Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Para, Kuya!

By Miranda Beatrice Manalili | The Sillimanian Magazine

“Para, kuya!” hailed from a girl much younger than me as I wiped my sweaty palms on my khaki trousers. My sister was usually the one to say para or ask the driver to stop, but she had a fever. And yet, it was time for me to muster up the courage to para. Glancing around, I noticed no students were wearing my school’s ID. 

Do I have to para myself? 

I could see my school in the distance. I shakily stood up, gripping my backpack.

What should I say?

“Silliman?”

Kuya, I’ll stop here…

“Wala?”

Hmm, I’ll make para here…

Oh my God!

I missed my stop! I rushed over to the window seat and watched as we passed my gate. My mouth dropped open as I put my hands on the glass.

It’s okay, I can get off at the next stop and walk.

Suddenly I felt like the people behind me were staring holes into the back of my head—I held my breath as I relied on my empty hopes. It’s alright, I said after every kilometer, I can get off with someone at the next stop. Feeling the light sting of tears brimming my eyes, I shut them tight and clasped my hands together to silently pray that I would not get kidnapped. Suddenly we were going over shaky roads and  I was greeted with a city that I was not familiar with. 

The trees seemed to blend into the sky in vibrant warm shades. The road was no longer cement or asphalt; it looked like waves that moved the bus against the driver’s will. The buildings were no longer traditional Filipino buildings or sari-sari stores lining the streets. They didn’t even look manmade. They were like huge trees that grew into the shape of houses. 

I was coming to terms with it; this could be my life from now on. I took deep breaths as I took in the scenery around me. I was slowly lulled by the boat-like movement of the bus and my eyes fought to stay open. 

Maybe when I wake up, a kind lady will take me in-

“Dong,” a voice called out to me, “asa ka?”

“I don’t know, but it’s okay…”

“Hah?” 

My eyes opened when rough hands gently shook my shoulders. I was no longer met with the storybook-like scenery I fell asleep to. I was alone in a huge parking lot filled with multiple buses. 

“Lunch break nako ‘ron.” The driver said, crossing his arms as I looked up at him blankly.

It was noon when I looked at my phone. I was supposed to be in school by seven-thirty.

“Kuya, asa ta?” 

He scratched the back of his head frustratedly. “Bacolod. Para asa diay ka?”

“Pa-Para Silliman, kuya.”

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