Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Raul Agner

Ever since, he is always a picture of equanimity, the dizzying network of roads he has traveled - as if represented in miniature by his silvery hair - notwithstanding. Still at it after more than thirty-five years, his face shows no telltale symptoms you expect would register as wrinkles and creases from dealing with the city's unforgiving traffic, rude motorists, badly maintained roads and long out-of-town drives.

On a typical Monday morning, he sits quietly behind the wheel of the university's spanking new bus while waiting for the nursing students bound for apprenticeship duty somewhere to fill up the seats. Inside, the bus smells factory fresh, its upholstered seats still wrapped in protective plastic covers which, vis-à-vis the students' clinically white uniforms, should be unnecessary. Outside, the exterior surface is flush with pictures of athletes, students, facilities and buildings - purposely done so the bus doubles as a humongous mobile billboard. This forty-seater, the latest addition to the school's fleet, is a world removed from the antiquated blue, snub-nosed oddity that he used to drive from way way back. That quaint artifact must be rotting somewhere but through it he once transported regular passengers from a lakeshore town to San Marcelino St. and back, in the process collecting memories he might someday in retirement get occasional flashes of. For example, he might remember them as super-behaved boys in prayerful silence on the way to school but as a boisterous lot on the return trip. He'll surely recall how on the way home they freely released their tension from studies by storytelling, arguing, singing, flashing the "peace" hand sign (so '70s) to every chick in sight and covering their noses from the stench of duck droppings upon finally reaching the access road to home sweet home. He might also remember that often the departure from school was stalled because some were still gaping at a skillful Iñaki or Oyarzabal swipe with the cesta over at the Jai-Alai building or sneak-quaffing beer at the walkway carinderia.

But the point in this bus driver's life is that he has parlayed hard work to ensure the success of his children who have earned college degrees and landed decent jobs. Quite a feat for a humble but dedicated driver. But not only that. Somehow, he is also part of the success of a lawyer in Manila or a fitness consultant in Alberta. There's no doubt that he is partly behind the professional achievements of an accountant in the Philippines or part of a Florida real state broker's thriving career. No one can question that whatever good deeds a Vincentian priest in Lebanon or in the Philippines has done is, again, partly due to him. In short, he has contributed a small part to his former regular passengers' attainment and realization of successes, dreams or calling. He steered them safely en route to their destinations, a role akin to being a benefactor to a beneficiary or a patron to a protégé but inconspicuously outside the pale of the limelight.

This down-home, portly man is one of life's many important little people. He has played his role to the hilt and is happy with it. Last time we checked, he still goes by the name of Mang Tony. And while he has experienced all kinds of roads, he still has "miles to drive before he sleeps and miles to drive before he sleeps…"

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