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A ‘probinsyano’ commuter

While others indulge in thoughts of having a drink-’til-you-drop night-out, a leisurely shopping extravaganza or perhaps a quaint dinner with friends, I spend my Friday afternoons preparing to brave the heavy Metro Manila traffic on the way home to my province.

You could see the joy in people’s eyes the moment the clock strikes 5 p.m. every Friday. I am no exception. Right after class, I’d get my things, which I had already packed the night before, and enthusiastically rush to commute to the nearest bus terminal.

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Everyone who stays in the Metro knows that 5 p.m. is the start of rush hour. Going home means having to squeeze myself into the MRT, or wait for an hour (or more) just to ride a UV. By this time, my fellow riders now sport weary stares that scream “I don’t want to commute anymore.”

In my yearlong stay in Manila, I guess I’ve experienced all the inconveniences that Philippine transportation has to offer.

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Or so I thought. Just recently, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) ordered a dry run of its scheme to ban provincial buses on Edsa. The ban seeks to close down all 47 provincial bus terminals along Edsa, the buses instead expected to drop off their passengers at the following terminals: Valenzuela Interim Terminal (for those coming from the north), and Sta. Rosa Interim Terminal or Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (for those coming from the south).

I thought going home was already a chore, but I guess commuting back to the Metro would now be worse.

My usual route is to be dropped off in Balintawak where I’d take the LRT 1 to Vito Cruz. But last June, with test runs already ongoing and a point-to-point scheme already imposed, I was only allowed to be dropped off in Cubao. This added another hour (at least) to my already-long travel time. If and when the ban is put in place permanently, I could only wonder how many more hours it would take me to reach my destination.

Not only this. The MMDA also recently implemented its yellow-lane policy, which limits buses to only the two outermost lanes of Edsa. This sparked massive controversy online as the commuting public vented their frustration at having to endure even longer hours just to make it home.

It seems like the government is interested only in quick fixes without addressing the main problem: improving the public transportation system. With improved public transport, one does not need to depend on private vehicles that can only accommodate four to six people. This would create a ripple effect, with streets being decongested as a result of fewer vehicles on the road. Fixing the public transportation system would also promote inclusive growth, as those who cannot afford their own vehicles can still enjoy a speedy travel time.

Day in and day out, Filipino commuters  have no choice but to endure tedious rides just to go home. We’ve learned to do so with grit, determination and sometimes even good humor. However, we should not glorify the phenomenon and attribute it to Filipino resiliency; nor should we accept it as the norm, especially since there are solutions to the problem—if only our leaders would take the time to work on them.

We should remind people in power to act in accordance with the best interests of the public, majority of whom comes from the lower and middle strata of society. It is important for us to remember that development and convenience shouldn’t be exclusive for the rich and those who can afford private cars.

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I find it ironic that I end up spending more time on the road than with my family. I still hope that, someday, the problems bedeviling our transportation system would be solved, and that nobody would have to spend long hours stuck in public commute.

I guess I’d just have to deal with being a “probinsyano” commuter for now.

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Phil Justin A. Pangilinan, 18, is a Grade 12 student at De La Salle University Manila. He goes home to his province of Nueva Ecija every Friday afternoon.

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TAGS: Metro Manila commuters, Phil Justin A. Pangilinan, Young Blood
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