I discovered something I could fast from this Lent: Maxim rides. The dawn of habal-habal apps has truly been one of the better things that happened to commuters like me. Motorbikes may be a traffic soar but to ordinary citizens who just need to get from point A to point B amidst the jungle that is the Cebu City streets, they are like an answered prayer.

Anyone who braves the sea of aspiring passengers waiting at the sidewalk for that elusive jeepney or bus ride knows that getting into one is not so far from winning a lottery. Fortunately, if you don’t have time for that game of chances, there are habal-habals everywhere, always ready to offer the quickest way out. Personally, I prefer to use Maxim since it’s cheaper and has more available drivers. It’s not the most comfortable ride but with the crazy traffic, I consider it a luxury, which is precisely the kind of thing to lessen this Lent.

While I was ranting about this favorite complaint of mine, particularly having to wait one time for 20 minutes for a bus under the scorching sun, someone simply said to me, “Oh, that’s actually short. In my town, I wait one hour.” I immediately justified my grievance but moments later, that comment continued to pique my mind and eventually my conscience.

I started to realize that the transportation situation is truly one of the battle fields of patience for me. Often, the determination to avoid any troubles and inefficiencies pulls me to prioritize above all else my well-being, my convenience, and my success over my great enemy– the chaotic, pollution-filled, and exasperating Cebu traffic. Little did I know, my annoyance over this matter has actually fed my self-centeredness and indifference towards others around me.

And so one evening, when I was getting back home after an appointment in the city, I decided to be a little more patient. Since it was not yet so late in the night as well, I tried my chances on the public vehicles. As expected, I stood waiting half an hour as jeepneys filled to the brim with passengers, passed by me one after the other, not even giving any glimmer of hope. I noticed that a lady standing nearby was most likely in the exact situation as me. She was already there when I arrived, glancing here and there, probably wishing a vacant spot with every jeepney that approaches. Seeing her anxious look, I thought that maybe she was a mother, tired, having gotten off from work, needing to get home to take care of her family.

Then suddenly, the traffic light turned red and we both stared at the jeepney that was obliged to stop. I held my breath as I waited for the sign that this is finally is it! Lo and behold, two passengers got down freeing up some space. I was closer to the jeepney so I immediately ran for it, thinking there should be enough room for me and the lady, who was not far behind, following my stride.

When I finally arrived inside, the passengers started saying there’s room for only one more. I was surprised because that does not calculate but quickly realized it is reasonable because one or two, who may have been just sitting with half their butt, must have taken the chance to get more space. Just a second later, my lady companion was there, also realizing the situation. I did not take a seat yet because I wanted to make sure that there’s space for her as well, since she was waiting longer than me. But sizing up the scene, I figured it wasn’t possible for the both of us to decently sit down. Turning to her, I said, “Take the seat; I’m getting down.” “But how about you?” “Don’t worry. I’ll get on another one.”

For the first time, maybe in months, I finally noticed another passenger other than myself. Instead of ensuring my own welfare more than anything, I was considering that of someone else. Patience and humility helped my narrow heart, that could only accommodate myself and my priorities, to widen and welcome another one who may actually be in more need than me. And then I realized, that’s how we learn how to love. When we choose to let go of our own comforts and accept a little suffering, we then are able to let go of ourselves and able to accept others into our hearts; to notice them and care about them and even to put their good first before our own.

Love, indeed, requires sacrifice and the more willing and free we are to sacrifice, the more we grow in love. It makes sense then why fasting is one of the most enduring practices that the Church teaches us during this time of call to repentance and conversion. It is a basic way to sacrifice that trains us to make those ultimate sacrifices for the sake of love. Truly, it is one of the highways that leads us to a greater charity and a fuller joy.

That evening, I stepped down that jeepney, missing my ride for the nth time, but I was happier than I ever was on a Maxim bike.