Friday, July 2, 2010

One Hundred Fifty Pesos

It was past noon.  I was tired and light-headed from pulling an all-nighter.  If I had my way, I'd rather be in bed, sleeping away. But I had no other time to do it.  I had three days to compile my  documents out of thin air.  Time was running against me as there was a holiday looming.  It was now or never.

I chose now.

After bringing my sister to school, I went home again to have breakfast and gulp down three mugs of coffee. I drove, overdosed on caffeine, to the SSS to get my number.  Much to my surprise, it was a no-sweat affair - literally.  Even though there were already a lot of people, the huge hall was air-conditioned, and there were still seats left as I waited my turn.  In less than thirty minutes, I was good to go.  Very efficient - I was impressed.  I now had my SSS number on hand.

The NBI clearance was another story altogether.  No, it wasn't a story, come to think of it.  It was a page out of a nightmare.

I should've read the writing on the wall.  It was only around 9 in the morning, but to say EDSA revolution was severely understating it.  Fixers were also milling about, promising that the clearance would be out within 30 minutes.  At that point, I could still afford to take the high and mighty route.  Why would I deprive myself the chance to experience what workers undergo everyday?  It would do my person good to bear these things. Besides, if I went with the fixers, I'd be feeding the greed  of the corrupt bureaucracy.  Why would I even want to do that?

Looking back, I think it was the coffee talking. What was I thinking? Silly me.

After  three hours spent in four long lines, I was starting to seriously doubt the masa empathy I was trying to pull off.  I almost threw in the towel by 12 noon.  I was exhausted, hungry, and in a foul mood.  Worse, it had started to downpour, forcing the huge crowd to huddle under the galvanized sheets that passed as roofing.  And there I was, in the middle of the herd, where everyone was sweaty and smelly from the humidity of the rain.

I felt like throwing a screaming fit that very moment.

The only bright side was that there was no hit on my name, and that I could get my clearance on the same day.  Wow, what a big consolation.  There were only about 250 people ahead of me, waiting for their clearance to be released, too.

Then, a fixer approached me. He probably saw the frustration gathering at my bunched brows.

"Boss, tulungan kita," he whispered. "P150 lang, labas na kaagad ang clearance mo."

I looked at my wallet.  I had P150.  A small amount to pay to hasten that important piece of paper.

I couldn't think straight. My head was reeling.  I was desperate. Fuck the learning process. I really wanted to go home.

I handed him the P150.

True to his word, he delivered. The clearance was now in my hands. What wasn't were my values.

All for the paltry price of P150.

I didn't know if I was going to be relieved, or be ashamed of myself.

Blessed are those who have P150 for they shall inherit the kingdom of values forfeit.


  1. Until the process improves, you have to accept that other people earn a living by forcing a very inefficient operation into a light-speed process.

    The fixer earns just around P25 pesos. The rest goes to the dogs. It is how the state works.


  2. Ah, this should be one of those long comment sections filled with debate.

    When I was a wee lad, I felt as strongly as you did about absolutely refusing to grease the wheels. True, the young are also often penniless, but at least they have their idealism.


    Now that I am older, the only thing I would've been concerned about in this particular case would've been whether the fixer would be able to deliver what he promised. Not only so I could get my money's worth, but also save me the precious time I would've lost waiting for the creaky wheels of government bureaucracy.

    The practical question here is: how much was four hours of your life worth?

    The ethical question, ah, well...let the brickbats begin.

  3. hahahaha may ganun ka pang nalalaman eh bibigay ka din pala :P

  4. oh dear, red tape isdatchu? you should have gone in the afternoon as in late afternoon

  5. tsk tsk tsk. and to think Pnoy was preaching about change starting with ourselves.

    tsk tsk tsk.


  6. oh wow..i would have done the same thing u did, what's 150 compared to the hours ur still gna endure waiting in line.

    it's wrong to feed the bureaucracy, and it would have been noble had u held on to ur values. pero ganun talaga no?
    sometimes u gotta do what u gotta do :P

  7. buti ikaw 150 lsng, ako 200 inabot ko dun sa mmda. ugh.

  8. think positively. that fixer prolly bought 3 kilos of rice to feed his family for the entire week. and, at least, if it was elections week, you weren't the one being handed out the money so you can vote for a trapo. di ba? be glad.

  9. idealism schidealism.

  10. Desperate moves are inevitable once the string of patience is nearly snapped.

    The delivered task is what matters best.

    They do this for a living. This is what keeps them eating daily.

    Life's just like that.

  11. You should be relieved, considering what you've gone through that day. Forget about the values. Knows mo pa pala yun? Echos lang, mare.

  12. i was schooled in the philosophy that the journey is sometimes more important than the destination itself. however, experience has taught me that sometimes, just sometimes, the situation calls for machiavellian measures.

  13. don't worry, ternie. i think it's a-okay. your time is very valuable so it's sort of like an investment.

    plus my grandfather used to be a fixer. he was pretty good at it too. lol

  14. For whatever my remaining idealism is worth, I totally understand your dilemma. I am scared to even consider what I could have done in your shoes.

  15. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And 150 peso bills. :P