It was 7:30 on a weekday evening just last week when I stood over the balcony of my aunt’s condo unit in Mandaluyong, gazed down on EDSA, and whispered to myself, “It’s going to be a long ride home.” I haven’t seen EDSA that full in almost two years. From my vantage point, the city highway looked like a massive parking lot that stretched from Boni Avenue all the way to Ortigas.
Just imagining myself in the gridlock gave me dreadful flashbacks of 2019, and then it hit me: I was seeing flashbacks of “normal.” A time before we all had to start wearing masks because of the Taal Volcano ashfall, and subsequently the COVID pandemic. It was before this respiratory illness took the breaths of countless people away, before livelihoods were abolished by the fear of an invisible contagion, before whole countries were shut down, effectively shutting the lives of every single inhabitant down—and back when three-hour traffic jams were the norm.
Since all this started in 2020, I have been through my fair share of struggles caused by the pandemic, which could be a story on its own, but all throughout that time when I was battling anxiety, financial uncertainty, and insecurity, all I ever wished for was for things to go back to the way they were. If only time were like a software system, I could reboot and restore to the last stable version, I thought. Yet, right now, I am completely aghast at the sight of the most common occurrence before the pandemic.
Yes, traffic is horrendous right now. It wastes people’s time, energy and resources. It takes away from other things in life. Believe me, I know. I live right on the border between Marikina and Antipolo. I do miss the times when I could get anywhere within Metro Manila from my residence in just 30-40 minutes. Now, I can’t even achieve that on a motorcycle. The skyrocketing gasoline prices as a result of the increasing demand is borderline criminal as well. But then again, this is what life was mostly like back in the year that most—if not all—keep wishing would come back. Traffic and gas prices were the talks of the town, and they were the biggest problems we faced as a society.
Even if I do hate sitting in an idling car for hours on end, a part of me is thankful that traffic is back to plague us once again
Here and now, though, even if I do hate sitting in an idling car for hours on end, a part of me is thankful that traffic is back to plague us once again. It just means that more of us are now outside working, studying and living our lives. It tells me that we have finally come to a point where we do not have to stay at home in fear of an invisible yet deadly virus. Traffic is still an issue that needs to be solved immediately, and COVID is not completely gone yet. Nonetheless, in this particular set of circumstances, EDSA turning into a stagnant sea of red lights should serve as a glimmer of hope—a foretaste of better days to come after a time when our streets were emptied not by improvements in the transport sector, but by mass hysteria. The fact that COVID is no longer the biggest headline these days is the perfect opportunity to see the glass half full.
Next time you’re stuck in a jam for what seems to be an eternity, I hope and pray you remember that there is still a lot to be thankful for. We have all made it this far. Maybe a little scathed, but well enough to experience the first signs of what might just be the beginning of the end for this pandemic. Stay safe out there.