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Kuya, Ate and Different Ways to Stop a Jeepney

“Sa harap pô ng owner,” the young man in front of me in the jeepney just this evening said to the driver. “Para pô kuya…”

Am I missing something? I would have said, “Mamâ, para!” Not kuya

I am hearing a lot of the kuyas and the ates from the youngsters lately. Just yesterday, a senior Nursing student in her whites wanted bottled water at the cafeteria. “Ate,” she called to the woman behind the counter, “mineral water pô!”

I didn’t really think anything of it, but this morning, a freshman in his freshly ironed barong came to the counter and asked the same lady, “Ate, magkano pô ‘to?” He was pointing at the rice cake on the counter.

I really don’t know quite what to make of this. When I was that age, ate and kuya were used to respectfully address older siblings and relatives. Of course, it was acceptable to call the household help and very close friends the same way.

But strangers? Have the kids stopped using the words ale and mamâ already?

Anyway, even the way of telling the driver to stop by saying para is something I did not grow up with. That way used to be so totally Manila.

In my youth, we did the sensible thing… “Pssssstttt!!!” And the drivers promptly stepped on the brakes.

The more jeproks even sucked on their lips to make this distinct kissing sound that I did not really learn to do. The drivers instinctively stopped their jeepneys, nevertheless.

Or, with one’s knuckles, one loudly knocked on the wooden roof of the jeepney. That was always a bit of the problem if the roof was made of tarpaulin. Then, one had no choice but to Pssstttt the driver…

A variation of the roof knocking was to gently rap on the roof – if it was wooden – with one’s fingernails. Again, I never really learned to do that properly. I usually ended up hitting the roof with the bone of my pointer finger, making a sound not quite what I wanted to produce.

Yet drivers, even if their jeepneys had loud music blaring, somehow learned to recognize these sounds and instinctively stepped on the brakes.

God! This can’t be good! I am starting to think of my “youth” and the things kids do differently these days!

[This story was first published on Facebook on 29 July 2008.]

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