I have balikbayan friends vacationing here from North America. They said they waited until after the Christmas season to come to the Philippines to avoid the rush and traffic.
However, they are very disappointed with what they have observed here so far. They are unanimous in saying that the problem of Metro Manila is a lack of discipline.
There’s traffic where there shouldn’t be. Streets have been widened, e.g. G. Tuazon in Balik-Balik now has four lanes from two previously, but motorists are actually able to use only one of those lanes, observes one balikbayan. So when a jeepney stops, every vehicle behind has to stop. Vehicles are double-parked, and pedestrians use one other lane because structures are extended into the sidewalk. Sidewalks are used for either parking or al fresco dining by numerous small eateries in the area.
When he was in school many moons ago, the balikbayan, together with many other students from the Sampaloc district, recalled having fun walking from their house in Domingo Santiago to go to the Legarda Elementary School. He tried to retrace his steps, but he could not go beyond 100 steps due to the sidewalk obstructions and air pollution. He says, clearly this is not progress but a lack of discipline and respect for other people’s rights.
A chorus of these visiting Filipinos declared their most hated thing is the blaring karaoke sound from bars that that can be found everywhere, even in exclusive villages. People love to sing at the top of their voices over a microphone linked to what seems to be multiple loud speakers. Although Filipinos generally sing well and have that fantastic sense of rhyme and rhythm, it could also be torturous to one’s ear when the high decibels are on 24/7, especially at bedtime.
I often go to visit my sick uncle on Road 2, Barangay 596, Sta. Mesa, Manila. Across the back of his house lives a family of karaoke addicts. Everyday, they sing from as early as 8 o’clock in the morning to late in the evening, alternating with the microphone and joined in by their immediate neighbors. We could barely talk or hear the television show. My uncle has tried to plug all holes where the noise from outside could not penetrate the house but to no avail. One day he and his family could not take it anymore—they complained to the barangay office but to no avail. The barangay officials proved to be inutile. My balikbayan cousin said this kind of thing happens only in the Philippines because only Filipinos lack the discipline in their own country; Filipinos in other countries are generally well disciplined and courteous.
Two Sundays ago, there was a festive baptism celebration in my own village. They set up the karaoke tent right smack in the middle of the street and the party started from mid-morning and ended at about 2:00 the following morning. The next day, I went to my friend who lives right next to where the karaoke tent was set up. He said he and his family left early that day for the mall until closing time. But when they came home at about 11 o’clock in the evening, they saw the former barangay chairman Ading Marquez and the incumbent Jose Palajorin, along with the entire barangay council at the same karaoke party. I wondered who was taking care of the community? All our barangay tambay, este, tagay, este, tanod were all seen eating and drinking merrily. My friend lamented the uncaring attitude of these village officials toward residents in the area, like his children who were unable to sleep because of the noise but needed to wake up to go to work the next morning.
Across my house is a five-story residential building without the legally required safety elevator. Paging Mayor Erap. On the third floor is a garment factory (T-shirts, bags, etc). I don’t know how productive its employees are. What I know is they often have karaoke sessions from 9:00 in the morning to late in the evening. No admonitions from our barangay chairman and kagawad could stop them. So I made a pact with them. They must stop at 9 or 10 in the evening, or I will call the police, period. So far, they have abided by the terms of the deal. That is not discipline; that is fear of punishment for any violation under a pact. I’d hear them say, “O, let us stop already, or the cranky lady will complain again.”
My balikbayan friend declared that no matter whom we elect as President or senators or congressmen or local officials, it would still be difficult for the Philippines to achieve real progress and sustain it unless we start practicing self-discipline. For one, corruption is a high form of a lack of discipline, he said. I agree.
INTRAMUROS. I toured my Indonesian visitor, Lily Purba, in Intramuros last Saturday.
Intramuros is so cool nowadays!!!! Congratulations to the parks administrator and to President Pinoy (we blame him for the smallest of complaints, but do not give him credit for a job well-done) for their awesome job of restoring the entire Fort Santiago to its old charm. Beautiful, clean, smelling good, well-landscaped, etc. What I saw the last time I was there two years ago was a disappointment. Today, there are several picnic areas for people who bring their own food. The only frustration for us that day particularly was that a museum was closed because it was 12:00 noon. What happened to the “no lunch break” rule of the government? No discipline? Likewise, the tour guides should know their history and not twist facts. I listened in on some of their spiels and I heard things that were different from reality. And it didn’t help that the tour guides didn’t look nice—at least on that day, looking sweaty and shabby or inappropriately dressed. I am looking forward to a revitalized Intramuros in its entirety.
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