What I wrote on the bus (while Fran was asleep)

What follows were originally written this morning, on the bus going to Malolos, Bulacan, and this afternoon, on the bus back to Manila, as part of our field trip to meet and immerse with community journalists for journalism practices class.

Thirty-seven past seven in the morning. Mae and Arlene have fun inside the bus. I take the photos, as usual.

Twenty-five past seven in the morning.

Turn left. Fran's getting shut-eye in one of the middle seats, and I'm in the company of U2 once again. We left forty-five minutes behind schedule - Drea came last and was short of apologizing profusely. Then Burton came asking for alcohol. Why Misha needed it, I don't know. Fran opens her eyes and smiles.

On our way to Bulacan today. Malolos, actually. We're talking to community journalists and try to find out the differences. Then again, the rest of the class went here for the trips. I don't really know if they're in it for the lessons. I assume no. I shouldn't assume.

Turn back. Jackie's getting shut-eye, and I'm drafting this in the back of my handouts, inside a moving bus. Already in Nagtahan, with a shaky bus and my headphones on. Sort of isolationist, really. Beside me is my usual school bag. Beside it, the aisle. It's a chair. There's Fran. She's sleeping again.

Insert the Magic Numbers.

Fifty-three past seven in the morning. The LC18 folks somehow still retain their own world. You'd see the separation. That's Gaille asking for a certain 90s song to whoever's in the back, possibly their own.

Forty-two past seven in the morning.

It never hit me - the world, at least. The barangay elections are in less than two weeks. Yesterday Glorietta 2 was (most definitely) bombed. You'll never really know how close that strikes home.

Yesterday I got a text from Carlo about the "unfortunate incident", as it was later called. Moments later, Misha got giddy about it. Maybe, I thought, someone she knows is in there. After journalism class the GMA News website was projected on the wall, and everyone was reading the small text. Eight dead. This morning another one was added.

Apparently, on that day, she did know someone at Glorietta. Her relatives were unscathed, however. Probably they only heard the booming sound that fateful afternoon. Mara, Y2K said, was also there. And apparently, Yas was, too. Turn back - she's also sleeping, taking the entire seat, for Burton has moved to the front, same with Misha.

Thus, Fran took the entire seat and lied down.

Maybe a 06.00 call time is too early. We left late anyway. Drea did wake up late. She was thanking me after she came, for some reason. Now the folks in front are singing along, and Miss Bacalla is reading the newspaper. Or has fallen asleep as well.

A. Bonifacio is proving rocky for the bus and the blog. Maybe the NLT will fare better.

Fourteen past eight in the morning. It's Misha in the usual tourist fashion, with digital camera in hand.

One past eight in the morning.

Out of everyone in the bus, only four remain awake. The driver, obviously. I am, obviously. Burton and Misha are still up chatting.

I didn't realize Adrian was, too. Make it five.

I haven't been to Malolos in a long time. Last time I was there, it was a field trip during my elementary years, obviously for the Barasoain church. Now it's for more serious reasons, more so now that we're in college. I was still up at 22.00 reading up on Bulacan issues. All I got was crime and a couple of polluted rivers. The good thing with my phone's alarm is that I know how long I'll have to sleep. For this trip, I got four. And I'm still writing stuff.

Since we're not yet at "work", though, my idleness leads to crazy thoughts. For some reason the sense of mystique I've long had around Misha has come back, solely because she's still awake. I don't know. Past the Bocaue exit, she's carooned sideways to the bus corridor. The subtlest of movements, if you pay attention, do get you thinking.

Also I realized that there are only three male students on board this bus. Jed and Aaron aren't here - the former an approved absence, the latter because he's boarding at Magic. So many female journalism students. Sarah will surely hit me if I entertain that thought.

The bus has (ironically, for some reason) entered the Tabang exit. Almost there, I guess. And they are slowly waking up. Gaille, Drea, Mae - a lack of photographs, and a shakier bus. Then I realize we're on an NLT side road. Stll smooth. No toll gate until a kilometer later.

Misha takes a photo of everybody who's sleeping in her radius. We then pay the toll. Back to the Magic Numbers.

The halt wakes everyone up.

Eighteen minutes past three in the afternoon. The bus is almost empty - everybody else was at Eurobake. Arlene stays focused before dozing off minutes later.

Thirty-three past three in the afternoon.

Back on the NLT with stories and insights I've yet to write on. We're on the same seats, in the same road, with the same scenario. Turn left. Fran was sleeping. She's on the phone. Mine's been turned off.

The only difference is the rain. It has started to rain. Aside from that they're still taking photos of sleeping friends, and I'm still in the company of my bag, stuffed with four weeklies and what else has been there. And it seems I have sort of woken Fran up.

Exhaustion - or a mere want to get home, probably because we have unwittingly ruined the guests' hopes of a future in journalism for us - has dominated the place again. Everyone in front were their usual jolly selves, but afterwards they simultaneously doze off. How they reach a consensus, I don't know. It just happens. I somehow hope they left Malolos with more than stuff from Eurobake, but also insights we're supposed to get.

Now it's the folks at the back - Butch, Marielle and June - who are staying awake. Burton has his eye mask on, while Misha has finally used her jacket - it's Fran who did this morning - while her iPod is plugged in. Silent laughter from behind. You know it's there, especially when you're desperate for it.

As for me, well, I'm still writing. It's weird I was asking most of the questions earlier. Did I disappoint the guests? I hope not. Mine bordered more on the need to ask than the curiosity. I don't really like awkward silence, but it still exists for a reason.

We got past the Valenzuela exit and I can't wake Kim up.

Fifty past three in the afternoon. Everyone is asleep. Bea isn't.

Fifty-one past three in the afternoon.

Malolos is not so far from Manila. In fact, we're already here. My aptitude for roads has come useful again as the traffic slows down and the city sounds regenerate. They're waking up again. It hasn't been that long, right?

This is more of a transition period, I think. It's now when you get down wherever you find it convenient - it's in the choices. But most remain asleep, or at least quiet, as if they haven't done much during our stay at Casa Eden and beyond. I went to a dumpsite. They went to church. Some even stayed and got fed, without wishing for it.

I'm still writing this on the back of my verification handouts. But for the first time since writing on the bus, I get slightly dizzy. It's a surprise considering the rockiness of the road is not affecting anything - Saturday afternoon traffic. There's nothing else to explain.

As if the timing was planned, a barangay campaign sortie started beside us. Drums and giddy supporters shortly wake them up. Some remain constant, though, as if they're dreaming a happy dream.

Reanimation slowly comes, like Misha's hair getting slightly curled at the ends, like it has been when we left. The laughter becomes less silent, more prominent, but still disconnected in everyone who is either unreceptive or unresponsive.

Now I'm stooped on the other end of the two-seater, giving up my bag for pieces of paper that have so far contained my half-meant stories. I am also growing asleep, but I can't find a means to do so. I'm actually supposed to stay up. I love this melancholy nevertheless.

Misha offers me some chips. I surprisingly refuse.

Eleven past four in the afternoon. Thanks to my attempts to help the chocolate wafers Gaille was giving to Misha ended up on the floor.

Nine past four in the afternoon.

Caresse has managed to go through the aisle with three rows of sleeping people in it. Majoy gave way, Fran got irritated, and Arlene somehow sensed it. The funny thing is, Caresse tried to pass through the empty seat where my bag used to be. Obviously unsuccessful.

That is the purpose of the empty seat. Someone in front must utilize the chair's recliner, which is why Y2K is sleeping soundly and I'm not. But one has to learn to give way in order to make things work. Arlene is surprised Caresse got through - she claims she didn't wake up. Now she is, she wants to go to the restroom. Traffic disallows.

And now I'm ruthlessly thoughtless. Nothing's practically working anymore. I'm risking hitting someone's elbow but heck, I stay in my position. I'm sort of happy that way.

Misha saw that truck. That one with Nadia's face endorsing a call center. The model is asleep, though.

It's funny realizing I'm sort of talking to myself. My attempts to start a conversation end up blocked by headphones. But I don't always want melancholy. It seems I'm forcing my thoughts to paper. Whenever I speak they beg off in the middle. I'm used to it, though. It's like throwing up.

Now the rocky roads at Nagtahan affect my handwriting. I'm almost home, though. I don't have to force an involvement with anything because I fail anyway.

Now I want to sleep. I'm resisting it to give way for subtle smiles, though. They'll be forgotten real soon, and that's a good thing.

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