Traffic has sentenced every Metro Manila resident to prison time befitting murderers

The mounting desperation of the average Metro Manila commuter is becoming so palpable you can taste it in the air every morning when you come out the door of your home and face the hard slog to work. It is utterly depressing to face a day where the first thing you will be experiencing is helplessness and hopelessness — helplessness at the prospect of sitting for two hours in your car with a lucid mind ticking away precious minutes from your short life, and hopelessness that those wasted minutes will rack up over the next couple decades (at best) as every year that offers no real solutions to the mess that is Metro Manila passes into history.

Much of the traffic problems gripping Manila can be addressed by simple solutions.

Much of the traffic problems gripping Manila can be addressed by simple solutions.

Every inmate of the vast urban prison that is Metro Manila will one day find themselves on their death bed lamenting the almost 100,000 hours of their lives they had wasted stuck in traffic. That’s more than 4,000 days or more than 11 years of your life (more than 15 percent of it) you will never ever get back.

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Sitting on my armchair playing attorney, I reckon the sorts of crimes that cop one at least that long in the slammer are of the more heinous sorts — second-degree murder perhaps, maybe armed robbery, embezzling, etc. But what crime have Metro Manila’s people committed that landed them their now-famous 11-year sentences in prison? Considering that the average Metro Manila person is not really that bad a fellow (if we for a moment ignore a penchant for spitting and urinating in public), I’d say they are all victims of a huge injustice. Consider it again: a million people serving 11-year prison sentences for a crime they did not commit.

That Metro Manilans are serving time for crimes they did not commit, indeed, is an astounding injustice. Who committed the crimes they are serving time for? Hold that thought while we consider the successive governments and the officials who sat in their offices collecting their salaries from the Filipino taxpayer, and spending public funds on projects that yielded zero results. Zero results, in fact, is being a bit nice. The results are more in the negative. If traffic and living conditions in the Philippines have gone from bad to worse in the last several decades, then it can be said that the billions of pesos sunk into Metro Manila “development” over that time yielded a degeneration rather than an improvement. Simply put, that’s billions of pesos wasted.

But Metro Manila’s public transport system is a case study in institutionalised stupidity, with buses and jeepneys let loose to ply their trade as individual private enterprise rather than a true public system that is coherent on a large-scale. Recent “accidents” in the city’s most modern travel facility — the unsightly elevated commuter rail network that snakes all over it — has made it the most recent butt of jokes. Yes, Metro Manila’s buses and jeepneys are now beyond funny, but its trains still attract a few laughs. How long Filipinos will be laughing is not hard to guess. Tomorrow is another day — in prison.

Metro Manila is a source of shame for every Filipino. It is a steaming, stinking, human cesspool dotted by small island enclaves inhabited by a tiny elite class of fashionistas who have perfected the art of pretending the stench around them does not exist. But with an elephantine chunk of the city’s wealth and influence clutched by this small urbane community, there is little hope that the issues faced by the “less-fortunates” will ever find space in the mythical “strategic urban development plans” that Metro Manila badly needs to become a city enjoyed rather than suffered.

Worst of all, that prison sentence is growing longer and more pervasive. No new roads of consequence are being built and train capacity is being destroyed rather than added. Metro Manila’s filth is no longer something experienced only on one’s horrendous daily commute. It is starting to seep into the average Metro Manila home, with flood waters routinely reaching doorsteps, soot deposited by diesel pollution fouling up electric fans and walls, water-borne diseases and toxins making their way into indoor taps, and violent crime forcing residents to fortify their windows with steel grills.

Yet, the country’s wretched masses continue to trek to this city in search of “better” opportunities. Something’s gotta give. No, it already did. That Metro Manila had become a failed city a long time ago is a reality that should have been faced yesterday. But the prospect of Filipinos and their governments facing that reality sometime in the future is already a challenge in itself. When will Metro Manilans decide to seize control of their future? That’s going to be a hard decision to get around to making now that they have lived with a deeply-ingrained prisoner’s mentality for so long.

[Photo of buses clogging EDSA courtesy Boylit De Guzman.]

45 Replies to “Traffic has sentenced every Metro Manila resident to prison time befitting murderers”

  1. This post is timely.

    Today. I was stuck in traffic in Gil Puyat Avenue from Evangelista to Makati avanue.

    My alloted time travel on that route was 1 hour including traffic. But today is epic, it took me almost 2 hours on that same route.

    Lucky for me I went to work earlier than my usual time and we have a flexible working schedule however I pity those people I saw who drop off the puvs they boarded to walk to makati cbd just not to be late.

    1. Last Friday afternoon it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to go from Roxas Blvd. in Pasay to Rockwell.

      Yesterday, Sunday, it took me 15 minutes.

      1. Friday two weeks ago.
        Alabang to Roxas Blvd had to drop a package off. Then up to Makati, Edsa then Tomas Morato.

        4 hours

  2. Funny too how dense-residence developers capitalize on this by giving a “solution” — a condominium unit roughly (or smaller) than the size of half a basketball court “a couple minutes from the workplace”.

    Yes, it’s close to the office, but it effectively makes sure that most of the money that should been going to other things important to them — healthcare, kids’ education, a vacation once in a while, retirement savings — goes to an expensive solution because the institutions tasked with those are too preoccupied with useless projects designed to garner as much epal points as possible.

  3. Benign0, a very timely and excellent analysis of the current state of non existent infra structure, hair raising stupidity, obvious inability, inefficiency and corruption by anyone responsible in government and resignation by the people.

    In short, Manila really has become a hell hole. I for my part have had it with this shit! And I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t have to commute or go to work as I work from home. But my heart goes out not only to my dear wife, but also to the millions of working Filipinos who just do not deserve such a mess. Or do many of them? Why are they keeping quiet? There should be riots! Why are they voting for imbeciles? I sometimes feel that the best way to fix this confusion and disorderliness is to napalm the whole Metropolis. This whole stinking, fucked up place should go up in flames, then we can start from scratch. I’m just waiting for the MRT or LRT to completely break down. What then?

    1. Filipino’s are like doormats you can walk all over them and rub the dirt in their face and they accept it.

      Anywhere else in the world people would be going berserk. Here they put up with shit and get more shit thrown straight at them.

      Nothing will ever change and standards will never improve unless people start standing up for themselves and saying we have had a fucking enough of all the shit.

    2. JimDiGriz/Yawn, yeah, Filipinos are renowned for their ability to continue marching with their heads down like sheep even as they are being kicked in the ass and screwed baldly.

      Then again, one can argue too that where they are today is not different from the predicament of that proverbial frog who is slowly being boiled alive but nonetheless fails to hop out of the pot.

    3. “I sometimes feel that the best way to fix this confusion and disorderliness is to napalm the whole metropolis.”

      I sometimes feel that way too. In order for Metro Manila to be like cities from other developed countries, we need to level the whole Metro Manila and start from scratch.

    4. The fact that there are not riots right in front of the Senate bldg. when both houses of legislature are inside is just incredible.Want something done? That is the place (and time) to go and get it done.
      The politicians have shown themselves to not care or incapable of doing anything to alleviate any of the people’s suffering…and so, they must go.

      Pretty simple and straightforward solutions can be had,easily too.Thieves,if they are smart, always run before getting caught.

  4. The oil companies are also earning a lot out of the hapless filipinos’ traffic woes. Just imagine how many millions (or maybe billions) of pesos are just burned out by the motor vehicles going nowhere. Not to mention it must contribute to higher fuel prices too.

    1. and the Philippines is one of the only countries on earth where 85% the vehicles spew a black cloud of smoke every time the accelerator is depressed by the driver.The country has emmissions inspections too!
      A coruption plagued mess,it would be easier to just burn it to the ground and start over.

  5. There are traffic issues all over the world. The huge difference is in the Philippines vs. other developing nations is that the PHIL has no real planned short or long term solutions. Buses & jeepneys are vintage mode – the only way to go in mass transit, freeways, rails, links and with buses only to supplement sub commuter routes not main thorough fares. The country is 50 years behind in infrastructure, thus to even put a dent requires massive changes which both the Filipino & the politicians don’t have the balls to and no brains as well to think & solve. Suffer you all will, when I retire there in 2 years, I will stay in a town with carabaos only. Happy commuting to all!

  6. Technically, the public transportation problem is an essay one: you discourage people from buying cars increasing the taxes for purchasing one (like in SG) and you simultaneously make a public bid for implementing a centralized bus system like in another civilized place: numbers and color for different lines and bus stops. Instead, the so-called public servants only think of widening and widening roads and shortening sidewalks. Until when? There are whole areas in Manila that could be easily pedestrianized, like Ermita between Taft and Roxas Bul. or Intramuros. It would discourage people from using their cars and it would boost the business of the streets, that would become more atyractive for visitors and tourists.

  7. Hi, sorry, but the pictures that you have for this story with the caption “Manila’s awful traffic” have drivers driving cars with steerings on the other side. I like this blog, but can you use real Philippines pictures? Looks like Get Real Thailand and Get Real India to me.

  8. During my bus trips from Argao, Cebu to South Bus Terminal, Cebu City (a 67km stretch) it mostly took the Ceres bus 2 hrs. Only later, I found out why the bus needed so much time to cover that distance.

    – Passengers can hop on and hop off where-ever they want;
    – the road is used by everybody (pedestrians, bikers, jeepneys, tri-cycles, cars) so its not easy to drive faster
    – the road has only 1 lane per direction.

    I was shocked by the mere fact that all Filipinos accepted this slow mode of public transportation and that nobody ever protested with the bus company and/or the local LGU’s.

    By the way, this (slow public transport) applied for all other bus trips we made
    (- from Cebu City downtown areas going to Mactan island v.v.;
    – from Argao, Cebu to Moalboal-Badian, Cebu v.v.;
    – from Argao, Cebu to Lilo-An Boat Terminal, Cebu v.v.;
    – from North Bus Terminal, Mandaue going to Catmon, Cebu v.v.)

    The only mode of transportation that was really good and fast are the taxis. But then we were often hindered and delayed by walking funeral processions.
    The only road that is a joy to drive on, is Cebu South Coastal Road.

    No, its really not more fun to be in the Philippines.

    1. Cebu City Council has repeatedly voted down any attempt to modernize the transportation system because it would be too difficult to implement. Why don’t they start in one or two districts first and then expand it from there? The whole city does not need to be done all at the same time.

  9. Is urban planning just an urban legend?

    The heavy traffic jam in Manila screams lack of planning, lack of discipline and corruption.

    Government should really gear towards investing in modernizing the mass transportation system.

    And how is the Road User‘s Tax being spent?

  10. This mess could still be made better. But that would take some basic intelligence, common sense, DISCIPLINE(for Filipinos are really lazy people, if possible they would ask the jeepney driver to drop them off in their living room), determination and hard hitting enforcement of the already existing laws.

  11. Metro manila traffic is one of the worst in the world, solution to this problem is simple but the government is so dumb to come up with solutions. First, we have to identify the cause of this traffic mess. Many would say that there’s too my buses, jeepneys, trucks, private cars and less road, undisciplined drivers commuters, corrupt traffic officials etc etc. But why do we need more buses, more trucks, more cars, more trains, more roads etc. Because metro is bursting with people. More people means the demand for more basic needs. More people means more traffic, more garbage, more crimes, more opportunist. Then this is complicated by the government ineptness, the lack of resolved to to do what should be done, the government both local and national is so helpless or just numb. Look at EDSA Balintawak, it’s anarchy out there 24/7. The MMDA only need to do there is implement traffic ordinances 24/7. Haul off those pedicabs, trycycle , in a big truck. Tow illegally park cars, jeepneys etc 24/7. Then jail the drivers operator of this vehicles. Make traffic officers responsible for the mess in their assigned areas. If an area like Balintawak gets clogged up, summon the traffic enforcer and if necessary fine him or dismissed him if he is corrupt. I don’t know if these traffic constables new their responsibilities, objectives of their job or if they have job descriptions at all. I could make a thesis out these. But if I have my way, ill just put them up against the wall.

  12. Residents of Metro Manila have committed a very serious crime: Voting two BONEHEADS with handsome and charming faces. The Mayor is a convicted plunderer, and the Vice Mayor cannot even handle a Tourist Bus kidnapping and murder, in Luneta.

    These Clowns can charm you. However, they lack the BRAINS and GUTS; to solve Metro Manila problems. What is the Metro Manila Governor doing? What is the mentally challenged Aquino doing? What is Mar Roxas doing?

    They cannot solve problems. They do not know how to plan…come what may is what they are doing….or “Bahala Na” attitude.

    So, by voting these idiots…people of Metro Manila deserve what they got!!!

    It is only by this way, that people (voters) will learn lessons in voting the right leaders. If they are able to learn, at all!!!

  13. Been sayin it for years:Nothing is going to change.Manila is a shit-hole and anyone who can leave it should do so at first light today!If not first light, then b4 sundown.

    It is so bad now that it can really not get much worse.After a saturation point is reached, the problem perpetuates itself and that saturation point was reached long ago.

    What a fuckin mess, a shit hole of a city that used to be considered ‘The Pearl of The Orient’. it is now considered by all who enter it:”The Gates of Hell”…and that is correct statement. BTW,anyone who doesn’t appreciate it, can not handle the truth and should do the world a favor.

    1. You have a street with say 200 houses, they demolish the houses and build 10 skyscrapers. Now you have 4,000 families living in the same street that use to house 200 families with no added infrastructure.
      Then they have the nerve to say traffic was never this bad before.
      Manila will most probably be the world’s first city to reach total gridlock some point in the future.

      The great thing about Metro Manila is that if there’s a nuclear attack it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.

  14. I can think of at least 3 solutions.

    1. People need to move away from “the gates of hell.”

    2. Stop voting for actors (especially bad ones who never could act).

    3. develop a comprehensive above ground train system modeled after one of the efficient subway systems world wide, such as the ones in Seoul or Tokyo. Never build a subway because the city is below sea level when it rains.

    4. Make all buses follow routes and have regular stops and change the buses to pay on entry in the front and get off in the middle or the back. Remove ALL jeepneys from the roads. They are dangerous, cause a lot of pollution and are simply a hazard.

    I guess that was actually about 5 or 6 suggestions rather than only 3, but I could go on & on. Oh, install traffic lights city wide and ENFORCE traffic laws.

  15. “That Metro Manilans are serving time for crimes they did not commit, indeed, is an astounding injustice.”

    Ka benign0,

    While I cannot deny the astounding injustice of being imprisoned for hours in traffic or the spectacular failure of the Metro Manila city governments in urban planning, how can we say that we ourselves are not, at least in part, responsible for the crime?

    Is our government not of, for, and by the people? If so, we must share the blame and also demand more of ourselves as citizens. If not, we have a much bigger problem than just traffic….

    1. I agree. Metro Manila, among other things, reflects the character of Philippine society as a whole. And, as a democracy, Filipino leaders do in fact reflect the character of their constituents.

      So perhaps this injustice is actually one where the both victims and perpetrators are one and the same.

      1. No.The Philippines is a so called ‘Democracy’ in name only.The people who live there have no say in anything that happens there.Rigged elections etc…etc…

  16. Napansin ko lang, parang mas lamang ang puna sa mga PUVs. I mean, yes, buses are too big and too many for EDSA. And jeepneys are now too ugly for our city’s “New and mala-art-deco Buildings”, pero as an ordinary commuter, no cars at all, parang mas marami ang mga private vehicles sa mga kalsada, even here in our community, problema ang parking space.

    Well, for me, number one problem would be, we have too many vehicles in the Metro na kung saan hindi na magkasya sa mga kalsada natin. Imagine, if a bus can cary atleast 50 passengers, then suddenly biglang nagkaroon ng tig-iisang kotse ang mga pasaherong yun, you think busses and jeepneys will be still our problem?

    So, in my opinion, the authorities should implement sealing of vehicles, whether it is PUV or a Private one. Then at the same time, implement proper Mass Transport System, instead building an Expressway within the Metro. Pagkakakitaan lang nila permanently ang mga Private Vehicle instead of implementing a permanent solution na kubg saan lahat makikinabang, simula sa mga taong walang kotse hanggang sa may mga kayang bumili.

  17. I’m curious, how did you come up with that 11-year figure? I did a little math and if I’m not mistaken, to get to 11 years, you would have to be sitting in traffic roughly 9 hours every single day, 365 days a year (including weekends and holidays) for 30 or so years. Hopefully it’s not quite THAT bad yet!

    1. Well it feels like an eternity whenever you’re stuck in a really bad traffic jam, and such traffic jams are common here in the Philippines, especially in Metro Manila.

    2. I computed it at roughly 2 hrs per trip @ 2 trips per day for 50 years if I recall right. That’s based on the assumption that the average Pinoy starts work at 20 yrs old and continues working continuously til she’s 70 yrs old. Pretty conservative enough I think…

  18. the problem concerning the traffic in Manila is one of population. 30 years ago, there were 60 million people in the Philippines. a large amount of those headed to the capital to find work. today, there are 100 million. it more than doubled the amount of people living and heading into Manila. so, the transport on offer has increased to meet demand. but, the infrastructure has not improved efficiently enough. MRT met some demands, but today it is overused. LRT 2 helped a bit. Skyway has helped. but, there are now more Jeepney’s; more FX; more buses; more tricycles; more car owners and thousands of motorbikes to fill the gaps in between. and, the population will continue to grow at a fast rate, and so things will only get worse, until gridlock is reached. balikbayans; and better job opportunities here in the Philippines has increased the wealth of the Filipino. this has led them to reach for a good standard of living. a decent house or apartment and a car. loans are readily available to buy these new cars, and future generations will want more. i live outside Manila. i am retired. so, i manage to restrict my trips there to 3 or 4 times a month. a trip in and the trip out, adds 4 hours to my time away from home. (on a good day) but, those working and having to commute 6 days a week, they must feel like they are serving that prison sentence you spoke of. extreme drastic measures are needed and i don’t any government here would be capable to deal with those measures. good luck to Manila and it’s future. despite all the slagging off in these posts, i like it. it has character. but i cannot afford the time to visit there every day.

  19. I had a solution to end this madness. Manila needs to be destroyed from the ground up just like what they did in Paris when Napoleon Bonaparte took over. Expand the road lanes. Kick all the undesirables for a few years. Relocate all the squatters. If they come back.arrest them and put them in jail like sardines in a can.

  20. The government should start thinking on how to decongest Metro Manila. They should encourage big companies to set-up their offices/factories in the provinces by giving tax benefits etc. When this happens, more opportunities will be available in the provinces which will entice people to work and stay in their respective provinces maybe even entice other Metro Manila residents resulting to a less populated Metro Manila. Hope this happens in our lifetime 🙂

  21. The PH Government should hire retired Japanese salerymen and elderly housewives to do the urban planning and management for their cities. They have more common sense than most of our local politicians and administrators.
    Plus the thought that the PH is now hiring Japanese as OJWs should tickle their Pinoy Pride (look who’s serving who now huh).
    So you Pinoy politicians should just sit back an relax and watch how your new Japanese hires get the job done.

  22. During the run up to Christmas 2013, I remember being stuck travelling along Ortigas between Wilson St (in front of Greenhills) to Robinson’s Galleria by EDSA. Travel time: 2 hrs… And it wasn’t even rush hour! More like just after lunch!

  23. I’m not sure whether Benign0’s lament is timely or long over-due, but it surely validates one’s frustrations. Since the early 1980s.. when Ramon Bagatsing was Manila’s Mayor, Adelina Rodriguez, Quezon City’s and Nemesio Yabut, Makati’s.. ‘Devolution’ was already a buzz word in Metro-Manila.. where First Lady Imelda was Governor. ‘Devolution’ was supposed to spread factories, business offices, large store-complexes and even schools over the length and breadth of the Greater Manila Area, (GMA). It seems clear today that precious little has been done towards this objective. In fact, the advent of ‘Malls’, ‘Super Stores’ and ‘Godzilla Malls’.. all built within the inner radius of the GMA.. have exacerbated the problem. Are we surprised that ‘Malls’ cause traffic congestion?
    The present crop of Mayors, the Metro-Manila Commissioner and the President must be familiar with this old ‘objective’. They must now get off of their fat behinds, buckle down and, put their noses, to the grinder, (together). Pandacan’s demise is a good start. This ought to be followed closely by drastically cutting down, and streamlining the North and South Harbors’ volume by stepping up the pace towards Olongapo, Limay and/or Cavite.. and please, ‘no more photo-ops’.
    This isn’t even a novel idea.

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