What Commuting In Manila Is Like & Why It Needs To Change
Is it just me or does commuting in Manila feels like walking through hell?
Before we get started, I’m going to lay my cards out on the table and say I’m not exactly what you might call a “real commuter.” I used to take some combination of the MRT/LRT in college to visit friends in Katipunan, but I only knew the route going to and coming back from Taft. Now that I’m working, my office has a shuttle service that brings me close enough to home that I have the option of asking my dad to pick me up or to ride a jeep and then take a 10-minute walk.
So why am I writing this piece when I (arguably) have no right to claim the struggles of a “real” commute? Well, think about it this way: I’m not numb to the slightest nuances of commuting in Manila—let me list them down.
It takes forever to get on anything. Whether a jeep or a bus, you’re always stuck waiting at least 30 minutes in line to start on your journey home. And the minute you get off of your first mode of transportation, there’s another line ready to greet you.
The Hunger Games
If there is no line (AKA you want to be a hooligan and just hail a jeep on the road instead of the proper terminal), it’s The Hunger Games when kuya makes his stop. People run to the back of the vehicle, there is no care whether or not you got to the waiting area first and you’re left praying to the high heavens that there’s still space on those metal seats for you.
Need this be explained?
If you’ve never found yourself so close to someone else that you can smell what they’ve done that day, consider yourself lucky. If you’ve never had to half-sit your ass down so you can have a few extra inches of personal space, good on you. I cannot say the same for me.
The quality of everything
The jeepneys that are decades old. The paved roads are filled with bumps and potholes. Even when you walk on the sidewalk, there’s no room for you and you’re stuck facing oncoming traffic. There are drivers that don’t follow road rules and thus subject passengers to carry their lives with them on the commute. Those pseudo waiting sheds that don’t shield you from rain or the sun. The people that cut in line and the trash that they leave behind.
The waste of time
From someone that works in Fort and lives in Makati, and takes some two hours to get home, let me be the millionth person to say that commuting is a waste of time. Yes, I am well aware that it’s because of the traffic and the congestion in the city and the too-small central business districts that we must get to and from every single day—but this knowledge doesn’t help ease the tiredness of my back, legs and feet at the end of the day.
And don’t tell me to wait out the traffic in the office, either; if I’m done for the day, that’s just a waste of time too.
All the above problems don’t even factor in our strange weather. Sometimes too hot, sometimes too wet—and all the added issues these cause: more traffic, a choice between sweat or rain water dripping down our backs and the occasional step into a river of flood water. And while I’m at it, the stench of our sidewalks seem to get a little thicker during these times, too.
If someone out there needs a reason to fix our public transport system, listen up and let me say this loud and clear: We 👏 Deserve 👏 Better 👏 We’re all working our asses off (some more than others) and we should be given the chance to stay home for more than nine hours if we wanted to. I mean, go out and have drinks out all you want, but I want to be home before they clean up dinner.
See ya’ll at the lines.
Art Alexandra Lara