Has it begun already? Today is the last Friday before Christmas. So guess what: an entire megalopolis of shortsighted people will be trooping to Metro Manila’s famous mega-malls to shop shop shop! Caught in the vehicular crossfire will be people like me who just want to go home. Well, I want to go home now. But then for most of us, when one can leave work is usually not up to us.
A colleague of mine’s got Waze, a map app that uses crowdsourced data to help people plan their trips and avoid road traffic, installed in her iPhone. I don’t know if Waze is really useful in Manila, though. There really aren’t too many alternate routes in its busiest areas. There’s just EDSA and C5. In between those two pre-war vintage circumferential highways, we are all hemmed in by equally-choked South Luzon Expressway, Shaw Boulevard, Ortigas Avenue, and Aurora Boulevard, to name a few of those radial roads. And at every one of the major intersections in that death grid stands clusters of big malls. Patay kang bata ka.
Christmas would have been really nice if it weren’t for the traffic! Then again, is traffic really the root cause of Christmas misery? In fairness, Manila’s infernal traffic congestion persists in normal days when there is none of the irrational rush to malls the holiday seasons create. But that’s exactly my point. Why is there such an intense pressure to shop for Christmas? That’s kind of a dumb question, isn’t it?
Fact is, it’s Filipino tradition — and it’s killing us! It’s become incompatible with our current circumstances and the current state of our infrastructure. And here’s the thing as well: can we really afford the present way we celebrate Christmas? Looks can be deceiving. The traffic jams and the packed malls seem to answer that last question with a “yes”. But then, really, the Philippines is blessed with a youngish population. So, though we might seem to be able to “afford” Christmas cheer in excess, we may, in actuality, be spending money that should have been put away for a rainy day. But wait ’til the population age profile shifts and those age-related health issues start creeping in. Then we will all look at our empty bank accounts (or, worse, maxed-out credit cards) and realize that all the Christmas spending that we spend the other 11 months paying for was really an unaffordable indulgence!
And so here we find ourselves again, stuck with and in this traffic which seems to be getting worse by the year peaking in badness every pre-Christmas weekend. How does one get off this bus??
Magpapasko na. Those words used to be music to my ears. Not anymore! They spell insane social pressure to me nowadays.
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