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Surviving our daily ‘carmageddon’

/ 05:22 AM February 22, 2018

On my way to a recent business appointment in BGC, my Uber driver offered that the “carmageddon” we experience daily has only one solution: stringent driver education at par with the standards of Dubai and Canada. That, he said, would most likely put an end to the habit of some Filipino drivers to counterflow and use “gitgit” to cope with traffic.

Alas, the solution that our punishing commutes call for is not that simple, if we are to go by the analysis of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (HGSD). Together with the international infrastructure firm Aecom, the HGSD recently launched a program called “Manila: Future Habitations.” According to its dean Mohsen Mostavani, we Filipinos would “have to have a framework established by various agencies and then, along with the developments by private developers, engage and transform such framework.”

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While we await ground-breaking solutions from the government and the private sector — which, experts say, would take decades to implement — may I propose three attitudes that Filipino drivers could start imbibing today to survive our daily carmageddon?  But first, a full disclosure: I do not represent Uber, Grab, Wunder and the like. I am an ordinary motorist who has been reflecting for some time on the question: “How can we survive Metro Manila traffic and still keep our  humanity intact?”

Be kind. Think of others and not just of yourself when you are behind the wheel. I think we Filipinos are innately capable of kindness. Consider our practice in the olden days of “pag-usog” aboard jeepneys and buses to accommodate an incoming passenger. The songwriter Gary Granada celebrated this in a song in the 1970s. It’s time we revived its spirit, owing to its strategic and tactical value. By imbibing “pag-usog” we subsequently avoid conflict caused by competing for the same space, be it as motorists or as motorist and pedestrian. Its strategic value lies in how it could inevitably improve the flow of traffic. Drivers  who think of others would naturally resist the temptation to counterflow or cut corners at the expense of others. More importantly, driving  with kindness is the right thing to do, period. Easier said than done, of course. Hence, I suggest that we ground this attitude daily in the

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Ignatian Prayer for Generosity.

Think clearly. Given the nature of our traffic crisis, each driver would do well to clear one’s  mind before turning on the ignition or, failing this, as one is driving. Refraining from texting or calling while driving is a step in the right direction. I suggest that we go further by investing at least five minutes a day, the time it would take to brush one’s teeth, to sitting in one corner and inhaling deeply. You can do this in complete silence or you can invest in the whole slew of free and for-sale meditation apps in your smartphone. There is a robust body of evidence that validates the daily use of such among a number of NBA players, the US Marines and Google. The Prayer for Serenity would no doubt be its perfect daily complement.

Move on. This attitude proceeds from thinking clearly. If we think clearly, we can eventually train our minds to be curious about the thoughts that come to us instead of being hooked by such. This is especially true when the thoughts are negative, such as those that are triggered by our encounters with “pasaway” drivers, or those who willfully refuse to follow traffic rules. If we can catch our negative thoughts, we can override our amygdala and be more responsive rather than reactive toward the “pasaway.” I am reminded here of a Grab driver I rode with who took another motorist’s rude behavior in stride. He simply moved on without honking his horn, shouting an invective, or flashing the finger. I suspect he prays the Franciscan Prayer for Peace daily.

Simplistic? Maybe so, but in the absence of tangible innovations that could dramatically solve our daily carmageddon, the solution might ultimately just lie in our “kalooban” and, most importantly, in God’s mercy.

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Von Katindoy says he takes one to two hours to drive to work even if his home is only four kilometers away from his office. He runs and bikes on weekends but is unable to do either to get to work due to traffic conditions.

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TAGS: carmageddon, driver education, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Inquirer Commentary, Mohsen Mostavani, traffic
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