Wednesday, March 14, 2007


To those who have seen a recent movie with a similar title, this line will sound familiar:

“We miss that touch so much…that we crash into each other…”

Crash, the movie, presented the lives of Americans living in Los Angeles, California. Each one was driven, to a great part unconsciously by her shadow, an unconscious and un-acknowledged part of the self, otherwise known as the ego. Preoccupation and obsession with ego needs lead to disastrous consequences from serious accidents and even death. People are always angry, paranoid that a “dangerous other” will attack them. They live in suspicion which often enough becomes a cover-up and convenient pretext for their own weakness and hidden rottenness. Redemption in the movie comes through unexpected twists and turns which in Christian terms can be called grace. The grace unexpectedly comes through a “crash,” some crucial, life-defining experience that jolts individuals out of the comfortable shell of ego, of suspicion, prejudice, arrogance, anger, ambition, etc. The crash was often times necessary to restore connectedness again.

I had a crash a few days before I flew out of the Philippines. I had just said mass at the wake of the father of a friend, at Loyola Memorial Chapels at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina. It was almost 7:00 p.m. The main road just outside the park was congested. I was driving my old jeep and having a hard time getting onto the road. None of the jeeps would slow down and let me into the flow. Suddenly, out of nowhere a jeep crashes into my left fender and has its right rear end tangled with my bumper. The passengers without thought nor discussion immediately get off the jeep as if used to the situation. In no time, the jeep was empty. The jeepney driver comes out scratching his head and ready to accost me. Several Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic enforcers surrounded the two vehicles and were poised to get both sides of the story. The driver finally complains, “What will we do. The owner of the jeep is in Pangasinan?” Meanwhile police men also came. At this point, both the MMDA men and the police asked the jeepney driver whether he knows me. The driver shakes his head and says no. TheMMDA and police officers with incredulous looks explain to the driver who I am. This does not help. The driver insisted that I speak to his boss on the cellphone. I get his boss’s number and I ring him up. I speak to the jeepney owner whose response is expected, “Paano na yan Father, wala namang pera ang drayber!” (How is that Father, the driver does not have any money.) While the intramurals between me, the driver, the jeepney owner, MMDA and police went on, the traffic behind us developed into an ugly snarl. I decided to just tell the driver that since the damage to his jeep is minimal and mine was quite big, we can try to disengage our tangled vehicles and just agree to see each other at my mechanic’s shop. The MMDA and police supported my decision but the driver seemed to freeze in anger and indecision. Finally, he gives in and we had to find a way of disengaging without adding to the damages already incurred.

We agreed to meet early Monday morning at an agreed point close to my mechanic’s shop. We get to the shop and had the damage to our vehicles assessed. His was P 2500 while mine was more than P 9000. I needed to leave for a meeting, but before I left I ask the driver what he intends to do. He said he will wait the whole day, even until the evening until the jeepney is repaired. I ask whether he brought money or food. He says he didn’t have either. I gave him some money for food and said goodbye.

Later that day, I receive a text from the driver. I was half expecting him to finally say thank you. But this was what he said, “Father ok na po,naayos na, kaya lang may konting problema, yung lettering po hindi nalagyan…” (Father, its ok. They fixed it. There is one problem though. They did not do the lettering)

Since the crash, I went out of my way to make things easier for the jeepney driver and the owner, the police and MMDA as well as the other commuters and drivers who were inconvenienced by the accident. I chose not to argue with the jeepney driver who behaved as if everything was my fault. I chose to understand his predicament and to be connected as a person to a fellow person with him. Unfortunately, up to the very end, he only saw his own predicament, his needs, himself. All I wished at the end was no more than a simple “thank you” a costless token of gratitude (for my troubles and expense). In the end, he goes his way, I go mine, perhaps still quite disconnected…even after the crash!

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
March 14, 2007


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