Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Buhay Kariton

It can be considered as the remnants of Filipino nomadic living. It could be the last example of our old ways, long before the baranggays and societies were founded. Or it can be a display of Pinoy ingenuity still. Those are what can be said about the kariton.

Made of scrap wood, metal and rubber, the kariton is incredibly versatile. It can be a mode of transportation, an occupational tool, a playground for children and a home. In the 1980s and probably earlier, there were plenty of people using the kariton. Commonly seen on the streets during daylight, pushed by scrap and bottle collectors known as "magbobote". At night, they'd be parked on a dark and isolated corner and used as bed and shelter.

It is still Filipino ingenuity, converting scrap materials into useable stuff. Ball bearings become part of makeshift wheels, rubber trimmings nailed to the wheels for traction, a three-wheel design to compensate a missing steering system. There's a lot of improvised engineering, physics, and architecture involved in making a kariton, yet a common pinoy can build one by hand. It even helps nature through recycling and is powered by human muscles.

It is perfect for vagrant or nomadic living in Metro Manila where there are no steep hills to climb, there are smooth roads to use, and plenty of dark corners to park and spend the night on. Cooking and washing dishes may not be a problem, as there are portable stoves, public water sources and a lot of ready to eat meals available. Restrooms won't even be a problem because of the public restrooms all over Manila.

There has been less and less sightings of the kariton and the people who use them. Some had evolved into a more sophisticated existence after they found a suitable place they can erect shelter with a larger and more comfortable living space. Karitons became shanties.

What is amazing is that the kariton, a symbol of poverty, was turned into a symbol of hope. Efren Penaflorida became the CNN Hero of the Year in 2009 because of his vision to transform the lowly kariton into a vehicle of education, values and purpose. The kariton now not only represents poverty and Filipino diskarte, but something much more higher. And this can happen also to other ordinary things in our daily lives.