Corruption inside bus No. 2075
Inside the crowded air-conditioned bus from Davao, the faces of the passengers looked weary and their eyes looked tired. At least 15 new passengers embarked from the busy, old Valencia City terminal.
For a moment the vehicle looked like a wet public market, and then sounded like one.
The passengers settled in the vacant seats at the rear end of the bus, and then almost simultaneously released sighs of relief.
It was probably the last air-con bus to leave for Cagayan de Oro before dinner.
It was not quite relieving, however, for others who have to stand as all seats were taken. Some others were left waiting eternally at the messy terminal.
Shortly after, the bus rolled off.
Still tired, most of the passengers were silent for a moment, and another.
At the front portion of the bus, the conductor, a stocky middle-aged man with a rounded face, called on the passengers bound for Cagayan de Oro for tickets.
“Kinsa pa’y wala’y ticket diri?” he asked a column of “standing” passengers.
The rest were kept wondering why the special mention on Cagayan de Oro passengers.
“Libre ba ang taman ra sa Malaybalay?” asked one of the young women commuters, one of those who were standing.
“Hulat ra gud diha, basin naa nay purpose,” her companion said.
“Ang ubang konduktor ganiron baya gyod ang pagpangutana,” she said.
“Lahi siguro ni siya, LRG, lahi ra gyod,” her companion replied.
The bus conductor skipped some of the passengers and attended to the issuance of tickets to those bound for Cagayan de Oro.
Then he announced that fare between Malaybalay and Valencia cities is P45. “If SP (student privilege) P35 ra,” he said. No body asked. He also did not issue tickets yet, to the surprise of the passengers.
“Unsa ba kaha iyang plano ani. Basin dili siya mo ticket kay aron ma iya na ang atong plete,” the lady who spoke earlier told her companion. Her companion just shrugged her shoulders.
“Pssst. Ayaw mo’g saba basin makadungog siya,” joked a man who was also standing five feet away from them.
By this time, the bus has sped off, dropped by for a few minutes at the new Valencia terminal, then rushed off north to Malaybalay.
The passengers have barely warmed their seats when talking got louder and more familiar.
“Na niadto gyod mi sa Impasug-ong pero wa mi kasapon kang Angel ug kang Piolo!” blurted a middle-aged woman.
“Naa pa ba diay sila nga tua naman kaha sila sa Australia nag shooting!” her male friend said.
“Naa pa ui, moadto gani daw sila sa Monastery (of Transfiguration) ugma o gahapon ba to! Sayang lagi uy!” she said.
“Da, baho ra man gihapon na silag tae,” the man said, poking fun at the expense of the celebrities.
And even the conductor has found a friend. He was talking to a lady passenger about the name of the driver, about him mistaking her for her sister, where she is coming down, when is his day-off, about the life of the bus drivers and conductors, and about many things.
They talked about many things except about the lady’s fare, and about the tickets and fare of the other passengers.
Passengers continued to chatter in different volumes as the bus sped off in the rainy evening along the slippery portion of the Sayre Highway.
The conductor was engrossed in his conversation with his new found friend asking her to stay in the front portion of the bus to see the landmark of her destination.
But at one point the conductor offered a piece of information that caught the attention of the rest of the passengers.
“Ako minyo baya ko,” he said. “Mao ba. Aw lagi, ingon nimo,” the lady replied, trying to fix a fake smile.
Then without segue the conductor told another passenger his fare is P35. The man, who knew the fare was P45, did not complain. He paid.
As the bus stopped for seconds in Aglayan, the lady the conductor was talking to moved closer to the front.
The conductor continued talking to her despite the gestures of some of the passengers for them to get their tickets and despite the revelation of his marital status.
“Ginatuyo siguro na niya kay aron dili na siya moticket pero maningil siya nato,” one of the passengers whispered to his seatmate.
“Mo lang. Mao gyod na siguro iyang diskarte,” his seatmate replied.
As the bus approached San Jose village, six kilometers from Malaybalay’s bus terminal, a passenger asked the driver to step on the brake.
As soon as he stepped down the bus, an older bus officer stepped aboard. “The bus inspector!” somebody from behind exclaimed.
Then he started counting the passengers.
The surprised conductor rushed in issuing the tickets to the passengers, all looking at him with ridicule.
“Hmmmm. Dakop ka na,” a passenger whispered to himself in a scornful way.
Then he started collecting. One passenger complained why the conductor said the fare is only P35 fare and yet the conductor returned only P55 change for his P100 bill. “And where’s the ticket?” he asked.
“I told you I will pay full, just give me my ticket,” he told the conductor.
While the conductor was looking for answers, the inspector called his attention that one of the passengers is unaccounted for.
The conductor scratched his head and returned his gaze to the passenger.
“Here is your ticket. It only shows fare for P35, but I took P45 because that’s the real fare,” he said.
“Ha?” the passenger replied in disgust.
“Nia, tunga nalang ta,” he said as he handed the passenger with a P5-coin.
The passenger looked shocked, hesitated at first but then nodded to the man.
As the other passengers paid for their fare, they also glanced at the passenger and lent sympathetic glances.
“That’s why he did not issue tickets earlier. That’s because he was hoping no inspector would climb up the vehicle,” the lady passenger who spoke earlier told her companion.
“Giingnan ta lagi ka nga lahi ra gyod siya, LRG, lahi ra gyod siya,” her companion said.
And the passengers buzzzzzzzed about it until the conductor walked towards the bus entrance.
And then the bus stopped. “Oh ang mga Malaybalay diha, naa na ta!” he shouted.
Once again, the bus was busy with sound and sight of passengers coming down and stepping aboard.
The conductor then took a stick of cigarette from a pocket, and puffed in a dark corner.
Perhaps, in another chance and in another batch of passengers. He must have really thought about that.