"Punta na lang ho kayo dito, sir, sigurado namang me masasakyan kayo, we have over 100 buses para sa Mahal na Araw."
Straight from work on advance pages of the paper that took us until 2 a.m. to finish, I raced to the Partas bus terminal in Aurora Boulevard, expecting to be snoring in my airconditioned bus seat in at most two hours--only to be assaulted by a horrendous sight: an unyielding mass of sweaty, smelly, bleary-eyed humanity bunched up against the ticket booth, waiting for their tickets to be issued. Many had simply collapsed on top of their belongings, exhausted by the hours of tedium and tumult.
I looked for the information desk and asked why the lines seemed so chaotic, and how I could get 2 tickets to Laoag.
"Sir, wala na po biyaheng Laoag, ang natitirang biyahe para sa mga empleyado na lang, di pa masabi kung anong oras ang alis."
"What!? E tumawag kami dito the other day sabi me biyahe pa! @*$%#!"
"Ewan ko po."
"Tsaka bakit tatlong booth lang ang nagi-issue ng tickets e alam ninyo namang dagsaan ang tao pag Mahal na Araw? Ba't di ninyo man lang maayos ang sistema e taun-taon naman ganito?"
"Kung minsan nga ho dalawa lang yan e."
I gave up. But not before I took pictures of the squalid, pitiful sight all around me.
Year in and year out, passengers have to endure the same hellish conditions in many bus lines plying provincial routes. Nobody seems to complain, since the misery cuts across the board. A giant bus line like Partas--with its more than 100 buses, take note--can get away with treating its customers like shit, so imagine how it is with smaller transport companies. How is this allowed to happen when the solution is simple: Sell off two or three of those bloody buses and use the proceeds to bring the terminal to more civilized, habitable conditions?
"We take pride in our courteous and disciplined drivers," boasted a billboard atop the booths. Sus. Start kaya muna kayo sa clean and orderly bus terminal?
Partas, I understand, is owned by former Ilocos Sur governor and now senatorial candidate Chavit Singson, whose bright campaign banners are everywhere in his blighted terminal. In a just world, every single passenger inconvenienced by his inept bus company would teach him a lesson by not voting for him. But I'm not holding my breath on that.
We ended up riding an ordinary Farinas bus that took 16 excruciating hours to deliver us to Laoag. Thank God Ilocos proved to be worth the torture we went through, but that's for a future post. For now, let these pictures do the talking.