I can’t say I’m lucky. I’d religiously ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT, a local train) for four years because it was the quickest means to get to my university. For more than four years, I’ve relied on it to enjoy stops directly connected to malls and stations where I could reach my destination more efficiently. I thought – and still think – that the train is a good means to travel. But not today for a particular train, I suppose. Around 4 pm today, the MRT was derailed.
I had had my fair share of “Sorry for the inconvenience, technical problem” in those four plus years. I had lined up during the 8 am rush hours for many mornings. I had signed a signature petition against the price increase of the MRT a couple of years back. In those accumulated years, the MRT had become familiar to me that routine made me simply accept that the train wasn’t perfect, but it got me to where I needed to be – not always on time, but it got me there. Without the train, I wouldn’t probably think about attending a school cities away. The MRT made it possible for me to attend my dream university and it cradled me back home where, in contrast to the train coaches where standing room is common, comfort is high.
I understand sentiments of people worrying about how to get home, about the heavy traffic that will ensue (or is currently ensuing). It is difficult to get home especially when you take public transportation because buses are banned in some areas, some PUVs (Public Utility Vehicles) only operate until a certain time, and jeepneys can only load a certain number of passengers per trip. Furthermore, colorum jeepney drivers fear paying inconsistent traffic enforcers more than they can earn. But I wonder why we panic when we can’t ride a public utility vehicle (or complain about not having our own cars) when I think we could wish – or, better, aspire – for a “walkable” city or a “walkable” country, so we don’t have to rely on second-hand vehicles or technically substandard machines.
Is this a country where only rich people capable of buying high-quality private cars, comfortably seated on their upholstered seats and air conditioned pods, will survive and live to tweet about insane traffic in the metro?
Some local news have reported students from rural areas literally traveling mountains, crossing rivers, and bridging the gap between ignorance and knowledge. Many will walk, a sacrifice for city dwellers, to attain a certain goal. But the ground we walk on and the streets that cars tread are not ideal for walking. Personally, the pollution in the metropolis sent me to a two-month coughing fit. But I like walking. I wish the time would come where insufficient number of PUVs – private utility vehicles and public utility vehicles – and smoke belching become the least of the problems of majority of Filipinos, the PUV-riding middle class, because, no, traffic is not the sign of progress; but a walkable country probably is.