Manila is a mess. It’s a poetic thing to say in a literature or creative writing class, but not so much when you’re stewing in traffic on Padre Faura at 245pm when you should have been in the lobby of the Supreme Court for a class field trip at 155pm.
At 115pm I was in a taxi on Katipunan, on the way to the LRT station. At 125pm I was on the platform. While waiting for the train I called my classmate Elle to confirm the instructions I’d received earlier (train to Recto, transfer to Line One, train to UN Avenue). She handed the phone over to Angge, who told me I should have taken the MRT to save time. The taxi driver had told me the same thing, but we were already more than halfway to the Katipunan station and I wasn’t about to tell him to go to Quezon Avenue instead.
Angge said I could get off at the Cubao station and board the MRT from there. When I got to the MRT there was a hellish line to get tickets—I’ve never seen a working MRT ticket machine in my life, and apparently they don’t sell stored-value tickets—and I decided I might as well fall in, seeing as how I was already there.
While I was in line, a woman came up to my left and walked alongside me as the queue progressed, apparently trying to cut in front of me. I’m generally nice, but I have little tolerance for people who cut lines. I don’t care if you’re in a hurry or are running late for something. Unless you need immediate medical attention, the back of the line’s that way.
So anyway, this woman, she was walking alongside me, and we started to play this silent queue game. I started to position my body to block any attempts she might make to step in front of me. She must have noticed, but she tried hard to stay nonchalant about the whole thing, keeping her gaze squarely on the ticket counter, pretending to crane her neck worriedly and wiping her neck with a piece of tissue. In the end, though, I got to buy my ticket to Taft before she did. Victory.
Or so I thought. The MRT is almost always very crowded, and I had to squeeze in and stand all the way from Cubao to Taft. (It’s not as bad as Line 1, which requires passengers to inhale all manner of human stenches, but not as nice as Line 2, which, even during rush hour, is peaceful and roomy.) At Taft I flagged down a taxi and told the driver I needed to get to the Supreme Court.
“Sa Padre Faura ‘yun, diba?” he asked.
A tentative “opo” was all I could manage, because back in Diliman I only have to know which color goes where to know I won’t get lost. On Roxas Boulevard the driver confirmed directions with me, and I, finally surrendering to my geographical ineptitude, consulted Google Maps.
Google Maps, by the way, for all its amazing features, wasn’t able to give me driving, transit or pedestrian directions from Roxas Boulevard to the Supreme Court. It was able to tell me that the Supreme Court was indeed on Padre Faura, though. “Oo nga po, sa Faura nga po,” I told the driver confidently.
The next thing I know we’re in Robinson’s Manila, waiting to turn left onto a one-way street when I had a really strong hunch the gate I was looking for was the other way. But because I really can’t find my way around Manila, I trusted my driver.
Just two corners later we were stuck in traffic again, this time on the street fronting the Philam Life building. By this time the taxi meter was at P110, and my now-agitated driver said he would turn right to UN Avenue, but go no further. It must have been around 240pm by then, and I was running out of options, so I paid him and walked out of the taxi and into the clogged street. I remember thinking, “This is so like those Hollywood movies where the protagonist is running late and the window of opportunity he’s been waiting for the entire movie is about to close.”
So, not long after that, I went all the way with the Hollywood metaphor and broke into a sprint. I presented my ID to the guards at the first Supreme Court gate I saw. They told me I should go to the other gate. I said “okay” and continued my sprint, but, after seeing that I was now running along the fence of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences, went back to clarify that we hadn’t misunderstood each other. We hadn’t indeed, and I ran again. Past the UP Manila fence I finally saw the Supreme Court building, presented my ID to the partly confused dude at the guardhouse—he looked like an intern to me—who waved me off without fussing.
At 255pm I was in one of the smaller courtrooms in the building (the ones where division hearings are held), panting and perspiring, my ass sweat staining the upholstered pews of the highest court in the country.
Gawd, I hate Manila.