since the bin is placed only in the main passenger section, a passenger seated beside the driver may be excused for treating the city streets as a free-for-all dumpsite.

We can always rationalize the irrational: the commuter who thoughtlessly disposes trash and panics when a sudden downpour turns streets into flooded obstacle courses; the smoker who cannot drop a butt into a bin but can aim it perfectly for the nearest much-abused bush. And the onlooker who sees all but does nothing.

It takes more than one person to abuse the earth. A “carbon footprint” refers to the total impact of greenhouse gases created by a group of people. Carbon Market, over a hundred years old, is a tourist attraction. Do we Cebuanos also want to be known for the carbon footprint we create with our garbage?

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s August 16, 2015 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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