June 10, 2011 2 Comments
Life is a train ride, so grab your suitcases
So many people, so many places
Climb on board and come and see
What life unfolds in front of thee.
People come aboard and sit for awhile
Others ride short distances, sit and smile
Each comes with a story, tale or lie
They wink or smirk as they pass on by.
— from Life Is a Train Ride by Angel Marie Schmidt
Every time someone experiences something for the first time that moment is frozen in their memory forever. Their first kiss. Their first love. Even their first view of the sunrise and the sunset can indelibly be imprinted in their minds, floating among their most-cherished reminiscences.
My brain contains many of these reflections. My first train ride for example — which, I always associate with scenes of tearful lovers embracing on rain-soaked platforms, a staple of old movies. Although it happened more than 35 years ago, I could still recall every exciting detail — from preparing for the trip to discovering the inside of the train and the beautiful hour-long ride.
It was a breezy day in the summer of 1975. Although the circumstances surrounding that experience is a dark chapter in our family’s history — my father was incarcerated at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, a victim of Marcosian Martial Law — I treasured that train ride, my very first.
Settling into the backseat of the cab taking us — my mother, my brother and sister — to the train station, I was filled with visions of how my first train ride would be. There is nothing more pleasant than waking up early, watching the sun and imagine breezing through the countryside aboard a powerful locomotive at full speed, feeling the chug-chugging of the engine below my feet, with the wind whipping at my face.
Arriving at the station, I strolled confidently towards the train platform, declining my mother’s offered hand. Pushing open the heavy doors, I stepped inside and took in the various emanations from within the train station. There were crowds of anxious men and women waiting for the train. I could hear only faint voices discussing its arrival time and the rustling of newspapers held by the men.
A hissing sound finally announced the arrival of the train. Wearing my heart on my sleeve, I gingerly rushed toward the opening door… when a distant voice admonished me, saying: “Wag dyan Ram, dun tayo sa harap.” (“Not there Ram, we’re taking the front seats.”)
The voice was eerily familiar, but from a different time. I whipped my head back, catching a glance at the reflected image in front of me. It was me alright, but way, way older. Feeling lost, I eagerly searched for my mother, my brother, my sister. They were nowhere to be found! I was on the brink of panic when an explosion of kaleidoscopic lights, complete with color wheels — the one you see on TV when the hero slips into a dream sequence, flashed in my eyes, jolting me back to reality.
Shaking my head, I was transported back to 2011, 04 June 2011 to be exact. And I’m not boarding a train. It’s a funicular in Tagaytay Highlands. And the voice was my friend, Shooter.
Oh well, it really ain’t my first time riding this, but it sure felt like it was. After this ride, the cable car.