Traffic on my Mind

The Philippine Daily Inquirer came out with a stunning headline that read something like the Secretary of the Department of Transportation said that traffic is “just a state of mind.” For the millions of Filipinos that see themselves stuck in traffic on a daily basis, it came as a bad joke.

To be fair, the Department has denied that the Secretary said anything like that. It appears that what he was actually saying was that we, Filipinos, should stop making traffic an excuse for being late for anything IF there isn’t any heavy traffic at all. That’s a very big “if”. The problem is, of course, when exactly isn’t there heavy traffic? I mean, at the times that matter, say going to and from office, heavy traffic is a given. Isn’t that why some people are asking Congress to give the president emergency powers to deal with the traffic situation? I am sure they are well aware of the situation. Unfortunately, the good secretary’s statement, however well intentioned, just fell among the other face-palm worthy government commentaries on traffic, the most painful one coming from former president Noynoy Aquino himself when he said, twice if I’m not mistaken, that heavy traffic was a sign of progress. There is a grain of truth somewhere in there but for those who suffer through hours and hours of traffic on end, it’s no comfort at all.

A friend of mine saw her daily commute that used to take forty-five minutes stretch to two hours. Try passing by Cubao in Quezon City around 4:30 in the morning and you run into traffic. Yes, that’s 4:30 AM! Wisdom dictates that if you want to beat traffic you have to leave earlier but if there’s traffic at the most ungodly hours, what time do you actually have to leave to make it to your office or school?! There was a time I could leave my house along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City before 6 AM to make it to my office in Makati around 7:30 AM. That’s still one-and-a-half hours. Try that today and you will get there at 9 AM. The culprits are Cubao, of course, and Ortigas. Commonwealth Avenue itself, even with six to eight lanes can get pretty congested early in the morning. It’s more manageable compared to later on the day but even with such a wide avenue traffic is a problem.

And the solution itself is a problem. When you try to leave the house too early, or try to leave the office too late, just to skip traffic, and do the same thing all over again every day of the workweek then you begin to question whether or not this is all worth it. Leaving too early and too late just leaves you less time for anything else in your life. Life can’t be just about living on the road going to or from the house or office. We already slog through eight hours of work, do we really have to go through four to six hours of traffic?

You see, when we say it’s traffic. It really is. We are not just making excuses for being late. It really is just traffic. It is a reality. Something we want to change. We want a better life. One that isn’t so preoccupied with, or dominated by so much traffic. Government should just get on the business of fixing traffic. There is already so much that is needed to be done and talk, as they say, is cheap. Maybe then we don’t have to suffer through traffic, be it real or imagined.


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