Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election fever, part 2

Here's what happened next...

There I was, standing outside a beerhouse on a main road in San Pablo City. Nervous on the inside, calm and collected on the outside. I was damsel in distress, where's my knight in shining armour?

With two options--to spend the night outside a closed MacDonald's, or, to ride home with a jeepload of men, all total strangers--I chose what I thought to be less risky, the second. After all, the men had a drink but weren't drunk. No slurred speech or unsteady walk. They looked decent and friendly. They were respectful and kept a safe distance.

In my 10 years of doing fieldwork in the rural areas, I had found men from the provinces to be generally nicer and more respectful towards women compared to their Manila counterparts. I was also emboldened by the fact that they were known to the policeman who gave me over to their care.

But as a precaution, I sat closest to the back of jeepney, near the exit. I kept my eyes and ears open throughout the trip especially when we passed through dark and winding isolated sections of the provincial road, in between vast coconut plantations.

If this jeepney slowed down to stop, I thought, I will jump out, throw away my bag and folder of questionnaires, and run into the dark.

Finally, we reached the next town. The streets were better lighted. There were more houses on the roadside. But at the junction, the jeepney parked in front of a house which had a carinderia or small eatery in front.

"Mag-pansit muna tayo "(Let's have Chinese noodles), somebody said. I respectfully declined and said I would stay in the vehicle. But they insisted that I join them in their midnight snack. When I saw there was a woman inside, I decided to go in. This was probably safer than staying outside by myself as it was almost 12 midnight.

The drivers seemed to know the owner of the eatery. She must be related to one them. I made small talk with the men and the owner of the place while eating, and dropped names of relatives in Los Banos just in case they knew anyone. It was also my way of saying, Hey, my roots are from this province. We could even be related.

I might have spoken with their accent too because that was one technique I often used during my field assignments to win the locals' sympathy and get them to accommodate me for an interview. It often worked. Locals seemed to appreciate the fact that I was trying hard to be one of them, never mind if I looked or sounded awkward.

Finally, we were done eating and back on the road. There was one more town and then I was home. My aunt's place served as my base for this period. I heaved a sigh of relief when we got there. It was already around 1 am. Thank you, guys, for taking me home safely. Thank you, Lord! I learned my lesson.

Indeed, I learned valuable lessons from this misadventure, foremost of which was to avoid unnecessary risks. My work in itself, when I had to do field interviews, involved dangers, I did not have to go looking for more. Watching an election campaign was not as important as watching my little boys--then only Gino and Mickey--grow up. I was already a young Mom. I needed to be more cautious. I had to go home in one piece.

I think this field experience, and that presidential race, was one of my most memorable one. I have other adventures and misadventures during my younger years that I could blog about. Even my boys will be surprised. It's like Mom had another life. Why, of course, there is more to me than cleaning and cooking!!!

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