We took our only ride in Baguio, a city known as the summer palace of the Philippines. The jeepneys are the most popular public transportation in the Philippines, because they are cheap.
A blue jeepney was standing in the traffic jam. We climbed in from the back, as our hosts instructed us to do.
It was low and dim inside. We hunched our backs and looked for seats. We sat down on the benches among the locals.
To the market? Sixteen pesos for two.
Trucks, cars, jeepneys, motorcycles came from all direction, knotting the traffic into a complete chaos at the intersection. But it moved forward, somehow.
The driver counted our coins, put them in an open plastic tray on the dashboard, gave us the change, all the while maneuvering the vehicle. It jerked forward, missing other cars by inches many times. The fume from the exhaust came in from the open back door like a white fog.
We didn’t know how to get back from the market. No taxi stopped for us. We asked several jeepney drivers. They shook their heads, they were not going to the Hotel Supreme.
We went to a small shop and asked for help. A woman customer said, “Follow me!” We hurried behind her to a plaza with gravel surface.
A yellow jeepney came. A crowd swarmed toward its open door. “Get on this one!” The woman disappeared among them. We tried to follow her but only managed to climb into the vehicle as the very last two passengers.
It was full. The woman patted on her knees, “Sit on me.” She waved. My friend hesitated but there was no way for the petit her to stand straight. She sat on her, her hands held onto the railing, trying to lift some weight off her stranger friend. I squatted on the floor between the benches, shoulders touching others’ legs. I was grateful to the man next to me who had a sack of grain on which I knelt my left knee uninvited.
The woman who took us with her called out to the jeepney driver. He pulled over to the curb. We thanked her and apologized as we knocked our way through the many knees, plastic bags, and sacks.
The magnificent hotel stood in the evening light, brightly lit than anything around it.
I have not thought about haves and have-nots for a long time. It was in that moment, I felt ashamed about having come here to talk about budget cuts.