I bet the outrage over Dan Brown’s description of Manila as the “gates of hell” in his book Inferno is still fresh in the minds of many Filipinos. They really should learn to react properly to any less than desirable description that foreigners have of Filipinos, whether true or not. If it’s true, do something about it. If it’s not, don’t mind it.
What is undeniable, however, was that he was actually spot on.
Now June has come, along with it the rainy season. Commuters started experiencing prolonged hell as heavy rains and floods brought traffic to a standstill on Monday night, June 17, 2013.
The traffic gridlock occurred amid the early evening rush hour, with tens of thousands of motorists and commuters left fuming.
Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook were flooded with photos and videos of people stuck in traffic.
Bayan Patroller Ronald Omanya said it took him 2 hours to go from Julia Vargas to Ortigas Extension in Pasig.
EDSA Magallanes also became a virtual trap for vehicles, based on shots taken by Bayan Patroller Jaser Marasigan.
The situation was also the same for Ayala northbound.
Ix Cepeda, a a speechwriter of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, told ABS-CBNNews.com that it took him several hours to get home.
“Left the Coconut Palace at 5:30pm. Arrived home (Don Antonio Hts) 9pm na. Hell ang traffic, Chairman. HELL!!!” he said.
Lawyer Cecille Soria, meanwhile, said it took her 2 and a half hours to travel from Ortigas to Fairview.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, for his part, had reportedly downplayed the traffic gridlock but was quick to pinpoint the cause of the floods to clogged drainage systems and the presence of squatters along key esteros. Whether Mr. Tolentino can find the cojones to actually do the dirty work of “cleaning up” the clogs, that still remains to be seen.
Admittedly, the “gates of hell” description of Manila has stuck among the chattering classes only because it’s so apt. However, with the seeming resignation of Filipinos that they really can’t do anything about the floods which paralyze the metro every year, we may as well attach another label to Manila, one that becomes more pronounced during the rainy season: The river Styx.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this body of water, the the Styx is a river in Greek mythology that forms the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. Now what is the Underworld? Think of it as a place similar to the Christian Hell. Now do things get clearer?
In effect, the river Styx leads to a hell like place, and just as Metro Manila feels like hell, the floods cause the city to feel like a river leading to hell. The only thing missing now would be a real-life counterpart to Charon the ferryman. Perhaps Mr. Tolentino will oblige?
How apt, indeed, Mr. Brown. How apt indeed. Maybe he was on to something.
Comparisons and metaphors aside, the underlying issue here is that what was once a manageable problem has come back to hit us in the ass because of our neglect. The disposal of garbage in the correct places was in our control, yet as a whole Filipinos didn’t give a hoot. Everybody thought that one little piece of plastic, or paper, or any type of garbage wasn’t really a big deal. Everybody thought that too many cars in the road at one time wouldn’t become a problem. Everybody thought that our booming population could all easily fit into the city without any problem. Everybody thought that we would be better off living with the traffic-causing jeepneys instead of devising more efficient alternatives for transportation. Finally, everybody thought that the absence of a master plan for the city was a non-issue.
Well, everybody thought wrong.
What happened? They eventually all added up and now we are forced to cure something which could have been prevented.
Manila feels like hell due to the traffic? It’s rather pointless and too late to complain about it now. We simply reap what we sow.
The more important question is: are we going to learn our lesson so that the near future won’t be as hellish?
On second thought, maybe the comparison IS a bit overboard. I bet even the river Styx, despite being muddy, is cleaner than any river here, or anywhere flood waters flow.
“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” – maybe we should change the tourism slogan from “It’s more fun in the Philippines” to this one. After all, wading through floods and traffic in hell will never be fun no matter what era you’re living in.[Photo courtesy Pasig River Watch and Writerscafe.org]
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