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Habal-habal espisyal

I’VE BEEN IN many death-defying rides my whole reckless life, but nothing comes close to the habal-habal experience.

To those who don’t know what a habal-habal is, it’s a beastlike, three-legged, hairy creature that crawls on its belly, ready to devour snobby urbanites like you. So stop reading this column, finish your orange crème frappuccino and leave us to our petty, bucolic indulgence.

My most recent habal-habal ride was last Sunday, when I went to the remote but lovely barangay of Lamac in my hometown of Pinamungajan. I was with friends Jekert, Mhealler and my girlfriend Ech, young people who share with me the same ridiculously impossible dream of eliminating poverty in the barrios and sending snotty-nosed children to school.

The v-hire ride from Cebu City to Lutopan in Toledo City was nothing to write home about. Air-conditioning units that worked in reverse were boring. We could have taken the bus anytime and sucked in the heat, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

The excitement started after we got off the van. Greeting us like a caravan of old and tested horses were about a dozen habal-habal bikes cooling themselves under a huge acacia tree, their drivers standing beside them like a proud cavalry.

Like probably most habal-habal bikes in the country, each one before us was refitted to accomplish its one and only reason for being: to carry as many passengers as possible to their destination one quick trip after another.

Each part of the whole machine didn’t seem to jive with the rest, with the extension of the passenger seat always the ugliest: a ramshackle affair of wood for support, strips of rubber for cushion, and a yellow Gaisano Tabunok plastic shopping bag for covering.

But again, a habal-habal ride is not about aesthetics. It’s about connecting two points of the passengers’ journey with one mad dash to the finish.

That’s why a comfortable habal-habal ride is a contradiction in terms. I should know because the driver insisted that I sit on the gas tank. On the gas tank! It didn’t only look uncomfortable, it looked embarrassing.

Ikaw man ang kinagamyan (you are the smallest),” the driver told me when he saw the shocked look on my face. Now that’s adding insult to injury, old man. I was small and vertically challenged, all right. But did he have to rub it in?

But then again, when it’s a habal-habal ride, you throw poise out the window.

Nothing prepared me for the gas tank ride. I was used to the straddle, with my legs firmly clasping the seat. In a gas tank ride, you position your self like a girl in mini skirt, keeping the legs tightly close together on one side. To sit any other way was to block the driver’s view.

I never felt more feminine in my life. As the ride began, I felt like waving to the crowd the beauty pageant way.

It was a smooth ride at first. Then the bumps began and I kept sliding slowly down the tank. And for the first time, I understood why it’s called habal-habal. The driver kept pushing me back up my perch. But with his hands busy maneuvering the machine, he could only push with his torso. Have you heard of Elvis the Pelvis coming back from the dead? He now drives a habal-habal.

Saka pa, ‘dong; taas pa, ‘dong (higher, higher),” he would say after each bump. He was actually whispering to my ear!

From the back, I could hear my friends gushing about the scenery and how nice it would be to have a little nipa hut in the middle of a rice field. If they only knew what I was going through! Still I was grateful it was not Ech on the gas tank, or I could have sent Elvis back to the dead.

I was the most disheveled among the four of us when the trip ended. My legs, my hips, my crotch ached from all that bumping.

When it was time for the trip home the next day, it was Elvis the Pelvis once again. And I swear I heard him say, “Let’s get those hips swayin, baby.”

(sun.star weekend, june 16, 2007)

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8 Responses to “Habal-habal espisyal”

  1. hahahah! u got one helluva ‘habal-habal’ experience there soy! hahaha! 😀

  2. funny. 🙂 I just posted recently about my habal2 experience but it was a pleasurable one. Its the most famous mode of “private” transportation here in kalibo. We went on a joyride under the full moon last night and I tell you, it was far from what you experienced. i love habalhabal rides. 🙂

  3. sus!
    ang habal-habal sa surigao del norte,
    mura ug eroplano kay naay pako,
    habal-habal with wings 😆

  4. 🙂

    Good read! Thank you!

  5. damn, i miss lamac!

  6. one great read….

    just read this now…this one write-up gave me gas spasms and more of the panuhot i would ever need to produce the most fragrant discharge of methane from my mufflers…

    this is reality in the sense of the word…

    kudos.

  7. Nah, I can relate. Usahay mag-habal habal ko padung probinsya. Nya dili ra ba jud ta ihatud kung ako ra usa. Ang ending ako ang naa sa atubangan. Pero ok ra na kay sa makatimaho sa singot sa driver kun naa ko sa likod…

    Haven;t you tried the habal-habals in Ginatilan? Kusog lang gihapon modagan bisag batoon og tungason. Grabe dili muila og lubaong… 😀

  8. wala ma-dugmok imo itlog ato, sir ?


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