I do not know where this bus route leads but from anywhere between Fairview or Gardens in Bulacan to just before the right turn on EDSA to Ayala Avenue, I am usually taking any bus with this sign on the lower left-hand corner of its window. Ayala-Leveriza buses pass by this place in Makati, where I shall be staying for the whole of summer.
Unlike in other big metropolis in the world, the bus system in Manila still follows a rather old system of using the name of the place for the routes. Some cities use numbers (Saigon), the alphabet (Jakarta), or a combination of both (Singapore). But this is not the case in Manila, and it is not bound to change any time soon.
Tourists will find the streets of Manila bewildering because of the absence of any directional signs to guide them where to wait, where to go next, and where to get off. They are left to themselves and the benevolence of the people to help them go around. At least, Manilenos do not speak gibberish and luckily their facility of English is close to decent.
When I came to Manila almost a year ago, I was enamored by the megalopolis’ lack of wit and charmlessness. It’s a city that that does not think of language as necessary for it to exist. Manila is a dumb city. It does not have any use for written language. But what it lacks in written literature, it compensates in the more powerful non-verbal language of its streets. Its sexuality is reflected in the billboards of naked models that sell almost anything from baby feeding bottles to plastic surgery. Its worship of and unquestioning faith to the ultimate god, ‘Kaching’, is seen in the scandalous stretch of Ayala Avenue, and the poverty it tries to ignore thrives are plastered on the faces of ordinary Manilenos who will do anything just to get by.
But no one questions Manila’s stark illiteracy. It is taken as ordinary, a discomfort and inconvenience, that has long been taken in as a normalcy a probinsiyano, like me, can either take or leave.
And from the inside of this air-conditioned Ayala-Leveriza which only god knows where it leads, I am left with a question I have no answer as yet, where does this lead?