COMMENTARY: Death almost became her by Edwin G. Espejo

We were on our way home to General Santos City. She said she was already late for her schedule but also reckoned it was so willed to allow her to preach the Good News of the Bible.

Her high-pitched voice immediately made me shrink into my seat. I quickly remembered born-again Christians jumping into the bus, rattling verses from the Bible amid mixed reactions from passengers, while commuting in Metro Manila many years back.

These ambulant preachers would disembark at the next stop but not after passing around a leatherette bag for "contributions."

This time, I may have to endure the whole trip of being a captured listener of the lady preacher.

The woman, too, was bound for General Santos.

She narrated how her own personal experiences have made her less fearful of death. Her husband, she said, was a bus driver. And that, like a thief in the night, death could come in the most unexpected place and time.

I looked around to see the reactions of other passengers around me. Many had their heads bowed. Some looked the other way and even outside of the tainted windows of the bus where outside it was pitch dark.

A few however were intensely listening.

Her literally kilometric monologue reminded me of the workshop-seminar I just attended at Eden Nature Garden. The workshop was themed "Sensitivities and Challenges in Covering Conflict in Mindanao" where the issue on religion was one of the many focal points of discussions.

Mindful that not all passengers may be Christians, I was tempted to remind her that the bus was no place for worship or preaching. But prudence dictates that the deeply religious Filipino people, no matter their ethnicity and sectarian beliefs, are better left off with practicing their beliefs.

I was also of the opinion that her Christian proselytizing would be over and done with in a couple of minutes.

But 20 minutes and more than 20 kilometers into the journey, the woman in her cropped hair was relentless.

She was positioned a row and an aisle at back of the driver who is in his early 30s.

Then suddenly, as we were descending a steep hill while approaching the village of Banate, a loud thud of two vehicles clashing pushed me forward from my seat.

Instinctively, I looked forward and saw sparks created by the impact of the bus we were riding colliding with a vehicle in front of us.

A collective scream from the passengers who saw the impact filled the inside of the bus. It was a good 30 meters or more before the bus was brought to a halt.

On the side of my eyes, I saw the preaching lady fall quickly out of my sight as the momentum of the impact threw her on her back.

Then a stunned silence pervaded in the air.

Pandemonium broke loose and it took at least three minutes before the door of the bus was forced open by the bus conductor.

Outside, people frantically milled around the two vehicles.

When I finally got out of the bus, I saw pieces of shattered glasses.

A Nissan pick up truck, almost perpendicular, was half-pinned underneath the front bumper of the Yellow Bus Line unit. Crushed and almost in total wreck.

In the confusion, I forgot to take the license plates of the bus we were riding and the pickup truck that was woefully smashed like tin can.

Later, I got the opportunity to ask the name of the driver of the pickup truck who was still dazed and limping. He was calling her in-laws and his boss, giving directions where to check on her mother, wife and three children who were with him in the truck.

I looked underneath the smashed vehicle and saw one pair of slippers with a matchbox car. It was a child's toy.

The driver, whose name was Isagani Ladera, said his family was conscious when loaded into a passing Holiday Bus on the way to the General Santos Doctor's Hospital. He and the driver of the bus were still reluctantly arguing whose fault it was.

When all was cleared, I never saw the woman again. She was probably among those who were injured in the collision.

Murmurs among passengers were heard. One said, the lady may have spared the lives of the passengers of the pick-up with her profession of her Christian faith.

Many, however, also said the lady may have distracted the attention of the driver who failed to calculate the distance between the two vehicles.

Me? I am blaming the lady preacher whose morbid preaching of death and resurrection almost became her.

It is not because of her preaching but rather because she chose to be insensitive to other passengers who may have other reasons not to listen to her but were compelled to do so. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Edwin G. Espejo is a former editor of SunStar General Santos)