Minority Report

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john.stevenson@foundationU.com

I was in this gas station filling up my tank one weekday afternoon, and I saw a scene in front of me while I waited. I had my camera with me, so I quickly picked it up and got this shot, then put it down again, before everybody stopped and posed and smiled. I didn’t have time; I was in a hurry. But now I don’t remember why, or where I was going. After all, it was more than ten years ago.

What caught my eye was the contrasting personalities that radiated from the two attendants working there. Aside from that, wasn’t anything unusual going on. It’s just a quiet small town scene, a little gas station surrounded by open fields and dilapidated old buildings. The road is more or less empty, even in the middle of the afternoon.

The same gas station is here today, on the South Highway going out of town, but everything around it has changed. The rusty galvanized shed behind the pedicab is gone; the entrance gate to the Teletech call center is there now. The open field on the right was, at that time, a broad pasture full of grazing cows. Now the cows are gone, replaced by Robinson’s mall.

It’s certainly not a quiet small town scene there now. Buildings are big and bright and new. There’s no open space in sight, only the hot concrete parking lots around Robinson’s. The antique looking pedicabs are still there, but multiplied from an occasional passing to a smoke spewing horde, joined in sluggish confluence with endless cars and motorcycles crawling in and out of the mall. The road is never empty now, even at night. What was once the edge of town is now the new center.

And it follows the new pattern- gigantic shopping malls surrounding a decaying center of town- You can see it in Cebu, Manila, Bacolod and now, here in Dumaguete. It’s what people want now, with cell phones,
I-pads, laptops: new, cool, clean, fast. And all these things, all these places, all look about the same. You could be anywhere.

In this picture, none of that has happened yet. And still, even now, not everything has changed. We still need gasoline, and people to pump it.
And people haven’t changed. –Like this young woman, with her pleasant air of efficiency. Like this young man, with his blank and pitiless glare.

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