Three full years of being away, I caught myself landing in Manila, the place I onced called home but with a different traffic situation. I didn’t believe my sister when she said “you have to leave two hours before your appointment.” For me, Manila was so easy to navigate. I know the shortcuts and I will get through.
My flight for Boracay leaves at 9:00 and here I am, still stuck in Shaw Boulevard at 8:00. Nothing was moving. Waze wasn’t helping. It was my fault actually. I left at 7:15 and didn’t take my sister’s advice to leave earlier. I couldn’t imagine being 2 hours on the road while in reality, the distance from San Juan to the Airport is only 30 minutes, max — “if there’s no traffic.”
People had to depend on this phrase. If there’s no traffic didn’t sound like a normal daily phrase to me. And the traffic.. oh the traffic — have become a daily way of life to millions of Filipinos, too.
Be brave. There is no room for anything else but bravery.
I keep wondering why a lot of Filipinos who read my blog tell me “you are so brave for traveling the world” when in fact, they are the ones braving the bustling traffic in Manila every day. They don’t realise this is already a form of courage. I am from the province of Zambales (Subic Bay) and I never had to live with this but when in Manila, I transform into a different person. Facing a jam-packed street, I had to learn how to fight most especially when hailing a taxi cab. There is no way that you will succeed in this department when you are timid. You have to fight even if hell drags with it. Good thing Uber is already available in the city. This gave me hope. There is hope for traffic in Manila and it’s a good sign.
When in doubt about the traffic jam (like all the time), some of us opt to take the metro where you have to be again, face-to-face with hundreds of people. So much that you can’t even move inside the train. The struggle to get in, with a high risk of losing something (like a phone, or your whole bag) means you really have to be a fighter. I sometimes feel that half of my body was separating from the other half just to get in the train. You will drown in a pool of people if you don’t know how to fight your way in. Traffic in Manila will teach you how to become less afraid and just… fight.
Do not fear the bullies
There will always be one person crossing you out of the line at the taxi/bus/metro station and it sucks. It sucks that we have to do this. To be honest, we are the only ones who do this. I have never experienced this in other countries. I know because I did it myself, one time, in Barcelona and all those Spanish lads looked at me, arms in the air with the what-the-fck face.
While I said being patient is really the key, you also have to know where you stand. Do not let the b*tch face get to you. When you are right, be persistent but avoid getting into a fight.
Understand that people’s mood will change. And it can change you, too. All you have to do is adjust your patience meter.
I am Joy and it’s my job to keep Riley happy all the time. I succeed in that on most days. But sometimes, Sadness, Disgust and Anger unintentionally break my joyful spirit. Who wouldn’t be sad in this situation? Who wouldn’t be disgusted when you just showered and you will arrive the office looking so filthy? What could better make you angry and ruin your day than battling the traffic in Manila the moment you step out of your home?
Last month, I was meeting a friend in Rockwell. It was the only time I can do it because I am staying in Subic. Manila wasn’t really good for my health. She arrives sweaty, with a creased forehead and eyebrows meeting in the middle. I thought I bothered her schedule because I couldn’t meet her another day. I thought she wasn’t happy to see me after a long time. Then she said, “Sorry, I’m late. Traffic was horrible. Things are really shitty.” The whole time we were together, she was just talking about the traffic. I had a free crash course in Commuting Manila 101 instead of catching up.
But I didn’t mind. I sat there, listening to here traffic stories. I didn’t even had the chance to tell her about my travels but it’s okay. I can adjust. I understand the lifestyle here is so different. I shouldn’t push the topic further.
Note: Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Riley are characters in the hit movie Inside Out.
Joy can’t always keep Riley afloat.
I am sad about the millions of Filipinos traveling for a minimum of 3 hours every day just to get to work. What about their children? What about their husbands? Their wives? Their parents? If you are a mother, you wake up at 4:30 in the morning, get ready, cook for your children, prepare your children for school then leave the house at 6:00 just to make it to work — which is 9:00. At 17:00, office hours are over and you have to battle your way home (again). Another 3 hours down the drain. Or more. Once you get home, you will have to prepare dinner, attend to your children’s assignments, put them to sleep. You go to the shower by midnight and you go to sleep knowing you need to be up in another 4.5 hours. How much time did you have for yourself? Have you even asked how your children are? Or did you even talk to your husband?
Traffic in Manila will teach you about life more than you think.
I believe this is a unique trait that the capital of my country has. While I cannot really change how it is, I’ve already accepted the fate of my fellow Filipinos living and striving in this city. When I was in Brasil, a lot of people asked me, “How can you walk the streets of Sao Paulo at 4:00 in the morning, by yourself?” I didn’t think Sao Paulo was dangerous like everyone was saying. I love this city so much I treated it as my own home. I was just like any normal Brasilians, walking my way at any time of the day. I wasn’t scared. I couldn’t answer their question because there was nothing off for me about Sao Paulo.
“She lived in Manila. This is normal to her so she’s not scared.” One of my Brasilian friends said.
And I realised, it really is true. Manila have transformed me into a person who always dives in the unknown.
Cover Photo Source: Wired
Are there any more things traffic in Manila taught you? Leave it in the comment box below!
Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She’d like to believe she’s not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.
Thursday 25th of July 2019
I travel every day from Sta. Rosa, Laguna to Ortigas and the travel automatically eats up 6 hours at minimum of my time, everyday. That's the normal. When it's payday or it suddenly rain, another one to two er way. Can you imagine that? It's really sad.
Monday 3rd of December 2018
Ohh living in Manila!! Once before I flew to Bangkok for a vacay, my mom told me to be alert and be careful of all the scams there. I told her not to worry because I lived 5+ years in U-belt Manila, the Bangkok scammers should be the one who'll be scared. :D :D :D
Monday 3rd of December 2018
Patience. A lot of patience. And by the way I'm from Laguna and I work in Manila. Regular commuter here.
Sunday 24th of January 2016
Huge traffic jam. Is this is only in Manila or in whole Philippine. Before i read this article, i thought this type of traffic only occurs in India or Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Wednesday 23rd of December 2015
Ha! I'm glad you were able to draw something positive from traffic that's reputed to be worse than anywhere in the world. I've been to the Philippines a little over a dozen times and I still underestimate the ridiculous jams.. to the point that, like you, I missed a morning trip to Boracay! I had to go to the office and pay for another ticket..
It's nice to find someone who can find a silver lining in a situation like that!