A toned and good-looking man in shirts and jeans boarded a green and white taxi along Makati’s Makati Avenue one May evening.
“To Timog Avenue, please,” he told the mustachioed Filipino driver with a bulging tummy.
“Saan po sa Timog, sir? (Which part of Timog Avenue, sir?)” the cabbie inquired, looking at his passenger in the rearview mirror.
“GMA 7,” he said. The guard nodded, indicating he knew the place.
“Dito po tayo sa EDSA dadaan, sir (We’ll take Epifanio de los Santos Avenue [or EDSA], sir),” the driver suggested to his passenger, who muttered “okay” in approval of the driver’s choice of the fastest route to his destination.
The car turned right on Jose Rizal Road, cruised under that portion of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (or EDSA), made a 180-degree turn around the Guadalupe Nuevo Cloverleaf Park, just before the Jose Rizal-San Jose Street junction, climbed onto EDSA and began crossing Guadalupe Bridge above murky Pasig River.
The traffic flow being light on that part, the cab accelerated towards the stated destination under the moonlit summer night.
While traveling on the multi-lane highway, the passenger noticed the driver was watching him in the rear view mirror. This man has been observing me since we left Makati, he told himself. While it did not occur to him the driver might turn out to be a robber, he remained observant, too. He tried to notice his head movements from the corner of his eye as the car cruised on EDSA.
They were now weaving through a moderate traffic build-up between Ortigas MRT station and Shaw-EDSA intersection. Finally, unable to conceal his concern and own curiosity, he turned to the driver and asked just as the latter tried to watch him again in the rear view mirror: “Bakit?” His rather distinct foreign-sounding accent evident in the way he spoke.
“Ah, eh, foreigner po kayo, sir? Mestizo po kasi itsura ninyo, (Are you a foreigner, sir? You look mestizo)” asked the half-embarrassed but curious-looking cabbie.
“I see,” the guy mused feeling relieved and half-grinning.
Just then Mr. Inquisitive Driver asked the weird questions the guy often heard from curious folks he encountered everywhere he went around the metropolis.
“You Mexican, sir?” asked the driver about his passenger’s nationality.
“Me? No.” responded the passenger, surprised at the query thrown at him.
But the cabbie appeared unsatisfied with the brief response of his passenger. He felt he wanted to find out more about him, if only to satisfy his inquisitiveness.
“You Taiwanese, sir” the driver inquired again of the now amused guy in the backseat.
“I’m not Taiwanese, sir,” the man replied chuckling. “Why?”
“Hmm, you look Taiwanese, sir, Mexican, Spanish, mestizo-looking,” the driver insisted. For a moment, the guy was reminded of his Spanish and Chinese ancestry. His maternal great-grandfather was Chinese-Hispanic while his paternal grandparents were of Spanish stock.
Traffic slowed as they approached the Cubao, Quezon City tunnel. Ahead, they could see several traffic aides guiding the vehicles to move slowly past the wreckage of a vehicular accident.
“But you’re a foreigner, sir?” the cabbie further inquired.
“Yes, I’m an alien!” the guy replied smilingly at the driver who was looking at him in his rear-view mirror.
“Hahaha!” the driver burst into laughter. The amused passenger got carried away and laughed too. The driver must have thought his passenger meant he was from outer space.
After about ten minutes, they managed to emerge from the tunnel, accelerated towards the direction of Kamuning flyover, avoiding it just as they neared an intersection, cruised and made a U-turn under the flyover, and turned right on Timog Avenue. Finally they arrived on Timog.
“We are in Timog, sir,” the driver reminded his passenger in English.
“I know. 7-11 po, (7-11 Store),” the guy said.
The taxi stopped in front of 7-11 store, dwarfed by the towering GMA 7 building.
“Yan po ang 7-11 (That’s 7-11 store),” the driver said pointing to the famous international shop as he turned around to see his passenger about to alight, “’yan po ang GMA, sir, (That’s GMA, sir) pointing to the tall structure at the corner of Timog and EDSA.”
“Doon po ako sa kabila (I am going to that bar over there),” the guy pointed to Adonis Bar on the other side of the street as he handed him his payment, “But it’s alright. I’ll get off here.”
“Diyan po kayo sa Adonis Bar pupunta sir? Iyang gay bar na ‘yan? (You are going to Adonis Bar, sir? That gay bar over there!?)” the cabbie asked, a bit troubled.
“Yes, sir,” the guy replied, “Keep the change.”
The passenger opened the door and alighted from the cab. And just before he slammed the door, he heard the driver remark: “Bakla pala ‘to (This guy is gay).”