An attempt to make sense of things in a random universe, one Friday at a time.

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Location: Philippines

Leaving my footsteps for you to find and follow, my love.

07 January 2007


I like driving to Bicol. Fellow Bicolanos, however, avoid driving the almost-400-kilometer Bicol-Manila route as if it were the plague, and I might be the only Bicolano I know who actually takes pleasure in driving the eight-hour trip all by myself, and in utmost silence.

Driving from my parking slot outside my apartment building in Makati to my mother's garage in Naga City is part of my quiet thinking time, a time when I am not in front of my computer, or attacking a heap of drafts on my desk, or reading yet another book on warfare or literary theory, or on the phone with someone talking about possible directions to go for a post-graduate thesis, or running after yet another hard-to find book or file for a research, or all the other activities, conversations, routines, and general chaos that make up a writer's life. On these drives, I allow my thoughts to wander as far away as it can from thoughts of duty, and just concentrate on the drive and the changing landscape that I pass by. Like a ceremony in honor of my solitude, before the trip I take a shower, dress up in a tank top and sweat pants and jogging shoes, tie my hair into a bun, carry my two bags to the car, and then drive off, munching on Choc-Nut while patting my steering wheel and telling my car, Spooky, that she can do it. At the Petron Station along the South Luzon Expressway I gas up, check my tires and water and brake fluid, stock up on more chocolates, and then I'm off to a day-long leisure tour of the Maharlika Highway.

My drives are always uneventful. I have never yet been in an accident (knock on wood) and have not had a breakdown with my trusty 13 year-old Mazda along the Manila-Bicol route, save for the occasional running over of chickens, one dog, and a large rock. There are horror stories, of course, as a 400-kilometer stretch of Philippine road cannot be without its prey, but these involve other people. I have seen assorted trucks toppled over on their side, buses that have colided with other vehicles, cars that have rammed into roadside huts, jeepneys that have plunged into a clump of trees, and one unforgettable maroon utility vehicle overturned in the middle of the road, its windshield and windows in a shiny mass of tiny glass pebbles lying on the pavement around it. But as fate, or perhaps my own personal sense of timing, would have it, I always come upon them later, after the moment of impact, after the first draw of blood, after the victims have all been rescued.

My aunts are seriously convinced that I will meet my death this way, their concern directed not so much at a route fraught with danger but at the fact that I am a young woman driving alone at 120 kph, never mind that I have been driving for almost 14 years. My uncles, on the other hand, think it's cool, and one of them even rode with me once to Manila, sleeping soundly in his seat most of the way. (I suspect my own father used to worry until that uncle told him he had nothing to worry about, and as for my mother, she has pretty much let go of all worries about me ever since I turned thirty, bless her soul.) I have been taking these drives regularly for over two years, and my aunts have pretty much stopped trying to convince me to either take the overnight bus or ask for a male person to drive me, but I get the feeling that somehow they have not yet completely accepted the fact that a nice young woman properly brought up in Catholic schools and on fairy tales and ballet classes and voice and piano lessons and taught proper table manners would be so improper as to drive like a madwoman across six provinces all by herself in that old little car of hers that she hardly ever cleans. Dios mio! Perhaps the fault is partly mine, because I have never really tried to tell them why I actually do it. But as driving the Manila-Bicol route all by myself is my escape, so am I escaping any need for further justification, except to say that it is my escape. All other things, I face. This, I have let go of.

I choose my own dangers.


Blogger rmada said...

What courage. I know in this stretch of highway one could encounter some real nasty bus drivers along the way. I know becasuse I've taken this route many, many times to my wife's hometown of San Pablo.
Thanks though for another great post.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Never tried driving alone, mainly because I don't get the chance given the cost involved. So, my occasional trips to and from Manila necessarily brings other passengers with me -- most often my wife and some of the kids.

But I have yet to perfect driving by by lonesome while enjoying the scenery. The last time I did it -- right after Typhoon Yoyong, I think, caused tremendous damage a few years back -- a speeding PUJ grazed the backside of my Lancer, and I had to cough off a modest sum to restore it back.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have the guts of a million marines!!! If I were in your place, I would dream of having a humvee to motor to Bicolandia. At any rate, what gives you an exhilarating experience must be worth repeating. Keep on driving!!!

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a safer motorig to your fave Bicolandia, get a humvee and an AK-47. Happy road trip!!!Seriously, I also like long driving. GIves you time to ponder on what is important and useless. Time on the road is also about reflections.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

Go Driver Molly go! I really admire female drivers.

I would drive if only I did not have such a horrible sense of direction. Instead, I either blab myself silly or sleep contentedly on the passenger seat while my husband takes the wheel.

I never wear a seatbelt though. That's a risk I choose to take. ;p

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Dominique James said...


What sweet escape!

Running. For the last 2 weeks, I've been running. I recently discovered this new personal way to escape, replacing my old dangerous ways. I know, I go round and round and round. But I'd like to believe that my daily 2-hour early morning run is taking me somewhere.

Thanks for sharing your personal story.

Dominique James

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Sidney said...

My wife is from Sorsogon and I know that road quite well. Honestly I am really afraid driving to Bicol.
I am quite sure I will meet my death on this road.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Ahj said...

Laughing while reading this! :)

5:35 PM  
Blogger Maryanne Moll said...

Hi, Ahj! After I published your comment I read the blog post again, after so many years, and laughed, too! Haha.

8:35 AM  

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