I’m back in Manila. Have been for the past five excruciating months.

Strange thing happened the other day. Someone texted me about a possible acoustic gig and left a phone number: a trunk line plus an extension number. Being hesitant to add another gig to my existing sked, I decided to ignore the text message for a while, rolled over and slept some more.

A few hours later, when I finally decided to get up, I realized this was a wasted chance to earn more money. So I grabbed the phone and dialed away.

Immediately, without the other phone ringing at all, I was connected to an ongoing conversation. A crossed phone line!

So I put the phone down and dial again. Same thing. I yell, “Hello? Hello?” No one can hear me. But I hear them.

A man and a woman. Flirting over the phone:

“Punta akong motel mamaya,” the guy says.
“Tapos kukuha ka ng dalawa o tatlong babae?” says the girl.
“Uy. hindi ah. Di ko kaya yun.”
“Siguro may AIDS ka,” the girl laughs.
“Paano mo alam?”
“Eh, nangangati na ako, telepono pa lang ito!”

The line went busy.

Apparently, the crossed line only allowed me to stay on for about 30 or 45 seconds before declaring itself busy. Though if someone on the other line decides to hang up, the line starts ringing again, and I get connected to a new conversation.

I kept dialing.

Sometimes I got a fax or an internet connection buzzing harshly in my ear. Other times, I overheard students talking about homework, a caterer wanting to penetrate the market of Ateneo, a woman calling to ask if her relative was in the ICU of a hospital, a businessman complaining about inventory, a person working in city hall talking about the scam involving the government bonds and Multitel…

(I turned on the TV later that evening and the scam was all over the news. Whoah.)

The best call had to be this one:

Girl: “Hello? Um.. Kuya Dante? Ikaw ba iyan? Sino ito?”
Guy: “Alam mo, pag ikaw ang tumatawag, wag kang magtanong kung sino kausap mo!”

Made me wonder: what would I do if I happened to hear someone planning an evil act … I mean, what COULD I do? How would you find out the details with only 45 seconds of information?

This is how bored I was, getting kicks listening to other people’s mundane concerns.
Felt like “Being John Malkovich” but on a less grand scale.
I am now a phone voyeur.

 

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