16 June 2011

The Fireless Fiera


Perhaps, the title is a bit disrespectful of this brave old servant that is forgotten now but was once the object of countless anecdotes. But I am getting ahead of the story again…

Even before the Good Luck Bus, the school had a second-hand Ford Fiera used for official and not so official trips. I am not sure exactly when the vehicle was bought. If anyone remembers, please say so using the Comments Box at the bottom of this page.

In the early days, despite its second-hand status, the Fiera was anything but fireless. As a matter of fact, driving home from an outing one day with some Homeroom Advisers, a reckless JAM bus cut us off and was just inches away from sending us to an untimely and undesired “eyeball” with the Creator.

Incensed, the school driver sped after the bus. The Fiera was no Ferrari, but it put up a good fight. Until the driver of the JAM decided he had had enough fun and stepped on the gas, leaving us in the bus’ wake. Unfazed, our driver threw a half-eaten corn cob at the bus when we passed by it as it disembarked passengers in Tanauan.

Unlike with the Good Luck Bus, I do not recall any remarkable incidents about the Fiera when it took my boys and I to and from matches. My boys must have been happy when we could book the Fiera for a game. I used to collect ten pesos from each boy when we travelled to games in Mang Erning’s trusty old jeepney.

With the Fiera, I did not have to be a kunduktor

I did borrow the Fiera in 1994 from then-President Brother Narciso Erguiza FSC – irreverently called Brother Tirik in school for his flattop military haircut – so some of my boys and I could watch a Bon Jovi concert at the Rizal Memorial. We paid for the gas and gave the driver a token amount apart from treating him to the concert.

The anecdotes about the Fiera really began to accumulate as it got older. It was becoming something of a beast of burden that could barely pull the plough or carry the bales of hay.

Take this one time when I was travelling to Manila for a tournament meeting. We ran over a hole along the SLEX that the driver did not see and punctured a tire. Because we did not even have a reserve, the driver had to jack up the vehicle, remove the tire and take it to Pasay to have it vulcanized.

I had to keep watch over the vehicle for a couple of hours and even at one point wondered if the driver would ever return. Needless to say, I was very late for the meeting.

There was this one other time when I attended another tournament meeting at the Ateneo de Manila. The meeting ended close to four in the afternoon. I was worried about the traffic and so was out of the conference room like a bullet.

Alas, it had started to rain. The traffic was only just starting to build up; and so should not have been a problem. There was the little matter, though, of the Fiera’s windshield wipers not functioning.

Have you ever driven through a rainy night without wipers? The rain splatter reflected other vehicles’ lights this way and that so that we were for all intents and purposes driving along blind.

My testicles were lodged somewhere close to my throat; but the driver assured me he would get me home. That sounded more like false bravado; but, indeed, he did!

Albeit, to do that, we crawled along the road at the godforsaken pace of 20, at most 30 KPH… I was tempted more than once to look behind the Fiera just to check if there was a coffin there. I got home at about nine after a trip that took almost five hours. It was almost the equivalent of travelling to Baguio from Lipa!

Then, there was this anecdote I picked up from the grapevine about this one time when Brother Bernie Oca supposedly asked one of the teachers to drive him to the Base – was it? – for something. They were driving back to school along the bend leading to the gate of Catalina Village when Brother Bernie noticed a tire rolling along the road by itself ahead of the Fiera.

“Rosel,” Brother Bernie, or so the story went, asked the driver in alarm, “naku, kaninong goma ‘yun?”

“Atin Brother,” was the reply.

I passed by the stalled Fiera on my way home from work and could only smile to myself. The old warrior needed to get some rest.

For the Fiera, the writing had been on the wall for quite a while. When it did decide to call it a day, it did so in a manner that nobody could argue with.

It had gone on a trip to Zobel School inside the posh Alabang Village. There, the chassis broke. At least, the Fiera had the good sense to do it close to the school. It sat on the road for a while – the name of the school painted in large letters on its body – announcing to all and sundry that it was asking – nay, begging – for a replacement.

As with the Good Luck Bus, though, I have fond memories of the Fireless Fiera if only for the reason that – despite a two-hour wait in the heat along the SLEX and a 20 KPH crawl along the road – it always got me to and from where I was going.

There were those who could not make that claim.

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