(Looking back, 2012 was one crazy adventure for this ‘nene’ that helped me find inner peace even more. And, oh, here in Turkey now, I still look like one to everyone though i’m in my late 30s.)
Nene. That’s the Filipino term for small girl. And sometimes, it is even shortened to ‘ne. Personally, it is a term I have learned to live with as a commuter, because often, it is what jeepney, bus or cab drivers (and conductors) would use to refer to me—imagine, a 31-year-old nene! :-s
Admittedly, on some days (when my faith is low and life’s challenges are getting to me), it can be quite annoying—don’t they know how much time it took me to dress up like a “Miss”?!, my evil-commanding soul would tell me, harhar! But thankfully, I never really found the need to actually correct them. Interestingly and more often, being a nene in their eyes has also led me to great reflections on this on-going journey, Alhamdulillah…
Rainy ride home
When I lost all my valuables at a peace event in Manila last summer, I was so emotionally vulnerable and penniless that my brother and sis-in-law agreed that I should just get a cab to take me all the way to their place in Cavite. Of all the cab drivers I would meet, however, it just had to be one past 60 years old who’s had passengers who actually took off without paying him once they got to their respective destinations. And, it didn’t help that he also had bad impressions of Muslim communities.
I thought he’d stop asking questions when I told him he could just drop me off at Waltermart (so no worries on his part of being ‘in danger’ in a Muslim community). But, it got to a point when I just had to tell him my unfortunate experience to make him understand why it would be my brother who’d pay when we arrive in Cavite. Then, of all the most unexpected things that could happen, he went into his ‘father’ mode and started to reprimand me! “O ayan, leksyon ‘yan sa’yo. Magtatanda ka na n’yan. Naku, ‘ne, masyado ka kasing magtiwala sa tao. Delikado ang mundong ‘to, hindi ka dapat nagtitiwala.” (That’s a lesson for you. You trust people too much. The world is a dangerous place, you shouldn’t trust people.)
It makes me laugh now when I recall how I started to cry like a kid when he did that and how I started to explain things to him so he’d understand. The frustrating way I lost my valuables, the fact that he just gave me a glimpse of how my protective parents could probably react, my mind stubbornly telling myself it’s still okay to trust, and the rain—perfect combination indeed to get me sobbing…which finally got manong Roger to empathize. “Ne, wag ka ng umiyak. May mga tao lang talagang ganun siguro…” (Stop crying. Maybe some people are just really like that.)
It got really better. He started sharing his happy experiences with other passengers and his happy encounters with Muslims in Mindanao when he was still in the military service. I smiled when he finally said people can really vary—some good, some bad. So I guess it’s his way of telling me the world isn’t really that bad, right?
Manong Roger even volunteered that I use his mobile phone so I can tell my brother we were still on the road and we’d be arriving past 7pm given the heavy rain. I even ended up reading some of his messages for him, which were from his son. Oh, yeah, it turned out he has a daughter, too, and when he finally learned how old I was, he apologetically told me he thought I was just around her age. So now we know why he got into his ‘father’ mode back there!
Thankfully, we finally got to Waltermart where my brother waited for us. Mang Roger drove us to my brother’s place and kuya did pay the fare. It wasn’t raining that hard anymore when we finally arrived. Alhamdulillah. 🙂
A nene is also often viewed as a student. So it sounds a bit funny for some passengers to hear me at times say, “Bayad po, hindi estudyante.” But one fun ride home with two soul sisters, we realized there wasn’t really any rule that bus conductors could only ask one question (their “saan?” or where?). After one of us said “estudyante”, this particular conductor automatically computed fare for three students. Hence, I had to tell him I wasn’t a student.
“Bakit hindi ka estudyante?” (why are you not a student?)
All three of us were caught off guard. Here was someone who broke the routine! Philosophically, maybe I should have said “I am a student but not a student”—but maybe that would’ve confused him. After all, I think he wasn’t really thinking of a student of life, but a student in our society’s educational system.
It took me a few seconds before I ended up saying I stopped already. Maybe it wasn’t the best answer for I believe he misunderstood it and probably pitied me. After giving my friends their student discount, he also decided to give me at least a Php5.00 discount, which I said was not needed but he insisted while moving away. Hence, I couldn’t help but just joke, “Ano ‘to? Pang-senior citizen?” before thanking him. :-))
Interesting, don’t you think? An act of charity right there…when I least expected it…when it was not even required. It was a priceless five-peso surprise that reminded me how we can break free from our mechanical lives and do more than what is typically expected of us in a society of faceless people. InshaALLAH.
Patience, little one
This one was a nene passenger experience I will not forget…perhaps, due to the timing back then.
Some JAM Bus Liner drivers and conductors knew that for a time, I took the bus to go to DLSU. One night, I was so sleepy after an event that instead of waiting for another bus at the terminal, I decided to just sit on the aisle near the driver (they had cushions for those situations, so don’t worry). I didn’t know he remembered me until he just suddenly asked,
“Nene, tapos ka na ba?” (Have you finished [studying]?)
I grinned and admitted, “hindi pa po eh.”
“Aba, tapusin mo na ‘yan! Sayang mga araw mo.” (Finish it! Your days are getting wasted.)
I smiled—was it a broken one? I honestly can’t remember. Did he mistake me for an undergrad? I honestly don’t know. All I know was that ride was during a particularly challenging year for me. I ended up saying, “Ang hirap pong pagsabayin eh…pagod na rin sa trabaho.” (It’s difficult to do things simultaneously…also tired from work.”)
He gave me a second look before pausing for awhile. Then he said, “makakaraos din…tiyaga lang yan, ‘ne.” (You’ll make it…it just takes patience.)
I didn’t answer, but we did smile at each other and that was one of the most peaceful rides home I’ve ever had. Was he a working student once? I don’t really know. But, he did remind me that we don’t really have to know another person’s name or be friends with a person for a long time to be able to offer kind words. Alhamdulillah for everything.
“Verily, along with every hardship is relief.” (Holy Qur’an 94:6)
The passenger seat. Alhamdulillah for getting to be in one often for such opportunities have always provided great learning and re-learning experiences. Being in one also reminds us that we actually do have the capacity to trust—trust like a small girl or boy…trust that life’s a great ride…trust that the driver will get us to where we need to be. Wait, let me correct that…I should not have used often:
The passenger seat. Alhamdulillah for getting to be in one every day, every hour, every moment of our lives, with HIM as The Driver. May we be able to trust The Driver and allow HIM to take us to where there is eternal happiness, love, and peace. Ameen.