Traffic! Traffic everywhere! Driving in Manila requires tons of patience. The daily commute on a regular day can already be very stressful and exhausting. Then it gets crazier in December with the congested shopping malls, street night markets, bazaars, Christmas parties and reunions everywhere. There is nothing jolly about being caught in traffic during the holidays! Sigh! 😦
Sad to say there is no road etiquette when it comes to driving in this big city. It is “every man for himself” against fast bullying buses, inconsiderate jeepney drivers loading and unloading passengers in the middle of the road, cabs that just cut you, undisciplined motorcycle drivers approaching from the blind side, and slow-moving tricycles or pedicabs (Filipino rickshaw) who like to occupy the fast lane.
To make matters worse a little down pour of rain can result to instant flooding and vehicular accidents can also cause hours of traffic jam.
There is just so much time wasted being stuck in travel. During a standstill I have found ways to be productive inside the car like learn a foreign language thru audio, play Angry Birds to de-stress, put on make-up on the move, eat, enjoy take-out coffee, and in the silence of the car meditate and pray to keep me sane.
During a major stoplight I notice there will always be beggars approaching. They may be blind, old, disabled, women with little babies and street children asking for alms. Two knocks from the window means “no” and they go away.
Then there are also enterprising pinoys literally selling anything under the sun. Like the sampaguita (flower necklace strands) vendors and the “takatak” boys making clunking noises with their wooden boxes selling cigarettes. Street hawkers of every kind peddling to vehicles products like rags, fruits, cold drinks and food. Street food in a funny way is the Filipino version of drive thru and so you will never starve on the road. Just honk and they will come running to you.
Sometimes annoying little kids with squeegees clean the windshield without even asking permission for a few coins. I want to get mad but this is the harsh reality of poverty in the Philippines. Often times I wish I wouldn’t be bothered but the sad truth is any money made in the streets will be food on the table for the family that day.
Sometimes in a bumper to bumper situation I like to ponder… Random thoughts like for those of us in the comforts of our air-conditioned automobiles having been blessed with more…. Do we keep our windows up and our car doors locked because we think it is not safe outside or is it because we choose to shut out the suffering of the poor around us? Do we ignore beggars and street vendors because they are social nuisances or are we unable to look at them in the eye for the reason that we have become apathetic to their plight?
Perhaps being in traffic is an opportunity to do something good. We can be generous with simple things like giving excess food from a Christmas party to help feed those living in the streets with nothing to eat. We can always reach out to the less fortunate.… all it takes is to roll down that car window to open our hearts and do a random act of kindness.