The Jeepney Driver’s Playlist
Photo by Carmelle Chua Gacasan
“Isaac, will you mind me playing my dad’s playlist again?”
“Not at all, captain. Go ahead.”
— Song: Ang Bayan Kong Sinilangan — Artist: Asin —
The Pequod passed by Saturn. Lieutenant Isaac’s gray eyes widened at the sight of the ice forming the rings of the yellow giant. Used to the sight, Captain Magellan’s hazel eyes were fixed straight ahead. “For a being of metal, you sure do get surprised rather easily.”
“Unlike your kind, captain, I can reprogram myself to experience everything for the first time,” replied Isaac.
“Aren’t you peculiar,” remarked Magellan, chuckling. “You should get used to beauty and scum alike.”
“Is that how you feel about the Philippines, captain?”
“How did you—”
“The song is in Filipino. My language pack is updated.”
Magellan sighed. “You’re right. I disdain that hellhole. The citizens barely have the capacity to think. Their leaders share the same illness.”
“With due respect, captain, but aren’t you from there too?”
Magellan grinned. “Then I share the illness. Why would anyone in their right mind hate where they come from?”
— Song: Tayo’y mga Pinoy — Artist: Judas —
“My father was a jeepney driver. Turn right, Isaac, and press on for ten-hundred and seventy kilometers.”
Isaac steered the Pequod as ordered. “We can set the coordinates, captain. I don’t mean to complain, but it is easier than manually driving through space. And I’m sorry, but what is a jeepney?”
“There are pirates around this place, Isaac,” Magellan reminded him. “A jeepney is a modified jeep that’s aerodynamically inefficient, typical of any other forms of Filipino pride. Ours was a modification of the local delivery vans, more than fifteen years old when I graduated from college. Mostly drivers were of the lower classes of society.”
“This song is, as you humans say, cool. I bet your father was a great man. He helped you reach here to the top, of the Pequod of all ships — and, as you say, from the slums?” Isaac smiled at the idea.
Magellan paused, bit his thin lips and the continued, “I hated how everyone was expected to conform to their preconceived values in the country. If you disagreed with the government, mongrels would eat you. Filipinos think they are the champions of truth. They are merely the champions of the self-interest of those at the top, striving in their mediocrity.”
“But you’re still here, captain. You and your father must have fought for you to be here.”
“I wish he did, Isaac.”
— Song: Anak — Artist: Freddie Aguilar —
“I never wanted to be a navigator, but my dad insisted that the pay would pay off. All my older brothers were given their freedom. I wasn’t — because my dad thought I was too brilliant.”
Isaac looked at Magellan’s countenance, eyes constricting as he analyzed the features. “There’s no hint of regret in your face, only sorrow.”
“My four brothers wasted their lives on substance abuse. When the death penalty was enforced in our country, it was grim. It broke mom too. I wanted to care for her, but dad sent me to college instead. I wasn’t there when she died.”
“Sarah, my creator, died too, captain. I was a naïve robot back then, but in hindsight, I know all the things she did made me the person — or android, rather — that I am right now. Perhaps it is a similar with your ‘dad’.”
“Sarah treated me like I was her son,” continued Isaac. “She wanted the best for me. Perhaps your father thought that you would be a brilliant navigator. Look at you, captain. You’re the captain of the largest ship of Moby Co.”
“I sometimes wonder what it could’ve been if I stayed.”
“I still have my shortcomings on emotions, captain, but the dead will stay dead. You cannot do anything. Chances are, you could’ve died with your mom and your brothers if you stayed. Perhaps your father sent you away because of that.”
— Song: Hari ng Tondo — Artist: Gloc 9 ft. Denise —
“In college, I easily rose to the top of my class — with hard work, no less.” Magellan smirked. “I thought it’d make my dad proud. It was easy though. Most of my classmates were into illegal drugs too. Thank God, the oh-so upright Filipinos had them executed instead of giving them the help they needed. After my second year, only twenty out of a hundred and fifty were left.”
“Captain, excuse me, but there is activity detected nearby, sir. Shall we prepare for an engagement?”
Isaac pressed a few buttons on the controls. He spoke to the intercom lazily, “Troops, prepare for an engagement.” He faced Magellan, and asked, “You were saying, captain?”
“Right. It was in January of my third year in college that I learned my dad was delivering drugs to the students in my dorm on behalf of some gangster in the city. They even had the audacity to call him ‘tatay’.”
“Yes. For our family, the whole affair was ironic.”
“For the money, captain. With due respect, an aerodynamically inefficient vehicle will not get you through college. I hope you’ve forgiven him.”
The captain and the lieutenant looked through space as a number of dots began appearing, steadily increasing in number. Isaac looked at the radar and gasped. “Pirate ships!”
— Song: Torpedo — Artist: Eraserheads —
“I’ve closed off Section 3 of the hull, captain. Unit 1 is on its way to fight off any pirates that might’ve entered.”
“Send SCVs to repair the damage.”
“Consider it done. So, did you tell your dad?”
“Did you tell your dad? That you’ve forgiven him?”
“Are we seriously talking about this right now?”
“Let’s not act as if we’re not used to blasting off space pirates, Captain Magellan. Sending them a message right now.”
At that instant, heat-seeking space torpedoes hit and eliminated a fourth of the pirate fleet.
“I regret not telling Sarah that I was thankful of her for making me. That’s why I tell my wife Rebecca that I love her every day,” said Isaac, bombarding another set of torpedoes on the pirates. The empty space was now a beautiful display of fire and molten metal, the sight reminding Isaac of the first time he waltzed with his wife in a brothel. “You feel it. You tell them,” added Isaac.
“Calm down with the bombing, Isaac!”
Isaac let go of the controls.
“I haven’t visited him in prison since I began traveling.”
Isaac groaned as he pressed the control button for the torpedoes, sending a flurry of bombs at the pirates. The blackness of space was lit up once again.
“That’s insubordination!” screamed Magellan.
“What you’re doing to your dad is insubordination!”
“Stop that, lieutenant!”
“You’re having fun! Don’t deny your feelings for your dad and about blasting off pirates. And the SCVs are done with the repairs.”
Magellan and Isaac burst out in laughter.
“This is absurd,” remarked Isaac.
“It is. The pirates are retreating,” replied Magellan. “Set course for Uranus, and travel at top speed.”
— Song: Handog — Artist: Florante —
“There are anomalies in the local magnetic field, captain. We’re approaching Uranus.”
Magellan yawned. “Let’s just drop the cargo at the port in Titania, and let’s get back to Earth.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, captain, in which prison is your dad incarcerated?”
“The garbage fields in Indonesia.”
“Near the Smoggy Mount?”
“Indeed.” Magellan leaned back on his seat, wide hazel eyes on Isaac. The robot’s gray eyes were directed ahead. “I didn’t tell you anything. How did you figure out I’ve forgiven him?”
“Among the many analyses I’ve made on you, captain, the most obvious one is that you’re keeping this playlist.” The robot paused for a while, gray eyes on the name of the song. “I love this tune. It’s something your dad would’ve sang to you.”
“No, I did. Every time I went home from college, I did.”
The two spent the rest of the song in silence. Isaac continued manning the controls of the Pequod. Magellan put his hand behind his head. He was once again riding on the front seat of his dad’s jeepney, the boisterous laughter of his brothers in the backseats ringing in his ears.
— Song: Beep Beep — Artist: Juan de la Cruz Band —
“Captain, the radar’s detecting the space pirates again, sixty-three degrees northeast of Titania,” reported Isaac.
“They’re nothing,” said Magellan. “I’ve lived through the filth of the Philippines.”
“Admit it, though, captain. You say the name of the country with pride. Even this song, which, if my language pack isn’t failing me, is about the aerodynamically inefficient vehicle you hold dear to your heart, gives you delight.” The irises of Isaac’s eyes widened. “Humans never fail to fascinate me. Are you prepared, captain?”
The captain grinned. “I’ll always love that country, I guess. No matter how much I want to hate it. Ready when you are, lieutenant.”
“This song would be fun as we blast our way to Titania. We should destroy the pirate fleet first, though.”
The captain grinned. “Prepare the combat units and the SCVs.”
“Ready the torpedoes.”
“Set dad’s playlist on loop.”
( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)