They say that if you reach your forties and haven’t developed a mystery ailment yet, one will be assigned to you shortly. Mine arrived a while ago, and as the usual manly way of dealing with medical niggles—ignoring them until the pain goes away on its own—didn’t work, a trip to that big white building near Ayala Avenue in Makati soon became inevitable. During my previous visit to Makati Medical Center, I had foolishly used a car and promptly found myself caught in parking hell due to the sheer number of vehicles trying to find a space in the underground car park. So, when it was time to go there again recently, I decided to ride a bicycle. All went well until I was asked to pay for my parking upon leaving the premises.
It might seem like a minor thing, but finding out that a hospital is charging cyclists to park simply didn’t sit right with me. I had just about processed the fact that this high-tech health facility is also home to numerous unhealthy fast-food outlets, but getting my bicycle charged the same as a car or a motorbike—when surely a hospital should be encouraging people to take up cycling as a form of physical exercise—seemed enough of a reason to contact the hospital management about it. The automated e-mail reply promised that somebody would get back to me within 10 days. When I cycled back to MMC for further tests some days later, I hadn’t heard back from whoever was tasked to address customer complaints, so I fully expected to be charged again for parking.
Except this time, I wasn’t. Nobody asked for as much as a centavo. And wanting to be sure that this wasn’t a fluke, I followed up with management again. It turns out their parking policy has been changed, and bicycle parking is now free for patients. The reason they changed this practice? Because I asked them about it and suggested they stop charging cyclists. Needless to say, I was very pleased. From now on, cyclists can tie their rides to the dedicated bike rack (complete with locks if you don’t carry one). As long as you show that you had business in the hospital on the way out, you won’t be charged. The validation step is necessary to prevent people from neighboring buildings from clogging up the bicycle parking.
When you see or feel that something is wrong in this city, don’t wait for someone else to do something about it
The point is this: When you see or feel that something is wrong in this city, or when you spot an opportunity to make the place friendlier for cyclists, kick scooter users, pedestrians or anyone else trying to get from A to B, don’t wait for someone else to do something about it. Take the initiative yourself. Sometimes all it takes is a quick e-mail. Of course, this approach doesn’t always work. I’m still waiting to hear back from Shangri-La Plaza Mall management, a place that not only charges cyclists to park, but also banishes them to the furthest corner on the top floor of their multilevel parking facility. I suspect they simply treat all two-wheelers the same—regardless of whether they have an engine or not—but I can’t tell for certain because my requests for a reply via e-mail and social media keep being ignored.
The world—and Metro Manila in particular—isn’t perfect. But if we collectively start to give a fuck, I think we’ll all be very surprised by how much we can change it for the better. You don’t have to do it all on your own either. We, the media, have an important part to play in this as well, and we are already trying to do our bit. If everyone cares a little bit more, and if we then work together whenever necessary, we can make the world a slightly better place. The other day, I learned a new Tagalog word: malasakit. I like what it means. Let’s have more of it out there. Let’s care for this place like it’s our own. Because, well, it is.