Just outside the cemetery gates, throngs of bereaved heap before the security checkpoint. It is a drill they had already experienced days earlier at transport hubs such as the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, where their resilience was tested by sporadic cancellations, foot-dragging lines, and, among others, the fare hike–P2 for buses and P1 for jeepneys.
This recent series of fare hikes, salt in the wounds of rigid bereavement leave policies and an already defective transport system, has packaged rituals for the dead as a luxury—a boon for private entities and an afterthought for a public preoccupied with mere survival.
The spikes were especially grating when province-bound bus rides were the order of the day. The Land Transportation and Franchising and Regulatory Board has rationalized the fare hike, packaging it as a magic bullet to nationwide oil price increases. Yet, true to form, the state has not pulled the plug on the Oil Deregulation Law, which strips the government of price control over petroleum products and effectively surrenders these to the diktat of oil corporations. This law is the key impetus in the nationwide oil crisis, made a force of life and death in a national transport crisis.
Twin surges in oil and fare costs frustrate the public’s freedom of movement, already constrained by a beleaguered transport system, and subsequently, their opportunities for mourning. There is little room for recollection when squeezed between fellow travelers in the waiting area, clambering to one’s gate minutes before departure, or watching minutes slip away while stuck in some of the world’s slowest-moving traffic jams.
During the lethargic commute, workers–expenses already doubled due to rising fare costs–lose time, a resource worth gemstones in this season of no work, no pay, even during Undas. Grief now comes at a cost. When time rendered is time paid, this heady effect extends beyond Undas.
Bereavement leave in the Philippines pits one’s right to mourn against one’s right to fair wages. Paid leave for the grieving is not prescribed by law and is usually only granted in cases of immediate family member’s death. Pushback has materialized in the form of the Bereavement Act of 2022, seeking to institutionalize a 10-day paid leave. The bill, however, has made no headway since last year.
Both the fizzling out of the bereavement law and the onward stride of the fare hike are cut from the same lopsided cloth, tailormade to fit the whims of the elite—may it be the greedy employer or the oil conglomerate. The rush for productivity has appropriated even the worker’s grief. The memory of the deceased is overshadowed by the need to generate profit; the bereaved worker drudges, the spell broken periodically by the nostalgia of lives once lived–quiet moments to be later compensated for in work, on pain of alienation. And so the wheel turns.
But the dead must not be rendered fuel for a cycle that has abandoned their memory. During Undas, mourning becomes contingent on mobility. Therefore, expediting fuel subsidy provision and annulling the Oil Deregulation Law, which will end the imperative for burdensome fare hikes, are essential in upholding the public’s right to grieve. Recognition of this right, however, transcends occasions like Undas; thus, a humane bereavement leave policy remains an exigency. Without these, one cannot exhume themself from a pattern of an unexamined life and unfulfilled death. ●
Dec 2, 2023
Ang hirap pala kapag ako na ang nakatatanggap ng mga pangungumusta mo, ng mga kwento mo, ng mga ngiti mo.
Dec 2, 2023
Leila De Lima’s case cannot be isolated from the cases of nearly 800 political prisoners in the country, necessitating a justice system that could uphold fairness, equality, and the rule of law.