Sunday, June 19, 2011

WWRD (What Would Rizal Do?)

When it comes to traffic, the streets of Metro-Manila are fraught with danger, mainly due to undisciplined driving habits that are endemic in the Philippines.  Not only are motorists a hazard to each other, but to pedestrians as well. Crossing the street, even in crosswalks is often a nerve-racking experience. Drivers rarely stop, so the only way to make it across is to wait for a gap in traffic and then run like hell to the other side.

Alternatively, there are pedestrian overpasses along the major thoroughfares, but they are usually spaced far apart and traffic signals even more so.  Hence, many pedestrians (who are just as undisciplined as motorists) instead prefer the risk of crossing the street in areas not designated for that purpose.  Rather than walk to the nearest overpass, they will instead go to the extent of climbing over restraining barriers and fences placed for the very purpose of preventing illegal and hazardous crossings, while they blithely ignore warning signs that pedestrians have been struck and killed in those locations.

Before the overpass on the major street in my locale was constructed, it was so dangerous for pedestrians using the crosswalk near that spot, the MMDA (Metro-Manila Development Authority) finally deployed traffic enforcers, who would stop vehicles in order to enable pedestrians to pass. However, this intervention of course tied up traffic on that thoroughfare.

But this MMDA protected crosswalk suited me just fine. Personally, I don't like the overpasses because I have a phobia about steep stairwells (anything more than three steps), which are the only means of accessing these bridges (there are no escalators).  I don't have a problem climbing the steps  as long as there's a hand rail available.  However, it's the descent that I dread even while clinging (desperately) to the railing.  Yet I recognize that the necessity of these bridges in order to keep vehicular traffic flowing smoothly  (to the extent such a thing is possible in Metro-Manila).  So I just try to set aside my worries about falling by  keeping in mind that the matter at hand is about traffic improvement, not about me.  In other words, it comes down to  subordinating my own narrow interests for the greater good of the community.

In doing so, I'd like to think that this is in keeping with the Enlightenment values of Filipino nationalist and hero, Jose Rizal who was born 150 years ago today and whose birth date  is observed here as a national holiday. It was his ideals that led to the overthrow of Spanish rule of the Philippines. For those, especially foreigners, who would like to know more about the life and philosophy of  this inspirational leader, click here.

Sadly, Rizal's principles are honored more in the breach than in practice. If the people here would only follow his teachings by stepping outside of their small circle of interests and uniting for common cause of their country's welfare,  the Philippines would truly be a great country.