"Yes, I do."
"But don't I see you sometimes at sidewalk carinderia along Roxas? I swear I sat next to you once. You shared your soft drink with me, remember that? You were with a man. You got there in a trisikad."
"Ah, yes. That was me. Good to see you again po."
"I wasn't quite sure it was you. You look different."
"It's okay, Manong. I only dress this way when I have to be in front of students. It's still me, however I am dressed. And I love eating driver food, by the way. You guys have it so good."
"Ma'am, those kids love you. I see them running up to you on the sidewalk sometimes, like they did that day."
"I don't think it's love, Manong. You see, I never give them money. I make them eat instead."
"They're just kids. Some of them don't have parents. And now our Mayor wants to put them in jail."
"Yeah. He wants them off the streets. He will put them in jail and will only let them out if they can produce their birth certificate."
"There's that new Juvenile Justice Law. If streetkids get in conflict with the law, if they are caught stealing or vandalizing or rioting they're supposed to be turned over to the DSWD reformatory."
"No, Ma'am. They're going to prison until they can produce their birth certificate."
"Hmm…mmm. Some of them probably never got registered."
"I don't know what's wrong with the Mayor, Ma'am. I used to respect him a lot. Now, I don't know."
"Because of the streetkids?"
"Because of that Alyah Reeyah driver last week. And because of his warnings to the drivers. I wonder why he singled us out like we were all hoodlums. I mean, we just work, Ma'am. And to get murdered like that? In broad daylight in front of the LTO at that. You know about that, Ma'am? That driver was tortured, did you know?"
"Hmmm…mmm. I heard talk. Kuwentong kutsero. I mean, kuwentong drayber . What do you know about what happened?"
"The police wouldn't have done what they did to that driver. Not on their own."
"Any idea where the police investigators are now? The ones who questioned the driver, before he got shot in front of the LTO?"
"I don't know, Ma'am. But it shouldn't have happened that way. We drivers just work, you know? Like, I wouldn't know most times if my passenger left anything back there where you sit. Or if the next passenger carts it away, I sometimes wouldn't know. I'm up front and driving. So, like if you left something there now and the police asked me about it later, I would not know. How would I know? And for us to be tortured and killed, it's just too much, Ma'am."
"Manong, it's your taxi. Maybe now you really have to check every time your passenger gets off. What if he leaves you a bomb or something?"
"What is happening to us, Ma'am? What is happening to the Mayor? I used to respect him a lot. Solid, all the way. But now he's changed and he is mad at taxi drivers. He thinks it's okay for taxi drivers to be treated that way. There's no justice, Ma'am."
"The driver who got shot – he had children, Manong?"
"I don't know. I heard the Mayor gave the wife money to bury her dead husband. Well, it comes to that. When you're dead, your wife buries you. When someone kills you, the Mayor will give money to your wife to have you buried. And then he'll lecture. It's like he explains why you got killed. That it's right for something like that to be done to you."
"Manong, I don't know what to say. I know you feel bad, and I can understand why you feel that way. I tell my students to be extra careful out there in the streets until the police would have things under control."
"The police? Ma'am, they can't even stop those gangs from killing each other everyday. You know how many got killed yesterday? Three. Everyday, someone gets killed. The police are not in control, Ma'am. It looks like nobody is. I don't understand the Mayor, Ma'am. I don't know what he's trying to do."
"Precisely why I tell my students to be careful po. You, too. The streets are kind of dangerous these days, huh?"
"I don't know what's happening with our Mayor, Ma'am. All I know is that we all die. He will, too. Someday. We're all headed that way." (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)