SELDOM do we see and hear these days about the good old practice of bayanihan demonstrated by the community to carry out a particular task, be it as local as a neighborhood clean-up and beautification drive in time for a VIP visit, or as gargantuan as making a vital contribution to national peace, unity, security and progress.
Bayanihan is decidedly Filipino. Call it by any other name —teamwork or a cooperative endeavor—its spirit is still undoubtedly the same as standing together as a community to help those in need or carry out a collective task.
Perhaps none, or rare were the times other than at this juncture in our history as a nation when we have felt so much need for fixing the systems of governance in this country, due to the breakdown in the enforcement of the law in the past.
The traffic situation, for instance, has deteriorated rather than improved, even with the clear mandate given to the concerned government department to solve the now monstrous problem in the cities. Yet, recent pronouncements by the officials concerned sounded like they have delivered good news to the commuting and motoring public—that the elimination of the window of travel hours in the number coding of vehicles has cut down the time of traffic delays by about 20 minutes along the main thoroughfare of EDSA. Obviously, after the initial progress, that is no longer the case because the volume of vehicle traffic has far exceeded the road network of most urban centers, especially Metro Manila.
On that basis, Congress is proceeding with efforts to grant emergency powers to the President to solve the traffic congestion in the capital and surrounding areas.
The Transport officials were dreaming when they said the gridlock was solvable. Just looking at similar situations in New York, Tokyo, Bangkok and Jakarta shows us the problem is really inherent in the mega cities. So perhaps a more realistic approach would be to consider replicating what these cities have done to alleviate the commuting and driving experience for the public.
Part of the emergency powers bill proposed is the power to order the exclusive subdivisions in the metropolis to open up their gates, including Camp Aguinaldo, and allow traffic to go through. This is not a strategic and sustainable solution, because the side roads that would be opened up to the main traffic flow would be actually insignificant against the vast quantity of vehicles that need to be diverted away from the main road to these alternate routes, and therefore the move would just be rendered useless and become another temporary solution to a growing problem.
Such is the price of socioeconomic progress. People must travel from home to workplace, students from home to school and traders must move their goods from one place to another in multiples of millions twice a day.
A more effective solution for the long term is the development of infrastructure for mass transportation, but such will take at least four years to materialize.
A more strategic approach seems to be the concept of mixed-use development, where people live, work and play within a particular vicinity without having to use a car or public transportation, or if they have to, they only need to commute within a limited radius.
The government must encourage property developers, in the spirit of bayanihan, to develop a more affordable housing within the purview of the live-work-play concept as part of the solution to the traffic problem by lessening the need for people to travel. Like infrastructure projects, mixed-use developments take years to complete, especially as land for property development is getting scarce.
What the government can do is appeal to its people for help, and the people must respond wholeheartedly, so that hand in hand, whatever problem needs to be solved may be solved and whatever goal must be achieved may be achieved the bayanihan way.
Let the spirit of bayanihan then be our model of democracy, a true Filipino-style democracy, in which the government does its part to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the difficulties of daily living by the general working public, who, in turn, contribute their fair share as citizens by living law-abiding lives.