Manila may not be the city with the most population, but it now ranks first as the city that has the greatest population density. :O This is according to the 2010 Census of Population and Housing: National Capital Region study conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) of the Republic of the Philippines in 2010. With this fact, I would not be surprised if it enters the list of the world’s most traffic congested cities as well next time.
I don’t know anyone who does not agree with the notion that traffic in Manila is plainly horrible. While there are those who are already car-pooling routinely, the rest of the population are left with no other choice but to ride public transportation and commute on a daily basis if not only to endure shelling out more for the pumped-up prices of petrol and higher costs of maintaining a private vehicle including paying for parking fee, road penalties, road taxes and insurance.
So however way you put it, commuting is way more economical than driving your own car or car-pooling. But these expenses due from the car upkeep are well worth the safety and comfort in contrast with commuting in Manila via public transportation. I guess you really get what you pay for.
Nonetheless, commuting in Manila has its fair share of ups and downs. Here are some of them…and you can decide if it’s a pro or a con later.
Commuting in Manila: Ups and Downs
1. Commuting in Manila is a great form of exercise. You can save both money and time you would have otherwise spent in the gym!
This might not only be limited to Manila per se, but commuting provides the chance for people to exercise. We walk, run or jump to catch and step into the train, hop into the jeepney or the bus door, for instance. There are times when the number of these transports run low and the next one is expected to arrive several minutes after, while the number of people waiting for their chance to ride increases. The tendency is to fight for that chance, and so you better get your arm and leg muscles ready.
The exercise is not high-impact and it does not normally last over 20 minutes but enough to get you perspired. What’s good is that you can boot up your energy level to start the day, probably even without consuming caffeine. 😛
2. Commuting in Manila gives you a reason to wear your “warrior” costume. You don’t have to feel embarrassed.
It’s not anywhere and anytime that you can be a “warrior” in this modern era. But if ever you want to be one or at least feel like one, don’t let your dream die out. Especially if you’re fond of wearing costumes of superheroes and anime fighters, sashaying your fashion sense only indoors is such a waste. The best way to showcase your style and show the world your fancy creativity is to ride the metro rail systems in Manila. Try hopping on these trains during rush hours, for best results, and prepare for an exciting adventure. Insanely crowded, inside these trains you can find Armageddon.
If you happen to favor riding buses more, then be wary that the number of buses in Manila has been decreased to a minimum to prevent clogging with traffic. Expect a lot of pushing and shoving episodes. Carry spare clothing to change before entering your school, workplace or any event where you need to look presentable.
3. Commuting in Manila is never dull. There’s drama, comedy, romance, action and horror in every scene.
Nope, you can’t use your smartphone, tablet, mp3 player or any mobile technical gadget for entertainment unless you’re okay to feel disheartened or cry your way home. There’s a lot of sneaky eyes and hands here. But don’t fret. Not a single trip is complete without you feeling either amused somehow by fellow passengers.
Commuting in Manila gives you free entertainment and inspiration as you get to hear other people’s conversations and look at other people’s lives from a distance without pushing yourself to convene with them.
4. Commuting in Manila is like an obstacle race, “a game with no rules.”
There’s chaos on the streets. There are signs and rules however these can be disregarded for as long as there’s no policeman or MMDA officers to catch your back. Kidding. Of course these rules should be followed, but not everybody is just complying. Buses and jeepneys load and unload passengers wherever they want. They cut lanes without prior signals and all these lead to road accidents. 🙁
The trains, buses and jeepneys in Manila are where you can also test your resilience, vigilance and your tolerance to different types of smell (body odor, pollution), noise (vehicle horns, construction in the daytime) and mentality (of pedestrians and motorists who think they are the kings or queens of the road).
5. Commuting in Manila can get you armed as a conversation-starter. 🙂
Have you ever been to a social gathering and you don’t know how to break the ice or get into the ongoing conversation? I know we all have. There are also times when you don’t have anything interesting to share because work or school is just busy, too technical or too boring to recount; and personal problems are no way in place for that group of people to empathize on.
The good thing is that you have these stories to share from your daily commute. Tell them the most recent stories about suspicious-looking guys, robbers, pickpockets, perverts and stalkers. These everyday life incidents are often regarded as educational pieces of information that can give more caution to people. They are useful knowledge everyone must know about.
6. Commuting in Manila reflects “bayanihan” and “pakikipagkapwa.”
We don’t have a prepaid card here that can be loaded and reloaded to pay the jeepney fare, taxicab fare, tricycle fare and bus fare. To reach the payment to the driver, we hand out the coins or bill to the person nearest us and request him or her to forward the payment to the driver or conductor. The catch? There are just some people who do not respond to these favors positively. Instead, they ignore you by pretending not to hear and force you to go to the front and hand over the payment yourself.
Most of the time, I am this girl who does not want to help. I’ll explain: My mom advised us to sit at the back of the jeepney driver because this position is the safest. It’s farthest from the reach of robbers who tend to sit near the exit to quickly run off and get away.
Based on other people’s experiences, this makes sense. I don’t extend my arms to reach for the fare passed by passengers who sit on the opposite end or anywhere near it (see Person A or Person B in the picture below) because then I have to move to the middle and probably apply as the “driver’s assistant.” Wah liao!
I’m not to play that part, sorry. I think these passengers should learn their lesson; better sit first near the driver and after paying, move back near the exit where they feel most comfortable.
7. Commuting in Manila is like riding a roller coaster.
It’s as if a huge percentage of cab drivers, bus drivers and jeepney drivers grew up thinking that someday they can become professional race car drivers. Thanks to them and also Manila’s incessant road repairs, commuters don’t need to go to theme parks to experience riding in a roller coaster. Formation of cracks and potholes takes no respite, in order to “improve road surfaces.” Bumps on the roads are not for the faint-hearted, especially when riding on a tricycle. Can I get an amen here? 😛
8. Commuting in Manila is freaking stressful.
Instead of resting your mind after a long day’s work, you still have to scrutinize and judge whoever boards into the public vehicle you’re in. Think of escape routes and ways to distract the suspect. Shutting your eyes or taking a nap even for a short while is not a good idea. Just because they are kids or women does not mean they are harmless. For all you know, they may be members of syndicates that have swindling looks.
Training your cardiovascular and nervous systems to handle these mind boggling and nerve racking situations is best. You need not possess the running skills of a contestant in an Olympic marathon, so don’t stress yourself too much. At least though, you have to practice running and train for the run of your life either to get back at the robbers and claim your belongings or head to the nearest police station to file a report while the robber has not gotten away too far.
Are you a commuter yourself? I’d love to read your commuting stories and what say you re: commuting in Manila in the comments. 😀