I’m a car guy. I love my car and I look forward to every opportunity to sit in it and drive it off somewhere. I call myself lucky that I can use an automobile practically any time I want to. But I’ve noticed several folks calling us car owners “entitled, inconsiderate brats.” Especially when these people see us sitting in air-conditioned comfort while they slug it out in a rolling sardine can (also known as a public-utility bus).
I understand their frustration. The MMDA admits that private cars are the main reason the streets of Metro Manila are almost always in a permanent state of gridlock during rush hour. That’s because most of us private motorists wouldn’t want to be trapped in a cramped UV Express van crawling in traffic, along with 50 other cars jostling for prime real estate on EDSA. But I also don’t desire to be behind the wheel of any one of those cars, exhausted from the slow-moving hell. However, I still choose to drive. Not because I can, but because I have no other choice.
I’m no stranger to taking public transportation. As a college student, I opted for cheaper modes of transport whenever possible so I could maximize my allowance. These days, before I fly out to foreign cities like Taipei or Hong Kong, I make it a point to study their mass-transit systems so I can avoid taking a taxicab, which is usually expensive in developed countries. And speaking of such countries, I can’t help but be envious of how their citizens can easily move from A to B. I’m absolutely jealous of the numerous ways I can get around when I’m overseas. Double-decker buses, street trams, monorail trains, bullet trains—the options are endless.
While car owners can afford to operate and maintain their four-wheeled conveniences, it’s an expense they’d be more than happy not to pay for anymore
But here in Manila, I have no other alternative. Sure, there’s the ubiquitous jeepney. But can I make my mother, who is paralyzed from the waist down, get on one of those? I have a very young nephew whom I treat as my own child. Can I tell my sister to hop aboard a local bus to take him to his routine checkups? The company I work for has a very strict policy on tardiness. Can I rely on the MRT and risk losing my job due to being consistently late as a result of frequent breakdowns?
So I simply take my car to wherever I’m going. But unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as just hopping in, starting the engine and driving off. Our streets are overflowing with vehicles. My humble econobox is anything but fuel-efficient as it crawls through bumper-to-bumper traffic. I’m wasting money on gasoline and parts that easily wear out in city driving. I’m tired, hungry and furious as I sit in my car’s drab cockpit, shackled to this perpetually useless endeavor which fate has consigned me to. But most of all, I’m wasting time. Time I could otherwise spend with my girlfriend or my dad or even my dog. Time I can never get back again.
And these are things those who do not own a car will never fully understand. While we can afford to operate and maintain our four-wheeled conveniences, it’s an expense that we’d be more than happy not to pay for anymore. We want functioning trains and punctual buses as much as the rest of the country do. We’re one with all in wanting more viable options for getting around the megalopolis. We’re with everyone in the demand for safe and reliable public transportation, something the Philippines doesn’t really have.
So let me promise you one thing, good men and women of government. Give me the trains, the buses and the bicycle lanes that this nation deserves. Give me proof that my taxes are working to move people efficiently. Do these and I will happily sell my pride and joy, vow to never contribute to congestion ever again, and believe that real change is indeed attainable.