What Every Driver Can Do to Make Manila Traffic Somehow Bearable
The Manila traffic is a beast with no master. Millions of commuters don't miss a single day to waste hours in gridlock while traveling through the chaotic streets of the metro. What's supposedly a fast, simple trip from A to B feels like an eternal struggle to reach point A to Z. The notoriety of our country's merciless traffic jam is not a secret to the rest of the world-no wonder BBC producers choose the Philippines for the ultimate challenge to drive a public vehicle.
Lots of evils have unfortunately come together, which led to the conception and birth of this savage animal. Incompetent mass transport system, pathetically poor enforcement of traffic rules, rapid increase of vehicular volume, lack of a better road network, and the abundance of reckless drivers are all parents to this monster inhabiting the so called "gates of hell."
With all the less painful solutions exhausted, and the more difficult yet seemingly more effective ones are stored and forgotten in the plan B cabinet, it's practically easy to say that this whole situation with the worsening traffic in Metro Manila is hopeless and beyond repair.
Actually, it's not.
Sure, it would take a miracle of Biblical proportions to resolve this long-time issue overnight, but change has got to start somewhere. That somewhere could be the seat behind the wheels. Call it wishful thinking or a crazy idea, but the revolution can truly begin from our very own, infamously defiant, Filipino drivers.
For at least a glimmer of hope begin to show its form, it takes more than just a year-long LTO seminar; it requires a complete restoration of our drivers' collective moral fiber to put order in the anarchic avenues of Metro Manila.
Trust Fellow Motorists
Vernon Sarne of The Manila Times said it best in his editorial almost a decade ago, "We do not use the signal light when we're changing lanes because we fear that the vehicle behind us will just step on the pedal to prevent us from doing so."
Sad, but true. Filipino drivers are so used to pirouetting through traffic based solely on diskarte. We're accustomed to do things our own to meet our objective. Be it to get passed the tangled knot of vehicles in EDSA, or to make more money by picking up as many passengers as possible, most motorists see each other as an obstacle to prevent one another from reaching that goal.
If we can only learn not to expect the worst from each other on the road, then driving across Manila would become less difficult and more bearable.
Grow Some Integrity
Not all prime locations in the Philippines have a nightmarish stream of traffic. The system in BGC is more organized compared to other business districts; Subic and Davao City are evidence that traffic rules exist in the country.
If only Metro Manila drivers have integrity in their DNAs, then the status quo on the road would have been entirely different. Abiding by the law, with or without an enforcer around, is a matter of choice. Upholding strong moral principles may not solve one's personal interest, but it would definitely do more good than harm for most motorists.
Filipino drivers know what's right from wrong, but just don't care anymore. We may be fed up by the daily grind, but let's not allow it to get in the way of believing things will get better. This train of thought may sound naive, but losing our willingness to care about being virtuous is like submitting to the belief that Filipinos are incapable of acting civilized in Manila.
Bob Ong once joked that the Pinoy driver who follows traffic rules, respectful to passengers, doesn't cheat on other motorists, and drives carefully is yet to be born. It's funny because it's painfully true, but that truth is neither absolute nor unchangeable. The enigma that is Manila traffic may be far from being solved, but when we begin to show care and respect on the road, it's more than just a baby step.