Padayon (to continue, move forward)
(names removed for privacy)
As adults, we typically abhor traffic. A commute that takes 3 or 4-times longer than usual would be exhausting, leaving us on the verge of tears or on the verge of calling it quits. There are, however, those rare occasions when traffic jams can be one of the most amazing, uplifting, and life-altering experiences.
Not long ago, I walked into the Eicher home as [John] and [Jane] were preparing their packed lunches. I closed my rain-soaked umbrella, set it by the door, and made my way towards the kitchen where they worked diligently and with purpose. In an hour, they would be leaving for their second day of school.
"Uncle Roberto, you won't believe what happened yesterday," yelled [Jane].
"Yeah, it took us almost two hours to get home," added [John]. "It was amazing!"
Initially, I was confused by their statements. Yesterday was their first day at the University of Cebu. In fact, I had gone to the Eicher Home specifically to ask them about it. How were their teachers? How was the campus? How was the commute? Judging by their words, their first day of school was awful, and yet they seemed overjoyed and anxious to get back.
"What happened? Tell me about it," I asked.
They proceeded to tell me that the rain wreaked havoc on the roads; not a single vehicle was moving when they started their commute home. On top of that, all the Jeepneys were full, but even if they could get onto one it would likely be stuck in the bumper-to-bumper traffic from downtown to Banawa. They told me that they, along with the other CSC residents that attend UC (7 in total) decided to start walking together towards home while keeping an eye out for open seats on a jeepney. They eventually made their way to One Pavilion in Guadalupe when they called a house father to come pick them up and bring them the rest of the way.
I was in shock, but they were overjoyed. As they were sharing their story, it became clear that the source of their excitement was rooted in a deep sense of accomplishment. In their minds and in their hearts, they had finally done it. They had been taught and trusted by their houseparents and all of us at CSC to commute to school on their own, and they were able to accomplish the task on their first try, on their very first day, and in the face of difficult circumstances. In that moment, they had taken a big step towards independence and adulthood. Plus, they were able to experience something that, in many ways, is quintessentially Cebuano and quintessentially Filipino; something that they had heard every adult, every laborer, every taxi and jeepney driver, every Auntie and Uncle at CSC complain about. They were able to experience traffic, and like responsible adults, they didn't give up. They found a way to make it home, finish their schoolwork, and prepare themselves to do it all over again.
As I bid them farewell and opened my umbrella, I couldn't help but wonder what new and amazing things their second day of school would bring.