"Sila pa na binoto para ayusin ang problema ng bayan, sila pa ang nag-aaway-away!"

That was my taxi driver this afternoon - should I call him my taxi driver? But you get the idea. I was in his taxi. We were going to Greenbelt. I was deep in thought about his radio station choice - the so-called station for the new generation, if you're curious - when, unprompted, he started talking about politics. No personalities, no sides, just politics in general, which somewhat underlines this one thing about our politicians that's always swept under the rug: that, ultimately, they're all the same.

That was good news for me, because I did not have to contort my reply to some sort of common ground. Some of you know I can be so passionate - but I did not grab his cab to engage in a fiery political debate (or, essentially, a shouting match). I grabbed his cab so I can get from point A to point B.

"Ang gusto lang naman kasi natin, masolusyunan 'yung problema natin," I answered. "Kaya lang, sa dami ng problema natin, ang sinosolusyunan nila, 'yung problema nila."

I don't know if that makes sense now, but that made sense then.

He made a left turn. We were almost at my destination.

"Tapos nahihirapan pa kaming mga taxi driver," he continued. "Ang konti na nga lang ng kinikita namin, magtataas pa ang presyo ng gasolina."

I'm perhaps one of the few people in Manila who has not downloaded either Uber or Grab on my phone. I'm not necessarily saying I am above those people who have come to rely on those apps for getting around, and complaining when there's no other option. That's why I plan my trips, kids. I have to; I live far away. That said, I do get the complaints. I'm never going to be an apologist for taxi drivers, and there's clearly a reason why they're going through harder times. Was that reason going to be illustrated again this time? Maybe. Is this the "social engineering" thing those speakers at the yawn-inducing conference I just attended were talking about? Was he setting up the whole "can you give me more on top of my meter fare?" argument? If it's not about the rising prices of petroleum, it's about how far I live. I live in the so-called south, after all. I live beyond the so-called south. I am being punished for a decision my parents made when I was not yet three.

"Hindi naman masama 'yang tax reform na 'yan," I answered. "Hindi naman tayo lang ang gumagawa niyan. Pero, siyempre, ang tanong, pumupunta ba sa tama ang buwis?"

That really is the question, isn't it? I was always bothered by how the discussion around tax reform - five packages, the first one of which affects us directly - was being conducted. "You'll take home more of your pay!" is just one side. "We'll have more money to build, build, build!" is just one side. Yes, say what you want about some provisions being anti-poor because they'll pay more taxes when they're already exempt from personal income tax to begin with. But then, that's the whole "investment in the future" bit, right? But then, "trust this administration to get it right" is such a shallow argument considering everything else that's happening around it - unless, of course, you're an apologist, or a drone. But I did not go on about that. Again, I did not grab his cab to engage in a political debate. We were already having a nice conversation. And besides, I was already spacing out a bit, because there's the mall entrance, and I was going to get off, and pay him with a hundred-piso bill - apparently we should all call it "piso" now, and not "peso" - knowing I won't get change back. Social engineering.

But then, I get it. We're all hustling, so to speak, and we're all being punished for hustling. As I told my mother earlier, this economy favors only the rich. She wanted me to shut up.

I hailed his cab at Pasong Tamo, and I had to go to Greenbelt to take a P2P bus to Alabang so I can get home. I wish there was a better, more convenient route. Well, there is. Multiple jeepneys. I could've just gotten in one along the street, but then, transport routes in Manila are so hyperlocal I have to guess what they mean by "Kayamanan-C", and that wasn't even on the maps I consulted on my phone. (I have not downloaded Waze, either.) If you're a stranger to a particular place, good luck with getting around. You will have to rely on a cab to get you straight to your destination, because the jeeps are confusing, and the buses are far away, and the less said about the trains, the better.

There are plans to make this better, they say. They can do it in a short period of time, they say. Political will, they say. Instead, "sila pa na binoto para ayusin ang problema ng bayan, sila pa ang nag-aaway-away!"

And your responses...

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