The other day, I got pulled over for turning into a U-turn slot on Metro Manila’s Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) at a time when I shouldn’t have. Unlike Chris Lao, however, I was in no position to go around stomping my feet claiming that I was not informed. There were signs leading to the turn indicating in big letters “U-Turn Slot” and — in small letters — something about private vehicles being allowed to use it only after 5pm or something like that. I was out of luck that time. My watch indicated 4:43pm.
No wonder the stretch of the whole lane diverging from EDSA leading to the slot was empty.
Apparently this facility was for the exclusive use of provincial buses at peak hours. Turns out the slot that may be legally used by private vehicles before 5pm can be accessed from the outer lane of EDSA. So I guess keeping to the leftmost lane on EDSA to look for a U-turn slot is not as straightforward or logical an approach as I thought it was.
So I got flagged by an officer of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and had to pull over to sort out the violation.
I guess, poor people aren’t the oppressed people of our inherently unjust society that many socially-aware “activists” make them out to be. Bus drivers seem to get the better end of the deal in EDSA. Earlier in my journey that day, I observed how public utility buses swarmed all over the ABC Theatre in Guadalupe forming a vehicular morass at least three lanes wide as each tried to scoop up as many passengers as they could before they zoomed off towards the next stop. Twenty-odd buses slowing to a crawl and occupying three lanes along a stretch of EDSA that hosts no less than three feeder lanes that inject vehicles coming from Ayala Centre, The Fort, and Pasic City into a highway already choked with vehicles coming from Metro Manila’s southern suburbs is a poignant sight for an infrequent user of EDSA. Needless to say, it is most likely an infuriating reality for the regular Manila motorist.
Then there is the north-bound Ortigas flyover that is also clogged by buses stopping at its approach to pick up passengers. That’s an expensive piece of infrastructure originally built precisely to spare motorists who just need to get to the other side of this busy intersection of having to deal with this sort of thing.
These and many other quaint instances of banal stupidity along EDSA are routinely taken for granted by Manila’s millions of road users. That such glaringly obvious causes of traffic grief that beg such simple solutions persist for years goes a long way towards explaining why I find laughable at best any sort of grandstanding about “hope” and “will to change” among not just Filipino politicians but ordinary Filipinos.
You just can’t take seriously a people who fail at stepping up to the simplest challenges.
If even the most obvious issues that beg the simplest solutions cannot be addressed, how exactly do we presume to harbour any “hope” that our more complex and more systemic problems will be rectified?
Closer to my personal experience rectifying my rather ironic traffic “violation”, I just had to take note of how that otherwise quiet approach lane to that U-turn slot was patrolled by only two MMDA officers. Yet, along Guadalupe and the Ortigas segments of EDSA, ten- to twenty-odd officers armed with clubs frantically wave buses into the proper lanes in vain.
The mathematics of how one sector of the motoring public that routinely violates traffic rules and causes untold stress and economic loss daily goes unpunished and another sector within which moi happened to be a part of that day gets slugged with a hefty fine for a violation that did not inconvenience even even one other motorist simply does not compute.
Why then can’t Filipinos follow rules?
Perhaps, it is because the rules in place simply do not serve their intended purpose — which is to make the Philippines work on a large and coherent scale.
Indeed, a country that does not work at scale not surprisingly breeds generations of individuals who make up their own rules and then proceed to live by these. It is a survival strategy that works in a country that does not work.