A most sobering, if not most agonizing, fact that reminds I am back in Manila is commuting. Anyone who needed to travel the city during the holiday season is bound to have the shock of their lives. For those who have little choice, they must have already been shocked to the point of stupor. I tried three times to trek to Makati City this December and failed to accomplish anything. Three half-days were wasted on serpentine queues (the heads or tails one cannot often make out), one for buying train tickets, another for baggage check, still another for boarding the train coach, and the final test of endurance, leaving the platform station.
The Metro Rail Transit system is our crushing trek to Calvary! Boarding the train during rush hour places us in the most agonizing of trials, testing the threshold of our patience and the limits of our civility. We grit our teeth, suffer in silence, exhort fellow passengers there is truly no more room in this rickety boiler of a coach, all the while nudging our way back and forth, tossed like spineless bodies in an overflowing cage.
And I can claim with absolute certainty it can only get worse! Heaven forbid one is on board the train and the doors open halfway through the trip, the faltering air conditioning shuts down, or the train suddenly stops for an interminable while: or worse yet, for all three to happen simultaneously.
Everyone seems to know the answer to this harrowing nightmare that is Manila traffic: we need to cut the volume of vehicles because and glaringly enough our infrastructure cannot house them anymore. No amount of sophisticated rerouting, inventive colour coding, or elaborate navigation or tracking can solve this traffic. Of course, city traffic is a symptom of overarching problems: the failure of public transportation, density and urban population, and uneven distribution of resources and wealth.
Here I am on a station platform, one of many women wordlessly and patiently awaiting my turn in an often filled to brim train coach. This was a queue of tangled coils and we were a multitude of sighing, waiting bodies in what seemed to be equivalent of an urban abattoir. We demand an answer from our astute politicians who are comfortably ferried to and fro in their service vehicles: why do we need to pay expensively for suffering? And they should not ever have the temerity to try traveling the city on these train lines for publicity’s sake, clearly insult to an injury they have little comprehension for!