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At Large

Traffic misery loves company

/ 05:06 AM September 17, 2017

Friday afternoon, we left our home in Antipolo at 3 p.m. and headed to the Mall of Asia area. I was on the way to the birthday dinner of friend Beth Sison Tagle at the restaurant XO 46. Festivities, I had been told, were to start at 5 p.m. With me were my son, my grandson, and his yaya. We were to pick up my daughter-in-law Tesh from her Makati office because they planned to do some shopping. The hubby had wisely decided to stay home because, he said, the thought of the traffic we would encounter was already giving him a headache.

Well, what do you know? I walked into XO almost 7 p.m., just in time to catch the fireworks show. Friends who kindly inquired what time I’d left home were flabbergasted when I told them about our long and difficult sojourn, even if Waze did all it could to help speed things up.

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The funny thing is that the hubby and I had just arrived from Cebu earlier this week, and I tell you the traffic situation in the “Queen City of the South” was no better (though not worse) than the one we Metro Manilans must endure each day. Our hosts at the Maribago Blue Water resort in Lapu-Lapu had arranged for us to visit the San Pedro Calungsod Shrine across the SM Seafront complex, and we set out on the road just in time to confront the worst of the commuter hell. Our travails ranged from the clogged thoroughfare fronting the Mactan Export Processing Zone (resulting from the egress and ingress of workers from their shifts) to the narrow winding streets of the old Cebu City overwhelmed by vehicles.

The rumors are true. Traffic in other major cities of the country is approximating the hellish dimensions of Metro Manila. Our driver, who proudly declared that he was born and raised in Cebu, even envied the presence of the MMDA which at least, he said, enforces the law in the capital’s chaotic streets. Proof of the laxity with which traffic rules are enforced in Metro Cebu, he said, was the way motorcycle drivers and passengers willy-nilly went about their way, helmet-less and even texting while driving. Nothing like shared misery to instantly bind Pinoys!

Still, our short break in Cebu was a welcome respite from the relentless stress of life in Metro Manila, and the particular heaviness in our hearts and minds created by the hammering of one piece of horrendous news on top of another.

At Maribago Blue Water I had to marvel at the seemingly robust tourist trade, with the resort filled to the rafters with tourists from China, Japan and most especially Korea. The Koreans were particularly noticeable, since most seemed to be part of a family group, with three generations often represented at the breakfast tables.

From what I hear, though, Korean tourists move about in a bubble that shields most of them from having to interact with Filipinos. Most arrangements—and transactions—are done in Korea, such that all their inland travel, accommodations, meals and sundry services are taken care of well in advance. A tour operator, for instance, meets the arrivals from Korea at the airport and transports them directly to a spa also owned by the operator where the tourists are pampered before they check in at their hotels/resorts.

On a drive around Lapu-Lapu and Mactan where most resorts are located, one notices shop signs in Korean, attesting to the proliferation of Korean-owned groceries, spas and parlors, and even churches. They may be here, but not really here, and I couldn’t but rue that lost opportunity for cultural interaction that could have led to strengthened ties in this era of global uncertainty and insecurity.

Profound thanks, though, to friends at Maribago Blue Water for the relaxing break at the start of a working week!

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TAGS: At Large, Metro Cebu traffic, Metro Manila traffic, Rina Jimenez-David
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