The last few days have been marred by tragedy.
A horrific bus accident along an expressway south of Manila was a brutal reminder of the dangers of public transportation in the country. The tragedy hit close to home. I take public transportation, and I’ve written about its perils several times. Truth be told, I commute because I have no choice, and it is still the fastest way to get around a choking, and choked up city (especially if you’re taking the MRT). I take the bus too, and I am familiar with how unsafe it can be. Public transportation in the Philippines has long been reduced to mere livelihood. Drivers literally speed to get ahead of other drivers in picking up passengers. Buses are overloaded. Bus stops are not followed. Just look at EDSA. Giant “death on wheels” are speeding, swerving, overtaking, stopping at non-bus stops, and racing to get to their destination. Never mind if someone actually dies.
The sad reality is most vehicular accidents in the country are trivialized as mere statistics. Rather than serve as a lesson people can learn from, they are sensationalized events, with media preying on graphic images, to sell their story: to temporarily shock commuters and drivers alike, to get some flicker of attention. Government agencies would also always fail to implement strict regulations, settling for out-of-court agreements, big bosses paid by bus line operators to let them resume their “business” again.
Pedestrians are also to blame. The severe lack of discipline is observable. People jaywalk all the time, most too lazy to take a footbridge or use the proper crossing. They have their reasons. Pedestrian walkways are so horribly built in this country, often without considering safety or convenience. Crossings have faded and are often unseen by both pedestrian and driver. Footbridges in the capital are roofless to deter street vendors from infesting them, but the vendors bring their own giant umbrellas to continue their annoying commerce on the streets. Never mind if pedestrians have to squeeze between their makeshift stalls. Never mind commuters who have to take the blazing afternoon sun crossing rusting footbridges.
Just a few hours ago, another tragedy unfolded.
A shootout occurred at one of the terminals of Manila’s airport. The mayor of one of the cities in the southern province of Zamboanga Del Sur was killed. Reports say his wife, a relative, and an 18-month old baby were among the fatalities, with a few others injured. The innocent death of the baby is enough to strike the chord of anger. How ruthless, paid gunmen could block out their conscience enough to not give a damn who gets killed is sickening. It’s sad to note security failures at the airport (including the lack of a CCTV network) are highlighted in this tragedy.
I hope these incidents should wake up all of us, and not just government authorities or relevant agencies, to be more proactive. Filipinos tend to be reactive, responding only when the damage has been inflicted or a tragedy has occurred. In fact, with so many tragedies behind us, one would expect us to be better equipped preventing evils. But Filipinos have no sense of history too, and if they do, they are always fleeting. In a few months, the bus accident would have been forgotten, and the same ill-fated bus lines will be back, plying the roads, profiting once again despite their recklessness. Airport security would beef up months after a shootout in one of the terminals but would gradually wane as Filipinos relax and become more complacent.
Our lax attitude towards life is often overshadowed by our emphasis on our resilience. But often, our resilience is a result of us settling for less than what we deserve. It is not the Filipino’s character to simply allow things to happen. It is the Filipino’s lack of character.