IN Cebu, the bus exists largely as a figment of contention. In the labyrinth that is Manila, the bus rumbles out of the discourse and into the realm of the banal and inescapable days of our lives.
Traveling by bus used to be about romancing the countryside. As a young community worker, I learned a few tricks from traveling by land around Cebu and Central Visayas.
Bus tip #1: backpack it.
The terminal is where life begins. Come early and your ticket will still come with a seat.
Bus tip #3: watch life go past. In Dalaguete, the scenes outside the window replayed when the bus, like a car pool, came back for a regular passenger, who had been taking a bath.
In the city of queues, I arrived at the bus half an hour before it left. In the seat of dreams, one can nap or watch the movie on board to dilute reality with a bit of make-believe.
While my seat mates juggled dinner and smartphone monologues, I watched the night’s feature on “Cinebakbakan”.
Like me, Raymond Bagatsing travels from the province to the big city. His cousin introduces Serafin to Sarge (Tonton Gutierrez), who gives him a job and more guns than seems necessary to man the gate of a shack in the middle of nowhere.
Though naive, Serafin is not too slow to catch on that Sarge actually leads a kidnapping ring. When Sarge goes amok, Serafin tries to out-Adam Adam: return to the Eden where he was expelled.
The movie is full of stereotypes (chain-smoking journalists) and peculiarities (Serafin gets in the pool of mud with his carabao and gives it a back massage). Yet, when the bus vents gushed water instead of freezing air, I was the last to leave my seat for the safety of the aisle.
In the melee of corporate drones cussing like fish vendors, a barking driver, and the ticket collector passing around one sodden rag to stanch the shower on board, I followed Serafin’s changing fortunes: he emerges from the margin to assume a dead man’s fearsome reputation, marries a woman later possessed by an evil spirit, dupes a kidnapped child into regarding him as the father, and finally unburdens to a journalist who smokes more than takes notes.
Movies on buses are kitschy or pornographic. “Serafin Geronimo: Ang Kriminal ng Baryo Concepcion” is neither. I waited for the closing credits to reveal the director.
And got instead the opening scene of “True Lies,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, art is dead in the city. A bus is not a cinematheque.
But would it have hurt if deadened commuters went home that night, realizing that the movie we all got drenched for was the first one directed by Lavrente Indico “Lav” Diaz? Probably not. Bus tip #4.
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*First published in SunStar Cebu’s August 6, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”