By Stef Monce
You know what I always hear every time people ask me where I live? “Ha?! Grabe, ang layo! Sobrang hassle naman n’yan!” I go to the Adamson University in Ermita, Manila and I live in Molino, Cavite. Every day, I travel from home to the very busy San Marcelino St. where my alma mater is located. The earliest that I’m at school is 10:00 a.m. every M-W-F. I usually go home as late as 9:00 p.m.
Fortunately, I only take one ride to get to my daily destination and back: One UV Express trip. Back and forth, it takes a couple of hours of my life every day. That’s one perk for a (deep) southerner, though! One of my best friends actually lives in Valenzuela, and he also commutes every day. To get to school, he has to take a tricycle, ride a jeep, and alight the LRT to Monumento. Meanwhile, whenever I head out to cover a UAAP men’s basketball or women’s volleyball event as part of my courtside reporter duties, I also have to compress my schedule to make it to the venue. There’s obv an unspeakable hassle to commuting, yet this story is nothing new for students like us. In the metro, commuting in this kind of traffic is part of life—and here I am, feeling small with this big of a problem.
Worst Days Ever
Commuting has become such a pain over time, the congestion that occurs on Metro Manila’s major roads all day, every day being the main culprit. From Magallanes to Buendia to Ortigas, to Tomas Morato to Libis to Katipunan, and even on SLEX and NLEX, none of us is safe from the traffic. There’s really no “rush hour” anymore—and it’s getting harder and harder to predict when and where the traffic will be because it’s just the default situation now.
Popular GPS-based navigation app Waze even labeled Metro Manila as having the “worst traffic on Earth” after surveying the driving experience of 50 million users across 32 countries and 167 cities. The report claimed that Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Jakarta trail us. So, who or what should we blame for this nightmare? Not those construction projects, minor accidents, and douchebag drivers on the road that are usually the cause of maddening, sanity-deducing bottlenecks. It’s, yes, the economic boom.
“Metro Manila is at risk of becoming uninhabitable as annual new car growth increases to 500,000 by 2020,” senior advisor of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines John Forbes told The Philippine Star in a January 2016 article. Well, that makes sense.
Deal(ing) With It
For mass transit problems and traffic to dissipate, thus, making commuting more convenient, what’s needed is a long-term plan, not just a band-aid solution. Lest we become like Bangkok, Thailand where choppers are the everyday means of transportation. For the Philippines, a country facing a rapidly developing automotive industry, Forbes suggested that the government act promptly.
“While roads are being improved throughout the country, the National Capital Region urgently needs more limited access roads, especially skyways and railways,” he said in the same article.
Indeed, it’s a good thing that seeking solutions to our traffic problems has recently become a government priority. In the 2016 national elections, for example, it became such a hot topic at debates among candidates. Now, President Rodrigo Duterte has already revealed his plan of action for easing gridlocks.
Many experts think that the best way to conquer our traffic—and commuting—problems is to build more mass transit systems that are reliable and streamlined. Besides, if we are making more money, shouldn’t we be investing in more efficient infrastructure, too? This is what DOTC secretary Joseph Abaya, motoring journo James Deakin, and transportation expert Rene Santiago unanimously agreed on in a roundtable discussion on CNN Philippines posted last January.
Of course, we could only wish that our MRT and LRT lines be improved as it carries 500,000 commuters a day. (A good bulk of that is obviously comprised of students.) Here we are, hoping the government would give priority to making commuting a pleasure, not the pain that we are forced to endure every day. Remember the Kyu-shirataki train station in Hokkaido, Japan, which boarded a lone schoolgirl every day on her way to her high school? Though she was the only regular passenger coming from that station, the train stayed operational until last March, when it finally closed just as the school terms ended. The story tugs at one’s heartstrings, knowing how the Japanese government considers how best to serve its citizens, even just one. Here’s to high hopes for the Philippines!
How your daily adventures in public transport can affect your personality
In the Philippines, the word “traffic” means being jammed with the rest of humanity on the road instead of its real meaning, which refers to the flow of cars in the streets. That “traffic” has become a part of everyday life and is a factor that determines our personality says a whole lot, according to psychology graduate and Elizabeth Seton School instructor Reynaldo Castada III. “The proximity between home and school greatly affects your behavior, especially when you realize that a significant amount of your time has been taken or spent away from your comfort zone. It also adds anxiety, knowing you could’ve spent your time doing something more productive. The fear of what might happen at home while you are away is also there.”
RODY ON THE ROAD
The new President’s promises to achieve a better commuting experience are actually pretty interesting.
Let’s start with him saying that he’d buy more train carriages to ease our MRT woes a.k.a. “hell on wheels.” It’s already been 16 years since the MRT first operated. With an actual load of 500,000 passengers daily against its 350,000 capacity, it’s really a big problem. Hopefully, no more siksikan, long lines, random breakdowns, and busted air conditioning with Digong at the helm!
Duterte also warns taxi drivers who don’t give their passengers their due and exact change. He claims that this is extortion and the practice automatically qualifies as a case of estafa. Basically, he’s saying that exact change is coming. Yes, please!
TRICKS FOR TREATS
If you sum it all up, traveling to school —whether by public transport or private vehicle— can cost so much. Save up the right way now, enjoy the rewards later!
Be reasonable, not just practical. When picking your best ride on your way to school, factor in budget and travel time. Having the cheapest ride may save you a lot, going for a little more gastos can be safer and faster.
Get app-dated. When using apps, keep up to date about the latest promos by following the services on social media. You can also carpool!
Commute with a friend. You may also choose to traverse your daily route by hitching with a friend or commuting with a classmate. When you take a car together, for example, you can save a few bucks and make a new friend!
Swipe right. Buy the Beep card, a reloadable stored-value ticket usable for the LRT and MRT trains. It’s convenient. Period.
Invest. Put your money on what will actually sustain you on your commute. For the rainy season, buy a good waterproof jacket and a nice, sturdy baha-proof pair of shoes!
Wake up early. The early bird not only catches the worm, it also gets the suspension updates first come the rainy season! If you know that classes have been suspended, you won’t have to go to school and spend money for pamasahe. Plus, you can go back to sleep!
Here, Chalk rates the best apps you can download to help you get through your daily commuting dilemma!
This app promises a safe ride because your driver’s details are listed on your smartphone. If fares are steep for GrabCar, subscribe to the meter-based GrabTaxi for cheaper fare!
Like GrabCar, it’s convenient and secure. From the app’s initially credit card only payment system, it now accepts cash and has a ride-sharing option.
Keep an eye on the lightness or heaviness of traffic before stepping out.
This guides you on the buses or jeeps you should take going somewhere. It will send you SMS messages if you’ve run out of data.
A new app that enables carpooling—chip in with the rest of the passengers for the gas to split fares!
This lets you check if an area is flooded or not. Handy for the rainy season!
ALSO READ: Cheat Sheet: Here’s How to Boredom-Proof Yourself When You're Stuck in Traffic
Additional text and research Barry Viloria. Images by Rxandy Capinpin. Styling Red Dimaandal. Grooming Xy Eugenio for Inglot Cosmetics. Hair Jaypee Valera of Triple Luck Nail & Brow Salon. Model Van Allan Flores.