A SOJOURNER’S VIEWS: The tyranny of the pila. By Karl Gaspar

Blessed are the Dons and Donyas, the Congressmen and the Mayors, the Landlords and the Banana Kings, the Managers and the Bishops and all those who have power for they never have to stand for hours and make pila. Woe to those on the opposite end of the spectrum as they are the ones who will always be tyrannized by a pila. Poor us for being in this category.

Lately, I found myself falling in many lines as I traveled around the country. Either at the airports or boat terminals, there are long pila; the former being more irritable as one needs to almost strip naked so as not to be suspected of being a terrorist.  That's precisely why the lines move so slow, thus delaying the desired movement so that one can get over the hurdle and sit comfortably inside the waiting lounge.

To everywhere one goes, the pila is the most visible sign to show us how our civilization has drastically deteriorated.  At the malls, the shopping centers, the drugstore, the fast food outlets, the cinema, the ATMs, the Lotto and other kinds of shops, the lines never disappear. The longest lines that can snake around entire blocks are those at the MRT/LRT stations. Again where bags need to be inspected, the lines don't move as fast as one wants.

Even in church, one has to make pila during communion time.  Luckily, we need not stand on a pila to pray to God. But, one day, that might just happen.

Where there is some level of discipline among the ordinary folks standing on a pila, the ordeal could sometimes be bearable. One is forever grateful to the one person who thought of priority numbers written on small pieces of paper; this has lessened actual fisticuffs – or even murder – taking place along the pila.

But as the pila are not always inside malls or under shaded areas – like those along Commonwealth St. in Quezon City, constituted by people hoping to buy the P18.25/kilo NFA rice – one can, indeed, label this reality a tyranny.  Why should thousands of Pinoys stand under the sun for hours hoping to buy limited kilos of cheap rice in a land where God has supposedly gifted us with vast tracts of fertile land?  Paki-explain nga, Madame President – you who may never have stood in line all your life!

The worst case scenario happened to me when I needed to claim tickets at the Cebu-Pacific ticketing office both in Manila and in Davao City just recently. First stop was the ticket office at SM Megamall. When I got there, the place was jampacked. I waited patiently in line till my number was called – two hours after I reached the office. But when I inquired about my ticket, the lady across the counter told me that there was a technical problem: she couldn't issue me the ticket. I needed to go to their main ticketing office at the Robinson Mall to claim my ticket.

The scorching heat of high noon in what seemed like the hottest city in the world made my blood boil as I walked from SM to Robinson's. There, the scene was straight out of a disaster film!  Thousands were waiting for their turn to be served. The security guard ran out of priority numbers; he had the honesty to tell the latecomers that we couldn't be entertained in a hundred years!

My only recourse was to go very early to the airport ticketing office near Baclaran where I was staying. I made sure I was there an hour before the office would open at 8:00 a.m. What I guessed would happen, happened. There was a line already when I reached the ticketing office at 7:00 a.m. Still I was lucky, I waited only an hour before – finally – being served! When I got out of the small office, there was a whole barangay of aggrieved customers waiting for their turn. They were standing under the heat of the sun as the office had a space for only 20 customers!

I needed to reclaim another ticket at the Cebu-Pacific counter a week later, this time in Davao City.  I stood in line 15 minutes before the Victoria Plaza opened and as the door swung, I saw everyone running up the escalator. I thought there was a movie star on the second floor waiting for them.  At first, hindi ko gets. It turned out they were running towards the Cebu-Pacific ticketing office on the second floor so they will get the priority numbers. When it dawned on me that this was the scenario, I also run and made it to No. 20.  I got served within two hours!

Haay, pastilan!.  These are, indeed, dog days for everyone.  Not only is the summer getting hotter and a pain in the armpits!  Not only are the prices skyrocketing as if no man has yet reached the moon!  Not only is the cheap rice disappearing like the smiles on the face of gentle Filipinas painted by Amorsolo.

But, these days, the pila has gotten longer. Everywhere. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, former head of the Redemptorist Itinerant Mission Team and author of several books, including “To be poor and obscure,” and “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures,” writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English [A Sojourner’s Views] and the other in Binisaya [Panaw-Lantaw].)