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A game plan for surviving the metro

05:03 AM January 08, 2019

For several days during the holidays, what used to take 45 minutes to an hour on most days (i.e., two hours on bad days) only took 10 to 15 minutes. I could even drive home to eat lunch with my kids, and then go back to the office by 1 p.m. While it was tempting to ascribe this streak of good fortune to Catriona Gray’s stunning win as it started around that time, it was obviously because a considerable number of employees had gone on vacation and schools were closed until the first week of January.

So we all knew it wouldn’t last. Now, it’s back to the reality of living in our urban jungle. For my officemate who lives in Bulacan, that reality is her three-hour commute aboard a UV Express en route to Quezon City. That’s in the morning. In the evening, the trip could take as long as four hours. My other officemate who lives in Alabang is a bit more fortunate; it only takes her two hours in the morning to get to the office, plus another three hours in the evening to get home.

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Building on the root causes of our brief respite from our daily “carmageddon” during the holidays, and drawing inspiration from historian Yuval Noah Harari’s projections regarding the ongoing information technology and biotechnology revolutions, here are three ways that our national government and the private sector might wish to consider to ease commuters’ daily transport horror show:

Work from home. A number of companies now allow employees to work from home. Our government and the private sector can collaborate to dramatically increase their number. A growing number of employees are enjoying this work arrangement, but still on a limited basis—once or twice a week. What needs to happen is to level up such an arrangement to, say, four times a week. Two things need to be done to make this a reality: for the government to improve our internet connectivity and make it at par with Japan, and for the private sector to invest in the right technological infrastructure.

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Study online. The UP Open University, which has been operating since 1995, offers distance learning degree and nondegree programs for Filipinos “aspiring for higher education and improved qualifications but are unable to take advantage of traditional modes of education because of personal and professional obligations.” Two of my officemates swear by the quality of their graduate degree programs. Complementing the UP Open University are the MOOC (massive open online course) providers like Degreed, EdX and Coursera. Our national government and the private sector can join hands to increase the number of schools that hinge on the business model of MOOCs. That can then help put an end to the morning and afternoon mini-carmageddons in school zones that spill over into our national roads.

Migrate to the suburbs. Taking on Joseph Francia’s compelling call for a massive nationwide infrastructure development (Opinion, 12/16/18), our national and local government, in partnership with the private sector, could start looking into multiplying Clark up north and Nuvali down south. While prominent colleges and schools have started to operate in these master-planned communities, the majority of our government agencies and top corporations continue to conduct their operations in Makati, Taguig and Quezon City. The challenge is how to entice both the government and the private sector to extend or even move their operations to such less congested areas.

These three steps may seem like a moonshot now, but, with enough critical mass in time, they could prove to be
game-changers. At any rate, given what they go through, my two officemates from Bulacan and Alabang most likely just wish for any kind of respite from their daily hell, mindful of that Rico Blanco ode to a somnolent beloved: “Pag gusto may paraan, pag ayaw maraming dahilan, gumawa na lang tayo ng paraan.”

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Von Katindoy meditates on his way to work and listens to audio books on his way home to cope with the traffic in the metro.

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