Never this bad


I’VE lived in this country all my life, grew up commuting between Mandaluyong and Quezon cities to go to elementary school, Mandaluyong and Pasig for high school, lived in QC near UP Diliman for college and the first jobs I held after graduation.

It took forever before I learned to drive myself around the city, and while that had its perks, I enjoyed taking the MRT to go see exhibits on Pasong Tamo, or whenever I needed to get myself to QC for errands. I walked when I could, up and down Shaw Boulevard, to the nearby neighborhood groceries, or to the malls on EDSA-Crossing.

Doing the arts and culture beat from 2011 to 2013, it always only took me an hour to get from Mandaluyong to Quezon City or Manila, to go to, say, UP Diliman or the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Add 30 minutes to that if it rained.

None of this holds true in 2015.

The pedestrian as sacrificial lamb
The changing landscape of our cities is one that has always been celebrated as “development.” But there is something fundamentally wrong with development that refuses to acknowledge the needs and basic rights of citizens.

Say, just the right to walk the streets without endangering one’s life because the sidewalks don’t exist anymore. I grew up with Mandaluyong streets and roads having tree-lined sidewalks. All that is gone now. On Samat Street towards Shaw Boulevard, the sidewalk has been taken over by the Amaya Development, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road itself.

On Shaw Boulevard things are just as bad. As the buildings of my childhood were demolished, sidewalks have also all but disappeared. If you’re walking towards EDSA, a tiny bit of sidewalk only appears near Crossing, where the MRT station is. Crossing Shaw Boulevard though is a bitch, because there is no area for those waiting to cross from one side of Shaw to the other; it’s been taken up by the stairs to the MRT station.

Go try crossing EDSA, and you will find it to be a dark, wet and scary stretch under the train.

It might be better, of course, elsewhere in the metro, and this is especially true of Makati, for example. But anyone who has lived in the city all her life would know that things didn’t use to be this bad, and walking the streets didn’t use to be risky business.

I’m not even talking about pollution and congestion yet.

Death of / by public transport
And so we get onto the train, or a bus, or a jeep, and find that we are risking our lives anyway, because public transport is not something that government takes responsibility for, nor is it something that they work towards improving.

You know this because when accidents happen, they blame it on drivers of public utility vehicles. They blame jeepney drivers for clogging up the smaller roads, they blame bus drivers for reckless driving, they blame train operators for MRT mishaps. And yet one wonders about a government that refuses to see the light and deal with the plight of public utility drivers. These are workers after all who are at the mercy of private owners and franchises, and live as contractual employees with no regular wage or benefits: they need to earn beyond boundary to earn anything at all.

Certainly this affects the kind of services that we get from public transport. Certainly the government can see that this is one of many ways in which commuters’ lives are put at risk.

But then again, there’s the MRT, which is down to seven functioning trains, from 20. And even at 20 trains, it was already becoming an unsafe option as far as commuting was concerned. But at seven trains constantly breaking down? How can this government sit back and watch it happen? How can it continue to point a finger at the private sector that has messed up the train system’s maintenance, but which the government hopes to depend on still for its improvement?

Co-Manila Times columnist Dr. Giovanni Tapang has talked about an AGHAM study on the MRT, and it all makes sense: “The sheer mass of people using the MRT system should not be seen simply as a source of income but as a solid indicator of the need to provide them with basic transport. In a study, AGHAM said urban rail transit is not only just a public service but is a strategic national asset as well. If the State fails to provide this basic service, it fails in its responsibility to its people. In the case of the MRT, 68 percent of its daily riders earn below the minimum living wage.”

The bane of productivity
It was said once by this President that traffic on EDSA is an indicator of a better economy. It bears repeating at this point in time:

“Maganda na siguro ang problema na binabanggit na ma-trapik sa EDSA, tama po yan, dahil marami ang nasa kalsada, buhay na buhay ang ating economiya kaysa naman walang trapik sa EDSA dahil wala ng makabili ng gasolina na patakbuhin ang kanyang sasakyan.” (January 2013).

Yes, so many are out on the streets, Mr. President. But it is far from being an indicator of development. In fact, if anything, it is proof that you have failed at providing us with safe public transport and better roads.

Because we are not just talking about the unbelievable traffic at this point, the kind that will keep you on the road to work for a good two hours in the morning, and on the road going home for another three hours in the evening. We are talking about pedestrians stuck in long lines waiting for the next FX to arrive, or the next cab that will take them home. We’re talking about commuters with no sidewalks to wait on, taking up a chunk of our roads because they have no choice but to fight for their space on a bus or a jeep that will take them home.

Every day on EDSA or any other road from one end of the city to another, I am reminded that while it might hold true that this President is incorruptible, on his fifth year in office I am worse off as a citizen because I spend more time waiting to get from one place to another. Countless are too exhausted to even do the work they need to survive.

Kahit walang corrupt, marami namang pahirap.

Sounds about right.


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  1. kamoteQ (@kamoteQ) on

    “Yes, so many are out on the streets, Mr. President. But it is far from being an indicator of development. In fact, if anything, it is proof that you have failed at providing us with safe public transport and better roads.” Need I say more?

  2. This sip sip Mar Roxas is still suckholing himself with the idiot presidents daan matuwid kuno which he intends follow if elected president, if God forbid, if it happens, he will be a copy of his imbecile idol. This Mar Roxas has no idea whatsoever.

  3. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Ang hirap, yon nabanggit mo na “kahit walang kurap, marami namang pahirap” ay hindi tutuo. Dahil sa ang kurapsyon ngayon ay mas malaki pa kaysa mga nakaraan administrasyon at iyon ang nagpapahirap sa mga mamamayan dahil sa ito ay pinagpapasasaan ng nasa paligid at kaibigan ng pangulo. Hindi kapanipaniwala na disya kasama diyan. Pagpalain tayo ng Panginoon.

  4. ito ang baligtad ang utak.. Balasubas, . signales daw ng malago ang economy dahil matrapik.. ang maunlad na bansa,hindi katulad ng trapik ng edsa.paanong hind magtrapik iisa lang ang EDSA na dinaraanan ng mga sasakyan. magpagawa ka ng kalsada parallel sa EDSA o kung hindi kaya skyway parallel sa EDSA.. Gamitin ninyo ang utak ninyo. hindi iyong kung paano kayo makapagnakaw sa kaban ng bayan. Gamitin ninyo ang pondo ng bayan sa pagpagawa ng infrustructure hiway,etc, hindi iyong ginagamit mo sa pang bribe mo sa mga congressman at senator para sa iyong pansarili.. Alam mo ba ito mr. president.. anong akala mo tanga ang mga tao/// na tulad mo..

  5. The Public / MASA are to be the stepping stones of the elites and oligarchs as noted in your column. They do not care about the common folks because becoming richer while destroying what once was a beautiful environment in the name of the almighty peso takes precedence over all other things including public safety. The NCR is rapidly becoming a place you pass though if necessary to conduct business or for health reasons but, never call it home. Life in the province calls loudly for many including myself.

  6. Amnata Pundit on

    Either you have a new definition of incorruptible, or you have a secret crush on this moron. A president who tolerates his KKK ( Kamaganak at Kakampi na Kawatan) especially those who belong to his party the LP (Lapiang Palpak) cannot be anything else but corrupt, but I would still like to hear your new definition because I refuse to believe you can have a crush on a smiling dog.

  7. We kept going on about GMA’s corruption, but are we better off under Pnoy’s administration? Nothing works in this government anymore which makes me wonder where all the trillions of budget we have went. For the motorists, you have to deal with the kotong cops who are demanding more now because the fines being imposed by LTO have ballooned. If only the mass transport system is efficient, traffic congestion would have lessened and people would not crowd around the city to live.

  8. Arlene Rafiq on

    You hit the nail in the head Katrina Santiago but good luck to you and those who commute daily, this president is callous and insensitive to the needs of the citizenry. In his almost six years of governance,has anyone seen one good act of kindness and empathy towards anyone except perhaps his KKK?

  9. This president bribes elected officials and that is corruption. He is not not incorruptible he is the corrupting influence.

  10. mikhail hieronymus on

    Does the president of this republic, (one benigno s. aquino III) read your column? I hope he does or at least his minions to relay to his excellency your true to life experiences in the streets of the city.