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.


Kano said...

Jose Rizal asked himself why the Philippines is not like Spain when it comes to discipline.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for dropping by.

Rizal's praise of Spain was somewhat ironic considering that of all the European states at the time, Spain was one of the most profligate and unprogressive countries of all.

However, IMO it's a greater tribute to his character that Rizal is celebrated more in Hiedelberg, Germany where he studied at the local University and where there is statue of him.

Kano said...

Spain is probably still a little behind than the other Western European countries, like Germany and Holland, for example.

Look at Spain's unemployment and possibly more laziness of its people.

But, when you see their road infrastructure, it as par as the other countries.

The Philippines is still far behind in this. Not to mention how they plan here.

Yes, it's convenient for a pedestrian here to cross the road anywhere they want or for a driver to swerve anytime they want, but that does not hold water if you want a smooth traffic pattern for everyone's best interest.

I don't think, it can happen as the city roads here are just not built to have a smooth flow of traffic.

Jeenpeys all around, vendors and businesses having their shops almost on the road, tricycles making u-turns at any moment. You name it. Can you still imagine having that happening in Western European countries? Maybe in Bangladesh maybe.

But, I can still see the convenience of what is happening here on the roads. The ordinary person still gets a personalized ride from the steps of his home to the point of destination quite cheaply.

$0.50 for a ride to work or even less with the jeepney. It will always be here to stay. That's the Filipino way or no other way :).

Secular Guy said...


Spain has come a long way since the days of Franco and his predecessors. As I understand it's about as progressive as the rest of Western Europe.

Filipinos have to pull together to correct the shortcomings that you mentioned. If that ever happens, it won't be in our lifetime. For starters, jeeps should be phased out and buses confined to special lanes with stops at designated points only.

The public transportation fares may seem cheap to foreigners but that may not be the case for the masa who can barely scrape by on their meager wages.

Kano said...

With the fare prices, you are right. Cheap for a foreigner (or Balikbayan) but still very expensive for the locals if you consider that a lot of people still only get to earn
P200-P400 per day. P40 pesos back and forth on a tricycle per day is still 10% to 20% of their daily wages.


Secular Guy said...

The recent increase in taxi fares in Metro-Manila for example are not pleasant even for those with higher incomes such as foreigners. For those who are working at the wages that you mentioned, the new rates are prohibitive if they were ever affordable to begin with.