I like walking. Sometimes out of the need to exercise, sometimes out of boredom, and sometimes out of the blue (and then my legs would hurt or my shoes would give out and I would ask myself why did I walk in the first place. But, I digress.). As I walk from train station to the office and vice versa, what has got me thinking for a couple of days now is the phrase tuwid na daan.
Tuwid na daan has become a common collocation among Filipinos when the country’s current president used it as his vision-mission or something during the last presidential campaign. The phrase is practically part of Philippine (pop) culture, so it’s probably okay to take a comic jab at it and view it in several ways. I mean, it’s pretty much public property already.
Let’s examine each word first. Tuwid means “straight” or “smooth.” Na is basically just a connector of the adjective and the noun. Daan can be translated to “path,” “route,” or “road.” So, tuwid na daan can mean “straight road.” That sounds good and promising and all-that-romantic-adjectives, right?
Well, maybe not entirely. Here comes the stretch.
Tuwid na daan is not always a smooth road. I mean have you tried walking along Panay Avenue? I walk from the train station to my office and though it’s just straight ahead, it’s not easy. When the rain pours, a river emerges to cut the street midway leaving pedestrians who walk on foot stranded or taking the more dangerous street on the other side (sidewalks along Quezon Avenue are for motorcyclists apparently.); cobble stones and gravel protrude from the ground like the road was furnished like that, which, by the way, took the sole of one of my shoes; and when you ride the tricycle, you’d feel each and every stone on the road shaking the hell out of you – it feels so much worse when you’re a girl.
Tuwid na daan can mean close-mindedness. You don’t ever keep walking just straight ahead. Sometimes you are presented with paths that fork, people who need a companion to tread new roads, selfish drivers who don’t know how to give way, or – in Panay Avenue – a flood that cuts the road. And when one of those things happen or another, you have to adjust. If you walk straight ahead because you have to follow that tuwid na daan, you either lose a what-could-have-been experience, get bumped by a car, or, you know, Crhistopher Lao.
(Man, I’m so old school. But, just to prove a point, Mother Ignacia street – where this happened – is just on the other side of Panay Avenue.)
Tuwid na daan is artificial. Terrains naturally have highs and dips (Case in point: that dip in Panay Avenue, which is practically a flood basin). When the road is smoothened out, it is all thanks to — (drum roll please) — you, of course. Road constructions and reconstructions are paid for by your taxes. And trust me, no matter how young you are you still pay taxes. One peso for a piece of candy? When I was younger, I could get more than a piece for a peso. Sari-sari stores naturally adjust the price of their products depending on how much they bought the item, which if you check receipts, is taxable. Not many Filipinos value 10 or 50 cents as much as they used to – probably except for me. For some, it’s okay not to receive or ask for that centavo change because that wouldn’t even buy a piece of candy anymore. What many don’t realize is that it adds up in someone else’s bank account, and gradually subtracts from an ordinary citizen’s wallet (Remember that frog story where the frog doesn’t realize he’s dying because you put him in the glass of water before turning up the heat instead of the other way around? Yeah. That.). In fact, for every 15 times you pay P7.50 (the rightful amount, I must say) to a jeepney ride, you get one more ride compared to when you pay P8 15 times. This is most likely the same logic used when roads are re-cemented over and over again to, in some cases, unnecessarily smoothen it out with band aid solutions.
So, what now?
For me, I keep walking. I walk because, really, sometimes, I simply walk out of money.