March 2, 2024

Getting home before sunset seems impossible nowadays. The traffic from La Trinidad, Benguet to Baguio City would take me 30 minutes to haggle with numerous students riding the same way and another one hour or more just to line up again in our jeepney station going home.
Sometimes if the weather is good, I stood in line and watch the orange sky in soft vintage above the shadow of tall buildings in the city – the time is wasted before my eyes. The queue for our jeepney will round up nearing the City Hall or snake down the Empire building. When it rains, we squeeze below the small shed of small stalls that are already closed while we soak our feet in the nearly muddy flood of water flowing from the sewage.
When I reach home, it is already dark and the alley I walk through is almost undisturbed with the yellow glow of the light post bowed greeting me. I missed the children playing before dawn, the memory of their laughter echoes within their homes in their dinner tables. The houses in our barangay compete with concrete walls and nearly all the playgrounds where we used to play when we were kids were turned to subdivision with the implacable tarmac paving their way in. I stood in our gate and I could hear the quiet conversations of my mom and siblings while they watch the late night show. I think of something good to say to them.
I think of my work as a teacher and the daily-wage workers who line up along with me in the jeepney queues. I think of my co-teachers who bought groceries during breaks because they don’t have time after their classes. The married ones would take out fast foods because they have no time to cook at home. I think of my lessons on how they could be improved, why many of my learners have difficulties reading and many would drop out in the middle of the school year. I think of the high prices of goods and clothing I passed in the malls; I was sorry cannot afford to buy.
I also think of the next day, how I would repeat the same routine, would feel the same anxiety waiting in queues and would linger in the thought of a life that would take years before it could change better.
I step inside our home and when mom saw me, saw the tired look in my face and the worn-out uniform that glooms in the darkness of sky behind me – she would smile and offer a plate from the kitchen and warm up the dinner while I change in my room. My mom would talk most of the time for she knows that work has dulled my spirit. She offers more rice and joins me in eating. She would pour in milk for both of us and we stare in the television or in the window unmindful of what the day was – the warmth of our home would shelter us from the many cares outside.