MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.Net/10 January) – I love to travel from Malaybalay to Cagayan de Oro City via RTMI (Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc.) bus not only because of the green sceneries along the highway but also because of that ‘little community’ formed inside the bus.

I just love to be part of a crowd of people who doesn’t know each other but share the same journey towards wherever destination we are to.

I had an errand to Cagayan de Oro on January 8, a cloudy day in Bukidnon and a rainy day in the “City of Golden Friendship”, to fetch important documents and to meet few people in Xavier University.

My view of Mount Palaopao from Sumilao area was intense. I remember its stiff and rocky trail, which I climbed four days before New Year’s Day.

In between sight-seeing of green mountains and valleys, I ‘read’ some people in this trip inside RTMI bus no. 237.

I could feel how tired that sleeping guy beside me. He was either tired of that particular morning trip or tired of life in general. A young lady was wearing colorful body ornaments which I’m sure pictures a typical trendy college student. Oh, I missed that stuff during college days when my favorite colors were black and brown.

One seat was occupied by a pregnant mother attending a little girl on her lap. That girl got an instant pillow from her mother’s bulging tummy. That was a rare subject for an artist!

One seat away from me was a tall man in black jacket that was busy with his cellphone. He got calls and messages. Ring tones then turned to instant music in a little world inside the bus.

It was the smiling lady in her late twenties, who was the most visible in the crowd. Her red shirt, tucked in a skinny pair of pants, looks just as strong as the command she bears over the passengers. No one could resist her presence.

I admired that lady.

While I “explored” the crowd inside the bus that left Malaybalay at around 7:45a.m., an alarming sound prompted the bus driver to stop a few kilometers away from the Manolo Fortich bus stop.

After checking the engine for a few minutes, the driver declared that we had to transfer to another bus.

The tall guy in black jacket murmured “ipa-check up unta daan ang bus ayha ipalarga!” (buses should be checked before deployment!). I silently agreed.

The presence of the lady in red exuded a warm soul, which overcome my anger. I saw the crowd started moving out from that air-conditioned bus and I joined them in finding comfort under a makeshift shelter. The location where we stopped is not an assigned bus stop but bus No. 237 has to stop there.

I explored the place, took a picture and decided to continue my ‘reading’ so I approached the lady in red. Her name is Lalai. Her employee number is 137 with PhP300 plus per day wage (she didn’t specify the exact amount).

Her employer must have responded to the rights of women to avail fair opportunity with men to get that job as mandated by R.A. 6725, the law that strengthens the prohibition on discrimination against women with respect to terms and conditions of employment.

Lalai has no problem with safety and workload in her noble job, she said. In Bukidnon alone, she shares this job with other 199 ladies who attained either college level education or are college graduates.

Without degrading their male counterparts, I find the bus stewardess’ service more relaxing and assuring. I’m not sure if it is because they are females or it’s just unintentional gender bias?

I took the second bus to arrive in our spot in the highway. It arrived almost an hour after we were asked to transfer. I didn’t take the first bus to CDO because there were no more seats available.

The much smaller crowd this time moved in to the new bus; leaving behind bus no. 237.

I saw another lady in red inside the new bus. She looks more beautiful – but not as warm as Lalai, who joined us in the transfer.

My new found seat at the rear gave me the best angle in looking at the two ladies as they share the job to attend to the passengers for a comfortable trip.

Meeting Lalai reminded me of my first encounter with a female bus attendant in a trip from Cubao to Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City many years ago. It was a memorable trip that I even kept my ticket for keepsake.

For a job well done, I salute Lalai, employee no. 137, the female attendant of RTMI Bus No. 237.

(BUKIDNON VIEWS is the opinion section of BukidnonNews.Net. Loreta Sol L. Dinlayan is currently the in-charge of the Ethno-cultural Museum of Bukidnon State University, where she teaches social science and other subjects. She is the daughter of the late Datu Bagangbangan Lorenzo “Aki” Dinlayan. Angaray’s (lady friend’s) Take is her column for BUKIDNON VIEWS. She can be reached through