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Young Blood

No crisis, indeed

04:00 AM October 20, 2019

I don’t care if I wear wrinkled clothes at work.

But there’s actually a hack to smoothen the fabric if you don’t want to iron your clothes. Just spray a good amount of water on it and let it dry. But for me, that is time-consuming.

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I don’t care, because I know that my 40-minute to one-hour (or even more) travel time for a 4-kilometer distance will do the job for me. My sweat from the 8 a.m. sun, warmed by unpredictable traffic congestion, pollution and the crowd, is enough to “iron” my outfit of the day. That’s an alternative to the alternative.

I work in Ortigas Center and I rent a place in Barangay Silang, Mandaluyong City, just behind Jose Rizal University (JRU). I have five rides to choose from to go to work, something I had discovered in my one month of living here.

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First, I can ride a Pasig/Palengke jeepney. The fare costs P9. Its route is Shaw Boulevard, so I can wait in front of JRU for the jeepney. The drop-off point is at San Miguel Avenue, and I would just need to walk a few meters to reach the building where I work. Sounds easy, but it’s not.

Taking the Pasig/Palengke jeepney is almost impossible. The moment the jeep reaches JRU, it already has up to four men clinging to the rails of the vehicle. Rare are the moments when this jeep would drop off a passenger in JRU, and if this happens, the competition for a seat is fierce. When the jeep stops at the loading area, it automatically attracts a horde of riders. Only one lucky and aggressive — read: willing to take down fellow passengers who get in the way — person can successfully get on the jeep and not be late for work (at least).

Normally, those men hanging on the jeep entrance are in the queue for the seats inside. Sometimes they would let a new passenger take the free seat, especially if it’s a female passenger. As for me, my decade of experience in commuting has already made it clear that it’s almost impossible to take this ride.

Second option: I can ride a Binangonan/Floodway/Cainta jeepney. The fare also costs P9. But there’s a queue for the jeepney, which arrives at 10- to 20-minute intervals. Sometimes, the jeepney would even arrive after 30 minutes, so I need to be in the queue by 7:15-7:30 a.m.

One time, the queue was almost 300 meters long, and it was already 8 a.m. I sort of panicked because, based on my estimate, I would be able to have a seat only after five or six jeepneys. In that case, I’d arrive at my office by 11 a.m. My clock-in should be at 9 a.m.

Desperation led me to ride an Antipolo jeepney. The shorter queue attracted me, so I left the unmoving line to take the risk. That time I was unsure if it would take the Shaw Boulevard route and pass San Miguel Avenue. I was already late, anyway. To my surprise, it took Shaw Boulevard and passed San Miguel Avenue.

I recently discovered the fourth option, courtesy of an office mate. There’s a UV Express ride beside JRU going to SM Megamall via Ortigas Center. The fare costs P22, more than twice the jeepney fare. The drop-off point is in front of my workplace. More convenient, less sweat—but still the same travel time and a long queue, and that steep fare.

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The last option, which I think is the easiest, is the Starmall/Crossing jeepney. The fare costs P9. There are more Crossing jeepneys compared to others, so there are more seats available, and no queues. But the drop-off point is only at Starmall. I would have to walk the remaining 1 kilometer for 20 minutes. I can decrease that to 10 minutes depending on the urgency.

The ride home at 6 p.m. is another horror story, and much scarier.

Compared to others, I can still consider myself lucky despite the hassles and difficulties I face every single day as a regular commuter. I give myself an hour or an hour-and-a-half allowance for travel time, while some people need two to four hours.

Some have to travel all the way from Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, etc. where they live, because they can’t afford the standard of living in Manila and prefer to be with their families.

Some would need to wake up at 3 a.m. to be able to reach work by 8 a.m., or classes by 7 a.m. Some rush to leave the office by 5 p.m., yet arrive home only by 11 p.m. Some would risk their lives hanging from a jeepney for hours just to get home.

Just imagine all the hours wasted because of the traffic. Those hours should have been spent on our families or on other productive activities. But there we are, stuck in the middle of Edsa, hopelessly accepting our fate.

And yet, all this still doesn’t look like a crisis for presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo. For him, as long as we are able to arrive at our destination, it’s fine. For him, we just need to leave earlier to make it to our destination on time.

Sir, we’re already doing that. We sacrifice almost the entire day only for travel. We could have spent this on other meaningful tasks, but we have no choice.

How callous of you to dismiss offhand something you do not experience every day, something that thousands of commuters have been experiencing for years. Is it your sense of privilege, or downright ignorance, that prohibits you from understanding the problem? The masses have gotten used to this situation, which has become the “new normal.” But experiencing and enduring it day in and day out do not mean we are not asking for a solution.

Tomorrow, most of us would have to wake up once again at dawn, prepare for work or class, and face hell on the road. Just another day in 21st-century Philippines.

* * *

Neil Cirilo, 20, is a content writer for an outsourcing company.

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TAGS: Metro Manila traffic, Neil Cirilo, public transport crisis, Salvador Panelo, Young Blood
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