Filipino culture may not be compatible with operating and using modern train systems

News that a train line had, yet again, ground to a halt in the Philippines is no longer news. This is because train network stoppages are now more the rule than the exception for the average Filipino commuter. For the hapless Filipino commuter, every morning heralds a day of abject uncertainty. The question every morning is no longer “What time will I get to work today?” It has become “Will I get to work today?”

For many societies, train systems are a source of pride. They are showcases of their ability to both serve one of their publics’ most important needs (efficient transportation) and apply technical and organisational prowess in the operation of a complex vital network of many moving parts involving a dizzying array of variables. In the best of the best, service levels go way beyond merely keeping trains operational. Standards of excellence are baselined against an ability to opperate to tight timetables that require trains stopping at stations for no more than a minute (within which time passengers exit and enter the trains) and keeping gaps between train arrivals at no longer than five minutes.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Furthermore, vast information systems and networks are built to keep the riding public well-informed enough to make travel decisions. In stations themselves, there are monitors displaying real-time information on how trains are running vis-à-vis their scheduled arrivals and departures and changes in the schedules themselves. Available information on the pipeline of train arrivals also goes two or three trains back so that commuters know how close or far behind the train they need to get on is. Most basic of all is a stable timetable or schedule. Booklets where one can look up every train arrival and departure time at any station over the entire network are given out for free. Passengers are able to plan their entire days or even weeks in advance to the minute around these schedules.

Suffice to say, a truly excellent world-class train system is orders of magnitude beyond anything that Filipinos are currently capable of building and operating or even imagining. At the moment, Filipinos are stuck at merely getting their trains to work and, worse, even just getting the trains they buy to fit the rails they laid. An entire “national debate” on the fate of a 1940s-era public utility vehicle –the jeepney — competes with discussions around the problems beleaguering Filipinos’ train systems. Both “debates” are emotionally-charged but, unfortunately, equally intellectually-impoverished.

The discussion around jeepneys centres around the fate of their poor “hapless” drivers who will be left with none of the employment they are seen to be entitled to if those calling for the rightful phaseout of these clunkers have their way. In the case of the trains, the “debate” is more a case of trying to wrap Philippine society’s top talking heads’ brains around the notion that a scheduled, tightly-interdependent, and complex system such as a train network cannot be run with prayers and good intentions alone.

At the heart of excellent public services lies a profound respect for people’s time. But Filipinos are known for their infamous “Filipino time” — a tongue-in-cheek term that describes Filipinos’ renowned inability to be punctual. That such an ethic is consistently exhibited at practically every level of the social hierarchy of Philippine society indicates a general lack of appreciation for the impact of routinely wasted time. This ethic is rooted on the two key pillars of the Philippines’ national philosophy — bahala na (come what may) and pwede na yan (that’ll do for now).

Given this dysfunctional cultural foundation upon which Filipinos aspire to build a modern society, it is hardly surprising that the results have so far disappointed. To get their trains (or, for that matter, anything) to work, Filipinos need to address their deep character issues. For that you need intellectual honesty. But before that too can be achieved, you need first to abandon the perverse emotionalism that blankets the national “debate” and uplift the discourse to one where ideas that are well thought through rule.

18 Replies to “Filipino culture may not be compatible with operating and using modern train systems”

  1. Our national debates on such issues, are mostly politicized. This is the most reason , we cannot solve our problems. One political party blames the otherpolitical party. Once they are in power, they are worse than the political party they replaced.

    Our trains fails in its systems. There is no systematic scheduling. The train management consists of people, without knowledge, of how trains work. There is no good maintenance programs on our trains. So, we find train engines breakdowns frequently. do these people, even have frequent inspections on the rails ?

    How about the know how of their train mechanics ? Is the Management of our train system consists of knowledgeable train professionals ? Or just mainly political appointees ?

    Other questions, our fellow bloggers, must ask those in charge with our train system. It is time our fellow bloggers, help in the solutions on this problems. Because, never in the history of humanity, that a common blogger, have the ability to change and improve things, thru the clicks of his fingers on the computer keyboard.

  2. Calling Manila’s rail lines a system is probably an overstatement.It seems to consist of 3 separate lines that operate in blissful isolation from each other with no stations allowing connections.As trains on each line operate from A to B and back to A,scheduling etc. is not rocket science. When the Circle Line of the London Underground first opened,it settled down to a 10 minute frequency – in the 1880’s – with steam engines.

    1. Ours is not even in the same league as other Asian Capitals. I have traveled to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei. There MRTs are way better and systematic than ours. Getting from Point A to Point is a simple as getting using one train to another within the same platform.

      1. Oh yeah, what makes you an authority on our Asian neighbours’ train systems????

        Are you working there as an ENGINEER? Frankly speaking, you are a TRAITOR serving other countries when you should put your degree to the betterment of your OWN people, your fellow FILIPINOS!!!!

        You ought to be shot by firing squad, you TRAITOR

        1. Seems you never read the whole article and you always depend on your pointless emotional outbursts. Pathetic.

  3. Pinoys are not ready for the present time in general. Trains have been widely used by our neighboring countries since our first LRT. It should have been upgraded, developed, expanded. Since 1984 it has been left by the government to rot and stink to what it is now. Sure other lines have been added by GMA, but thats all. I personally think that government owned buses could have been utilized to address the shortage but have since disappeared with their routes being taken over by privately owned bus companies, who only add to traffic jams and road accidents.

    Pinoys do have the option to buy low/no downpayment extra small cars, but you see, I avoid these cars on the road like the plague, as the drivers of these cars generally do not follow any kind of rules and courtesy. Same goes with relatively new mainstream SUVs and crossovers. Pinoys are not compatible to have these also. (I always warn my wife when she is on the wheel to give clearance and give way dahil baka mabili ka ng mga yan (they might accidentally buy you). They might have the means to acquire the vehicles but they can not be, in any way shape or form to be a responsible road user. Thank you LTO, for licensing incompetent drivers.

    Also the option to use a motorbike, but IMHO, motorbikes should be classified not as a means of transport but for hobbyists only, else we become another motorcycle infested chaotic city. Thank you LTO again, for not being ready with plans knowing the increase of use.

    Pasig river which runs across the Metro could have been also developed as means of transport. I remember Erap for that, is it still being used? If so, why is it not developed? Pinoys are not compatible with river commute?

    Pedestrians using the road as walkways as the sidewalks have disappeared as the vendors and illegal structures have used them instead. Pinoys are not compatible with infrastructures.

    Pinoys are not compatible for the present times…period.

    1. The state of sidewalks is horrendous. On one side the country in many cities is struggling with traffic, yet nothing really is being done to create sidewalks that are wide, safe and will improve traffic float (people not walking on the road). I’m a pretty big cyclist/walker elsewhere but in Manila, it’s hell. The city (cities) management has created this situation of misery but well, maybe for them it’s quite normal and they’re more concerned about if there’s a new Jollibee near their house.

  4. This is 100% not true. Pinoy trains are the best in the world. As a proud Filipino i find this post treasonous to our glorious nation! Bahala ka!

  5. @Beno:

    That’s reality check, bruh. As the article shows…

    Bahala ka sa false Pinoy Pride mo. Set your priorities for once, son.

    1. @Blood:

      It appears that YOU need a reality check. How can u say such things about our country, you are a traitor too,. Are u an engineer? No!

      False Pinoy proud – sira ang olo mo ba?

      I am proud we have a working train system. Maybe u prefer a donkey instead.

      I am also proud to eat balut and all the things that make Pinoys Great. We are the best. We have the best food the best clothes and best jeepnies. Denial of this Fact is shameful. Changing who we are and our spirit, bringing unnecessary changes, is sinful, and a heinous crime period.

      Instead of CRITICISIZNG how about help make our nation more beautiful…

      The death penality awaits those who betray their heritage!

      1. You’re missing the point. You’ve been swallowed up by your false Pinoy Pride. Or you’re just TROLLING.

        In any case, there’s no way anyone should take you seriously. Take your shitposting to Reddit or somewhere else, son.

      2. I also want to add that those things you’ve mentioned represent more about our dysfunctional culture. You’re just here not to make a discussion but more on attention whoring, as it shows.

        You’re delusional to think that SQUATTER MENTALITY is our proud heritage.

  6. well it’s about time Flips consigned the rambunctiously vulgar jeepney to the junkyard
    and stepped into the future like HK/UK who transports people en masse efficiently
    by way of modern double-decker Euro6-compliant buses as well as express electrically-driven trains

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.