Traffic jams in Manila have become inevitable and insufferable. In the morning and evening rush hour, the city’s narrow thoroughfares turn into parking lots, unable to accommodate the sheer volume of vehicles plying them. Even outside of peak hours, many roads remain congested from those who thought they could escape the rush hour gridlocks. And at the slightest of rains, the city’s poorly planned infrastructure is revealed: major highways rendered impassable by floodwater; an inadequate and inefficient public transportation system that cannot carry the weight of a booming urban population.
Even traffic enforcers have been rendered useless by the traffic. MMDA personnel and city officers man major commuter routes only to be left idle in the vehicular standstill, walking to and fro under the dusty, torrid heat, capable only of blowing whistles for petty misdemeanors like commuters boarding buses outside of bus stops because the pavements are swollen, and gesturing pointless “move forward” hand signals at already congested intersections. Most of the time, they just end up waiting like everyone else. No one’s over-speeding. No one is going anywhere. Nothing is moving.
The pained and exasperated look of commuters says it all. Hopelessly late once more, men and women stare blankly at jam-packed buses and the near inhumane queues in train stations. On the MRT station platforms, they alternate between their watches and their phones, busying themselves until the next late and crowded carriage arrives when they can test their fate and see if it’s finally the one they can board. Glistening under the sweltering heat or wet after an unexpected downpour takes the shadeless city by surprise, their patience have been worn thin they have little left for their equally exhausted bosses.
A city of twelve million and growing by the second, Manila’s veins are choking. Crippled and clogged by the state’s inefficiency, by mismanagement from politicians, by a culture of delay and by a society indifferent to any form of road discipline, traffic has become monstrous as it is continuously fed by a society obsessed with cars for social status, by government officials who are more keen on getting kickbacks, by public transportation that is more interested in profit than service.
Stuck for hours inside buses, trains, and jeepneys, the city’s populace have been left to fend for themselves. The rich can afford to move closer to work or leave this country entirely. The middle class are willing to crawl EDSA at a snail’s pace inside their air-conditioned sedans and SUVs. While the rest are left to sacrifice hours better spent at home to wake up earlier than even before just to avoid the madness of our roads. Soon, their battered bodies will betray them, their sacrifices will catch up with them, and they will be left to ask if it was worth it. And when it’s too late, as so many already are at work, it would seem life had been wasted waiting for something that never really took us anywhere.