Wednesday, August 14, 2013

SCARY RIDE INSIDE A MINI-BUS

I DO NOT LIKE to ride in mini-buses. For many reasons. These are notorious for extremely tight seat spaces, meth-laced drivers, overspeeding and collisions. Lots and lots of collisions and quite nasty! I could be too general but, hey, this is the Philippines. Impressions always come true.

As much as possible, I will ignore riding a mini-bus even with the prodding of a friend. Just like today, July 21, 2013, I let two mini-buses pass by while I and my friends were waiting infront of the San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish in Pardo, Cebu City on the early morning. I don’t mind missing a few minutes just as long as I am cozy and so I opt for the Ceres Bus instead which have wide bodies and comfortable seats. We were then going to Carcar for a visit.

Mini-buses, my dear Virginia, are actually Public Utility Jitney (PUJ) on steroids. These are not considered a bus by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). These look like regular buses but do not be misled. These have designated route numbers which are painted on their front, back and sides which the whole of Cebu is adapting since 1978 and that is a dead give-away that these really are PUJs.

Route numbering improves the public transport system and prevents PUJs to operate beyond their designated routes and for “trip-cutting” as these will be identified outright by traffic policemen and its auxiliaries. Also, it gives convenience to commuters with poor eyesight as they have only to read the numbers instead of the full Monty. Below are the common and most used route numbers and their respective routes:

CEBU CITY AND SUBURBS

      01 – Pier Area to Urgello-Private and vice versa
      03 – Downtown to Mabolo and vice versa
      04 – Downtown to Lahug and vice versa
      06 – Downtown to Guadalupe and vice versa
      07 – Downtown to Banawa-Englis and vice versa
      08 – Downtown to Tagunol and vice versa
      09 – Downtown to Basak and vice versa
      10 – Downtown to Pardo-Bulacao and vice versa
      11 – Downtown to Inayawan and vice versa
      12 – Downtown to Labangon-Tisa and vice vera
      13 – Downtown to Talamban and vice versa

CEBU CITY AND NEIGHBORING CITIES AND TOWNS

      20 – Cebu to Mandaue and vice versa
      21 – Cebu to Mandaue-Estancia and vice versa
      22 – Cebu to Mandaue-Ouano and vice versa
      23 – Cebu to Mactan Island and vice versa
      24 – Cebu to Consolacion and vice versa
      25 – Cebu to Liloan and vice versa
      26 – Cebu to Compostela and vice versa
      27 – Cebu to Danao and vice versa
      28 – Cebu to Carmen and vice versa
      41 – Cebu to Talisay and vice versa
      42 – Cebu to Talisay-Tabunok and vice versa
      43 – Cebu to Minglanilla and vice versa
      44 – Cebu to Naga and vice versa
      45 – Cebu to San Fernando and vice versa
      46 – Cebu to Carcar and vice versa
      47 – Cebu to Sibonga and vice versa

I was able to ride one at around 7:15 PM when I thought it was a yellow Ceres Bus since it is also yellow. It was dark and quite late already if you are in the countryside. I just stepped into a mini-bus and I could not believe it and I grudgingly take an empty seat behind the driver. Mini-bus construction and seat arrangements follow the blueprint of a standard bus and that is where space congestion, uncomfortable seating and great inconvenience of a commuter starts.

Although I have the seat to myself, my legs do not fit in to that very narrow leg space. I sat with my back propped to the open window with my spine painfully pressed against the bottom part. While all were facing to the front, I was facing sideways to my right and, somehow, I know I need to transfer to another seat or someone else will do that for me when the mini-bus starts filling up with people. The conductor did.

I sat on the front seat, which someone shared for me, right across Mr. Driver. Then it rained. The water poured outside of the windshield and I have never seen water so thick streaming down hard as if we are just parking. Mind you, the mini-bus was running and the water should have parted or have streamed away by the dynamics of a moving body of solid mass. But it did not. Credit this to an imperfect design as it is a locally-assembled vehicle or just an improvement from an original surplus.

From my side, it was zero visibility but, thank God, the driver’s side has a functioning wiper. When we got past of Carcar the rain stopped and then the driver took control of the highway. The road in the province is dark and a lot of motorcycles use the road. I could barely distinguish a motorcycle’s presence except for that small red glow on their tail which really is a dot from where I sat. I also drive a motorcycle and I shivered at what I saw.

Then Mr. Driver started using the horn. It seemed like the horn was erroneously placed as the sound seemed to be directed to the insides of the bus instead of the outside which, by the proximate location of my seat, was annoyingly loud! Mr. Driver then begins to press hard on the accelerator and he honked here and honked there and seemed intent to shoo away his road competitors for space.

Everytime he is behind a motorcycle, a tricycle, a bus or any vehicle, he honk and honk and honk until it will give him space. Those that do not, he overtake to the left or to the right, never minding the tight squeeze he is in with his horn blasting all the time. The mini-bus travel so fast on the dark highway and I begin to look for a seat belt which I do not found. The windshield is wide and I fear that when he applies a brake or collide with another, it would hurtle me forward past the glass and open space so I wedge a foot infront of the bus console to prevent myself from being thrown if he has to brake hard.

Mr. Driver almost hit a lady on a motorcycle while doing his zigzag pattern and I stared at him for so long intending to bark a complaint but I withheld it at the last second. I stared at the road and the vehicles and back at him a lot of times to get his attention out of the corner of his eye but Mr. Driver either ignored me or maybe high on amps. One time, with his noisy horn, he almost hit a parked pedal-powered cart and I could see the facial features of the owner turn to white even in dim conditions.

When it approached Tabunok, I thought he would slow down, but he kept on speeding and honking up the flyover and down towards Bulacao then Cebu City. Since it was a Sunday, there were no traffic people manning the streets. The mini-bus swerve left and right and, once, cross an intersection at Tres de Abril Street, disregarding the red light which already blinked when the mini-bus was some 50 meters away yet.

The mini-bus ply the Cebu City-Sibonga route and its route number is 47. I tried to photograph the driver surreptitiously without a flash but the image is dim so I alighted when it arrive at the Cebu South Bus Terminal and use a flash on the back of the mini-bus where the plate number is and on the side where the route and route number are painted. Here it is:


I hope the owner of this mini-bus take action on their very very reckless driver and apply for a regular bus franchise instead and get rid of their mini-bus (and those ill-disciplined drivers) as it is not a very safe public transport and does not conform to safety and comfort standards. I hope the LTFRB make good of their boast to disenfranchise all buses and mini-buses that are made in the year 2007 and below.

I hope also that the LTFRB and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) would happen to read this article and take action. This mini-bus or PUJ bears a plate number GXR-964 with a Cebu City to Sibonga and vice versa route. This writer’s scary ride driven by this very very reckless driver occur on July 21, 2013, Sunday, between the time of around 7:15 PM and 8:00 PM, more or less.

I do not like to ride a mini-bus and I was forced to take one out of circumstances beyond my control. If I knew it was a mini-bus, I would have persevered and waited for a regular bus. How many lives have been wasted caused by mini-buses? The vehicle could not have been possible for past road accidents as there is a driver steering it. True. But the tightness of the spaces inside the mini-bus and its lack of safety standards aggravated these incidents and I do not want to be a part of that. I take my chance instead to sidestep riding in one or evading them if I happen to use the same road they are using. Travel smartly.


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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