Ang “barker” ay taga-tawag ng mga pasahero at taga-sigaw ng destinasyon ng sasakyang pampubliko tulad ng bus, jeepney o van. Siya rin ang namamahala sa maayos na pag-upo ng mga pasahero. Kung minsan, ang tawag sa kanya ay “dispatcher”, subalit iba sa talagang “dispatcher” sa istasyon ng bus na konektado sa kumpanya. Kung nakapila ang mga jeep o van na itinatawag ng “barker”, siya rin ang taga-kolekta ng pamasahe at kapag inabot na niya sa driver ang nalikom na pera, ay saka pa lang siya aabutan ng bayad sa kanyang serbisyo. Ang bayad naman sa “barker” ay hindi pare-pareho, depende sa dami ng pumipilang sasakyan at lugar ng pilahan. Mayroong inaabutan ng Php20.00 at ang pinakamalaki ay Php30.00.
Ang mga nakapila sa Liwasang Bonifacio ay mga aircon van na biyaheng Sucat (Paraἧaque) at Alabang (Muntinglupa). Ang pilahang ito ay hawak ni Imelda Torres, 65 na taong gulang. Taong 1972 pa lamang ay nagtatawag na siya dito….panahon ng Martial Law sa ilalim ni Ferdinand Marcos. Nang panahong yon, ang sabi niya, napakaganda ng Manila Metropolitan Theater na tanaw lamang kung saan kami nakaupo. Ngayon, ang paligid nito ay mapanghi dahil ginawang ihian at ang mga dingding na natuklapan na ng pintura ay sinalaula ng mga istambay sa pamamagitan ng pag-spray paint ng pangalan ng gang nila.
Ligtas daw noon ang pamamasyal sa paligid ng liwasan dahil palaging may umaaligid na mga pulis kahit sa gabi. Kahit abutin siya ng dis-oras ng gabi sa pagtatawag, hindi siya natatakot sa paglakad pauwi sa tinitirhan niya sa kalapit lang na Intramuros. Ang kinikita niya ang ikinabuhay niya sa apat niyang anak noong maliliit pa sila. Ngayon, ang isa ay nasa Japan na. Ang iba pa niyang mga anak ay may mga sarili nang pamilya.
Pinakamalinis na kita ni Aling Imelda ay Php200 isang araw. Napapagkasya niya ang halagang ito sa kanyang mga pangangailangan sa araw-araw. Hindi na siya nagluluto dahil mag-isa lang naman siya at sa maghapon ay nasa liwasan siya, kung saan ay maraming karinderya na mura lang ang panindang mga pagkain. Ang tanging luho niya sa katawan ay ang minsanang manicure at pedicure, at ilang alahas na pilak sa mga daliri at braso.
Sa gulang niyang 65, wala nang mahihiling pa si Aling Imelda na kailangang gastusan ng malaking halaga. Masaya siya dahil ang mga anak at apo niya ay nakakakain sa tamang oras, hindi nga lang maluho ang mga pagkain. Ang kalaban lang niya ay ang paminsan-minsang dumadapong sakit tulad ng sipon at lagnat. Ganoon pa man, kahit halos namamalat na siya dahil sa biglang pagkakaroon ng lagnat o sipon ay hindi pa rin siya tumitigil sa pagtawag, tulad nang umagang nag-usap kami. Sayang din nga naman ang kikitain niya kung palalampasin niya.
Mabuti na lang at pumayag siyang kunan ko ng litrato, pero tinapat ko siya na igagawa ko siya ng kuwento at ilalagay ko sa internet. Natawa siya nang sabihin kong baka mabasa ng anak niya sa Japan ang isusulat ko tungkol sa kanya.
Nang iwanan ko siya upang ituloy ang paglakad papunta sa Avenida (Sta. Cruz), narinig ko uli ang boses niya na tumatawag ng mga pasahero. Habang naglalakad ako, naalala ko ang nanay namin na nagtatawag ng mga mamimili upang lumapit sa mga inilatag niyang ukay-ukay tuwing araw ng tiyangge sa bayan namin, noong maliit pa ako….
Around seven in the morning of July 26, I was on my way to Divisoria, on a jeepney that plied the Mabini Street of Ermita. At the corner of Salas St., two young Koreans hailed the jeepney and showing the photo on their cellphone to the driver, asked if he was passing by the said landmark. The driver inaudibly replied which was of course, not understood by the tourists. At this point, I asked them if it was alright for me to see the landmark on their cellphone which I found to be the bastion of Intramuros, after which I gave them directions.
A young pretty lady across from where I sat, volunteered that she was on her way to Intramuros and offered to guide the couple. She told me that she was a student of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) and that she had enough time to drop the two tourists where they wanted to start their walking tour. As I was impressed by her attitude which was another inspiring act, my favorite subject for blogs, I ventured if it was okey for me to write something about her, giving my “credential” in the process. Also I asked her to share with me what would transpire in the course of her angelic gesture. As the three hastily alighted for a connecting ride, all I got from the young lady was her name, “Kimberly”. I thought she would forget all about me until I checked my facebook the following day for any message from her which I fortunately got. With it she sent a “friend request” which I immediately confirmed.
She was Kimberly Bautista Rosel. In her message, she shared that she brought the young tourists to the landmark where they wanted to start their walking tour. Not long afterwards, pedicab drivers approached them to offer their service of a quick tour of the Walled City but were declined with her help, as the tourists knew only a sprinkling of English. After giving more information, she left them and hastily proceeded to her class. She shared that they were wondering why I was nice to them on the jeepney to which she explained the Filipino trait of volunteerism.
At sixteen, Kimberly impressed me as having a strong personality. During our short exchange of pleasantries on the jeepney, and while talking to the tourists, she spoke with confidence and in a very good English without a ‘trying hard” twang, for which many teens are apt to do today. I was not surprised as I found later that her mother is a teacher. She also unabashedly confided that her father is a driver in a school in Pasay City. Her family hails from Nasugbu, Batangas. When I checked the photos on her facebook, I found images of a happy family.
Kimberly is the epitome of the Filipino hospitality, on which hinges the effort of the country in upholding its lure in the face of the cutthroat competition in the tourism industry. Hopefully, the two Korean tourists will tell their friends back home about their experience, that indeed, the Philippines is really a safe place where one can enjoy the sights and goodwill of the people. I firmly believe that “word of mouth” is more effective than the printed advertisements, as the former is a reliable first-hand account.
Kimberley more than advertised the country with her act. If I may add, she is also pretty, a typical dusky Filipina. How I wish there are thousands more of her kind that tourists will find along their way around the country.
The Metropolitan Theater of Manila
…a showcase of grave neglect
By Apolinario Villalobos
The Metropolitan Theater of Manila has stood for decades as the symbol of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Even during the Japanese occupation, it persisted in operating, and was even used as a front for the underground movement that raised funds for the prisoners of war. During the time of Ferdinand Marcos, it was rehabilitated, and once more, became the venue of classic stage plays and operas, along with the newly-built Cultural Center of the Philippines. Unfortunately, when he was deposed, administrations that took over, utterly neglected the important cultural edifice.
Today, the theater is in such a forlorn state – dilapidated, with tiles peeling off, gardens left to the mercy of grasses, the galleries and lounges thick with dust, and walls feasted on by termites.
Ironically, just behind the theater is the Universidad de Manila that can possibly use it as an auditorium for their social activities. A few steps from the university is the Manila City Hall. And, still a few steps away is a mini-park that used to be called Mehan Garden, now full of overnight staying vagrants. A little further away is the National Museum. Across the street, on the other side of Taft Avenue is the Intramuros, while the famous Post Office, another important landmark of Manila stands, with its imposing fountain.
How can the city government of Manila and the Department of Tourist neglect such cornucopia of historic and touristic landmarks with its own cultural centerpiece, the Metropolitan Theater? How can they miss the stinking and deteriorating Metropolitan Theater that has become a sore thumb at the heart of the city? How can the city officials look far and beyond what needs immediate rehabilitation? The city officials talk about the eternal traffic which has no remedy in sight, as a publicity stunt. They talk about sanitation when just around the City Hall, corners stink with urine and human waste. The cluster of landmarks that should serve as the centerpiece of the city’s touristic showcase, and which is just a few steps from the City Mayor’s office is left to the mercy of negligence.
As an unsolicited suggestion, why not turnover the Metropolitan Theater to the Universidad de Manila for their administration and make it self-liquidating? Part of the rehab program could be the re-opening its office spaces to generate revenue. Schools can be encouraged to make use of the theater for their stage plays and other scholastic activities at minimal cost. Even assistance from international NGOs that advocate culture-related projects can be sought.
Unless something is done for the Metropolitan Theater of Manila, the unthinkable negligence can add up to the mounting culpabilities of both the Manila city government and the Department of Tourism.