Updated: May 1, 2020
I got a text from the driver at 12:30 PM indicating that he had arrived. I was just locking my door when I got the text. I came back up to my home after I had a feeling that I should double check the air-con. I once traveled to Baguio for a week and upon my return, I found that I forgot to switch the air-con off when I left. I did not want to repeat the same mistake especially since I'd be away for a full month. Thankfully, the air-con was not running when I checked it this time. The only appliance that I left plugged and running was my fridge.
The white Vios was already waiting for me when I exited my building. Since all the bags I carried were small, I did not have to deposit any of them inside the boot. I was a pro when it came to shuttling between Manila and Baguio. I knew how to make these five hour trips comfortable. After settling onto the back seat (I could not risk taking shot gun since I was still having anxiety over the possibility of the driver being an unknowing carrier of the virus), I brought out my neck pillow. It was the inflatable kind. I popped a melatonin pill so I could sleep through the journey. I had to work that evening so I needed to rest.
My driver's name was Marvin. I thanked him for being available on short notice. He said that some of his friends teased him. They all wondered if he would still be able to come back to Manila after dropping me off. We did not know how the community quarantine would work. The announcement was made haphazardly and it left questions in everyone's mind. Would vehicles coming from the neighboring provinces be allowed to enter the capital?
I had always been chatty with my drivers. I could not remember most of what I talk to them about but I just felt compelled to make small talk. I remembered Marvin and I talking about his decision to just stay in their office instead of going home to Cavite. He needed to earn a living through the lockdown and as much as it was a great sacrifice to be away from his family, that was the decision he made to continue to put food on the table for his family. Many times, while he was driving, his three year old son would call asking him when he would come home.
When I got tired of talking, I was quick to pull out my head phones and told Marvin that I would not be able to hear him once I put on the head phones. I was not listening to anything while I wore them. I just had them on as a visual cue to be left alone.
EDSA was uncharacteristically free moving. The only jam that we encountered was around SM North. Everywhere else, there were less vehicles than what I anticipated for a typical Friday afternoon. The North Luzon Expressway, on the other hand, was already crowded when we reached it. Marvin and I concluded that many people must have decided to do what I was doing. All of us on that road were escaping the lock down.