Sunday, August 2, 2009

Road (Out)rage

A few days ago, my wife Lydia and I returned from a visit to her home town, Gumaca, in Quezon Province. This was my first such trip outside of Metro-Manila in 3 years (that journey was also to Gumaca), and it was good to take a break from my daily routine.

While we there,I had intended to do some walking in the countryside outside of town and take in the tropical scenery. But due to time constraints resulting from unexpected family matters that we encountered upon our arrival, I was not able to do this. So the only rural greenery that I saw was along the road from the bus window en route to and from Gumaca. Even that, however, was refreshing. I did make some time to to stroll along the promenade in town overlooking Lamon Bay. This scenic stretch of water can also be viewed from the national road, Maharlika Highway, for several kilometers.

We were well taken care of during our visit. Lydia's step-niece prepared some great meals. Food ingredients in the province such as fish and produce are very fresh. We also spent one night at the Perennial Hotel in Gumaca. This was my first time in such lodgings outside of Metro-Manila. The place is a fairly new establishment. It was clean but very bare bones, and the rooms are quite small. However, each room has its own bath, but there is no hot running water.

Lydia left here for Gumaca on July 27, the day before I did as there were some matters that I wanted to attend to before going. Unfortunately, it turns out that her journey--and that of countless other travelers and commuters throughout the country--was disrupted by a nationwide celebration by the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) which was marking the 95th anniversary of its establishment in the Philippines. Members of this church converged on various convention centers and sports stadiums. However, their most outrageous act was holding roadside festivities along the national highway, bringing traffic to almost a standstill by parking the celebrant-carrying buses directly on one lane of the two-lane artery, leaving only the other lane open for for traffic in both directions to pass.

As it was, it took Lydia eight hours to reach Gumaca, a bus ride that was almost twice as long as it should have been. But she got off lucky. Her sister and brother-in-law who were also visiting there were in transit for 14 hours.

Frankly, I don't understand how such a recognized and prosperous organization as the INC could in good conscience display such inconsiderate behavior. For besides inconveniencing countless commuters and travelers on a weekday no less (Does Iglesia ni Cristo consider the Golden Rule non-binding on itself?), consider how many hungry people in the Philippines could have been fed with the funds that went into sponsoring this over the top event. But then if you saw magnificent structure of the INC churches in contrast to their surroundings of poverty, such narcissistic behavior would come as no surprise.

So if you intend to travel within the Philippines, keep up with the news. Besides unexpected bad weather and road conditions, major rallies and celebrations are another variable that can frustrate your plans. And in a country where large gatherings and fiestas are a way of life, this scenario may well happen more often than not.


bruce said...

I was out that day in Davao and got caught in a few traffic jams too. You need to remember, here activities are always "Over the Top"
Police escort and jeepneys with banners, honking of horns, balloons flying just to announce the opening of a new little business. I guess in a country where many have so little, making a big statement gives them something to do.

Secular Guy said...

Interesting perspective, Bruce. Add to this the the abuse of politicians' utilizing police escorts to bully their way through traffic just because they can.