Ever since I started working in Makati again I have taken to ride the EDSA MRT line almost every day. I live in Cubao near Camp Crame and my work since January of 2011 is in Magallanes. When I started riding the MRT to work, I would walk all the way from our house to the MRT Santolan-Annapolis station. I would then wait to squeeze into the MRT train. Sometimes I would have to skip several trains before I could finally push my way into a coach. After 7am, the situation is such that passing trains would normally be packed sardines-tight.
I would then endure the fifteen to twenty minutes or so ride to Magallanes station where I would alight. I would then walk all the way to Lapu-lapu Avenue in Magallanes where a shuttle from our office regularly plies every fifteen minutes.
Riding the MRT can be truly challenging but it beats having to drive a car in the morning. The few times that I bring a car to the office, it would normally take me more than an hour to brave the early morning rush hour traffic on EDSA.
It is interesting to note that people who seem to be regular MRT riders have adapted to the situations abounding in such rides. In spite of all the shoving and pushing and swaying back and forth amidst waves of bodies tightly squeezing against one another, people seem to be indifferent to the pains and seemingly unruly behavior of some. They seem to be resigned to weather it all.
In some stations, you have to brace yourself from the onslaught of incoming passengers like a battering ram barging down the castle gates. Not to mention the constant threat of pickpockets ever ready to take advantage of all the shuffling and turning of bodies from one side to the other in very close proximity.
One time I ventured what others refer to as a “round trip”. This refers to riding to a nearby end point even if it is opposite to your regular direction and staying on the coach as other passengers disembark so that you can have a seat and ride the MRT as if you started from that terminal station. Note that it makes sense only if you are already just a few stations away from a terminal station. For example, even if I’m north bound to Cubao from Magallanes on my way home, I can make a round trip by riding the south bound train to Taft Avenue which is just one station away from Magallanes. I will then stay on the coach that I rode in and wait for the passengers to disembark at Taft Avenue so that I can sit ahead of those that are waiting at the Taft Avenue terminal.
Fortunately that time, only a few people made the round trip and so there were many seats available after the passengers alighted. I was able to get a choice seat near the coach’s entrance. After a while the train was filled with people and all the seats were already taken and entering passengers already had to stand. When the train reached Ayala station, however, a lady with a baby entered and stood right in front of me. Pitying the baby, I stood up to offer my seat.
As a matter of habit, whenever I ride the MRT, I would shift my backpack from my back and place it in front of me. As I stood there in front of the lady with the baby, my backpack was right there in front of me and the baby was looking fascinated at my bag. After a while the baby started trying to reach my backpack. When the baby finally touched my bag, the lady pulled her back and said “No baby, that’s dirty.”
I guess you can imagine my consternation at the situation. After offering them my seat, the lady had the temerity to say that. Luckily I was not in a testy mood and just laughed the whole thing off.
Indeed there are times when one would realize that riding the MRT requires a lot of patience and good-naturedness so as not to be defeated by irritants that are always threatening your sense of calmness and peace.
It is quite frustrating to ride the train only to realize once you are inside that the air conditioner is not working. Especially during the summer months when it is very hot outside and you enter the train with sweat trickling down your back and you can’t even wipe your face because you are squeezed in tight that you can’t even move your hand to get your handkerchief out of your pocket. It’s good if this happens on the morning ride to work and people are still fresh from their morning bath. But for this to happen on the ride home, when people have already sweated all throughout the day and all sorts of odor comingle and assault your olfactory nerves, can be a grueling complication to the difficulty of the ride.
Equally frustrating is to have the air conditioner working but to have water condensation dripping from the ceiling. You can’t even move because you are wedged tight between tightly squeezed bodies so you just bear the water drops slowly drenching your clothes.
Recently I came up with a formula to help me keep my peace in spite of the many threats to it that abound in my MRT ride. I started praying the rosary going to the office and on my way home while riding the MRT. Once I get inside the train, I would start the rosary prayer running in my mind. Since the whole ride takes anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes on a regular, uneventful trip, I would be able to finish the rosary prayer, going through all five mysteries of a particular day, reciting five decades of Hail Marys and the accompanying Our Fathers and Glory Bes in between, plus all other rosary prayers altogether.
Praying the rosary on the MRT has its advantages. True to my definition of PEACE which is a P-rayerful E-xistence A-midst C-haotic E-nvironment, praying the rosary affords me a chance to tune out the hustle and bustle of the MRT ride and maintain an inner sense of peace in spite of all the chaos going on all around. It even helps me to pray for things that I need to work on during the day and to calm my anxieties on impending pressures that try to enter my mind.
Truly, my MRT ride has become a different kind of ride. MRT has now become for me “My Rosary Time”.