those bastards at batangas pier

i knew i was looking for trouble when i did that. perhaps, i wanted zsolt to witness it. my objective was not clear, perhaps, i wanted him to experience it so that when i talk to him, he would know why it angered me so much.

the worse direct corruption i have experienced happened in the port of batangas. disembarking from the ferry from Sabang, Puerto Galera (after a day of really lousy diving), a group of locals flocked around us asking if we want a private service back to Manila. we were actually looking for one.

“Only Php2500.” he ignored me and turned to zsolt. “very cheap.”

zsolt shrugged. “ask her. she’s the boss.”

realizing my importance, they turned to me and quoted me the same price. i gave the guy a look and muttered, “forget it. how can going back to Manila be more expensive than coming here?”

the guy reasoned that the taxi is based in batangas (my ass) and when i said i am just going to look for one based in manila then, he lowered the price to Php2k. “ask around, you will never find a lower price. you contract with me direct, i drive a taxi. otherwise, fixers will charge you more.”

i gave him a look of disbelief. there is no way he could be the driver. who is he kidding? drivers have no right transacting with passengers in that friggin pier. it is all run by fixers. and he sure as hell is one of them.

“never mind, manong. we are just going to get a bus.”

“Php1800.” he lowered his price some more. at this point, he was getting impatient. i looked at zsolt and zsolt was getting more confused.

“Php1,400 is my price.” i told him and kept on walking. he laughed and said there is no way i can find a taxi for that price. i told him we can always ride the bus, we ain’t in a hurry. he lowered his price to Php1600 and gave me the oh-too-familiar story about how expensive gasoline is and that it includes the toll fees and everything. i gave him a blank stare. in the end, zsolt was looking rather really weak and tired and looked like if we stayed another five minutes haggling, he would kill everybody in sight.

we made the deal at Php1500. or so we thought.

it turned out that these bastards ended up squeezing the real taxi driver instead (who was just sitting inside his taxi the entire time). they took Php900 and gave him Php600. the driver vehemently refused, obviously. when i realized what they did, i told the guy he couldn’t do that. the guy turned to me and said, “we made a deal at Php1500. this is already none of your business.”

they, of course, didn’t know who they were messing with. in my case, my blatant ignorance on how protected their operation is made me care less about the risk. i told the driver to reject the offer and just meet us outside the terminal and he can have the entire Php1500 for himself. the driver agreed and returned the money, telling them if they are only giving him Php600, he would rather go back to Manila empty.

of course, they knew he was lying. when they saw us walked outside the terminal and not into the bus, they knew something was up. three guys followed us while the guards at the exit scrutinize the driver for leaving the terminal empty. when they finally let him go, the guys were still walking with us.

“why are they still following us?” zsolt was asking, perplexed.

i gave him a knowing look, called a tricycle driven by a teenagers with four other teenagers hanging all over the place, told them to follow the taxi and off we go. the guys who were walking us didn’t hop on the next tricycle available and i thought they finally let the issue dropped. we caught up with the taxi outside the terminal and got in.

we gave the kids Php100 for a Php10 tricycle ride and they wanted more (who the fuck raised these kids?). realizing they couldn’t get more than that from us, they started bothering the driver, saying that they were helping him get the business and so on and so forth. imagine this, these are kids in their early teens. the taxi driver gave them a Php100 to shut them up.

when we got inside, some angry guy appeared in front of the taxi and blocked it. he was screaming at the driver telling him what he did is violating the rules of the terminal (what kind of fucked up management is running a terminal with a fucked up rule like that?) and was demanding from the driver the Php800 he “owes” them. i told the guy it was my decision and told the driver to close his door and just drive off. the guy got so mad and kick the taxi so hard.

the driver, taking my queue, drove as fast as he could, out of the area.

“i now understand why dennis and larry and pak would rather take the direct route to PG from Leah’s beach. this is too exhausting.” zsolt murmured after i explained to him what exactly happened. he was rather just following me through the chaos for the last half an hour or so. “you know, i would have paid Php2500 just to avoid what just transpired.”

“there is no way i am paying a single cent to those bastards. i’d pay him Php2500 rather than giving them Php500 when they aren’t the one who will be paying for the gas and driving 140kms or so or paying for the toll fee. bastards.

“i didn’t know they wanted Php900. i thought they would give him Php1300 and they keep Php200.” zsolt murmured, shocked. “how can they get away with it?” he asked and then realizing where he was, he chuckled. “never mind.”

was the 45 minutes that transpired worth Php1000? my time is worth more than that, i tell you. zsolt and i could have taken the bus instead and pay Php350 for both of us. but the taxi driver would still remain in that pier and he would still end up with a passenger at the back of his car for only Php600, irregardless of how much the passenger paid for the ride. those are the rules in that terminal. everything has to go through the fixers. their argument was, the taxis coming in to drop passengers off were already paid by those passengers for their trip back home.

can you swallow that ugly truth for all that it is? i couldn’t. it made me angry and it still makes me angry now because i know what we have done would not make any difference at all. sure, it made them angry as hell, but the day after that, they will be back to business as usual.

because, well, what kind of passenger would want to go through the same thing we did? they know the value of their time; they would stay out of it, they agreed the price with the fixers, the fixers do what they gotta do with the drivers. and in a country rotting in corruption such as PI, these are the stuff people learn to witness with a blind eye.

will it ever get better?

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