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A Day in the Life of Juan dela Cruz, a Filipino Commuter

A typical working day of an ordinary Filipino usually starts at four (4) o’clock in the morning. Really? Well, that’s a rough estimate. But the reasoning behind is that if you will come from the north or south of Manila, allocating two (2) hours travel will land you safe – helps you avoid getting late for your 9:00am time-in job. But still there is no guarantee to that. Practically, a three to four hours total time allocation or allowance will enable a Filipino commuter to be at work just right on time. How true is that?

Alright, for the sake of argument, let’s dissect that lengthy hours right on this blog.

Filipino Commuters fighting for space in a Public Utility Bus

If you are a Filipino commuter, chances are, you don’t have to argue with me on this matter. But one may say, it depends on where you live and where you work. Okay, we’re talking about the average Filipino commuters here. Those who are living more than 20 kilometers outside Metro Manila, practically Filipinos who cannot afford to rent an apartment or even boarding house in this mega city, and choose to commute instead.

Now, hear this story.

The Story of Juan, a Filipino
Suppose that Juan de la Cruz (that’s the representative name of the Filipinos), will come from a barangay in Bacoor, Cavite – about 20 kilometers south of Manila. His working shift is 9:00am to 6:00pm and he works somewhere in Makati City. At 4:00am, his alarm rings signaling the start of his day. After a short prayer, he jumps out of bed and immediately go to the bathroom for the usual ceremony.

Probably at 4:30am, he’s done with the bathroom routine and is ready to have a quick breakfast. Maybe two slices of bread with butter, a fried egg, an instant noodle, and a cup of coffee - which Juan's wife cooked. At 5:00am, he’s done with his meal as well as with the gum and teeth routine. All things packed up; Juan is ready to exit his home and start his day as a city worker.

Juan on his way to the jeepney terminal

Juan walking on his way to terminal along with other Filipino commuters

And by the way, Juan will have to walk about a hundred meter or two going to the tricycle terminal in his barangay. That’s about a 5-minute walk, from rough pathway to "iskinita" (narrow hallways) to paved road. And since the tricycle has to fill-in its five (5) passenger maximum capacity (which is off standard if we talk about safety), that's another 5-minute waiting time for Juan. Now, going to the main road where the jeep terminal is situated would take Juan about ten (10) more minutes. Let us say that at about 5:30am, Juan is inside the jeepney going to Bacoor where buses going to Pasay City are passing by.

Juan riding a jeepney

Juan riding a tricycle

Juan is now in Bacoor and he’s kind of attentive and alert waiting for the next bus. At this early morning, people with bad intentions are already loitering around all over the place. Also at this time, “rush hour” is already starting to happen. So Juan may still be able to ride on the third or fourth bus because the first two is either full or will be traversing a farther route.

It is 6:00am and Juan was able to get a seat at the bus heading to Pasay City. Lucky you are if you still got a seat at 6:00am! Some of the passengers, old and young, men and woman, are already standing inside the bus on this hour and that is pretty a common situation (another off the standard practice here in the Philippines).

Juan riding a bus

Juan enduring the heavy traffic as he approaches Metro Manila

The 20 kilometers Bacoor to Pasay City route will cost Juan and the rest of the passengers of that bus roughly about an hour. Why that long? Imagine this. Buses run 60 to 80 kilometers per hour, right? Not in the Philippines, in Metro Manila streets in particular! Lots of stops due to traffic congestions, passenger loading and unloading zones, and red-light signals on intersections are on the way of Juan’s chosen bus. But its alright, Juan can still arrive at Pasay City at around 7:00am.

Juan inside a Public Utility Bus (PUB)

Now, Juan is fortunate enough for all went well on his bus ride from Bacoor to Pasay City. He’s off-boarding the bus at 7:00am and now heading to the nearest train station – Taft Avenue Station. That’s about a 5-minute walk and then 10 minutes more for the queuing and waiting time for the next train arrival.

Here’s what will actually happen.

Ayala MRT Station

Juan walking toward the MRT Ticket Booth

Before riding the Metro Rail Transit or MRT train, Juan will have to fall in line at the ticket booth, swipe his journey card on the entrance turnstile, walk together with the other passengers on the on-boarding platform, and fall in line again in waiting for the train.

Juan riding the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)

It is now 7:15am and Juan is standing inside the train with roughly about a thousand commuters. In 15 minutes, Juan will alight at the Ayala Station. From there, he’ll then walk to the nearby e-jeepney terminal, which is the last ride going to his office. With all the same walking, falling in line, waiting, standing and traveling, Juan is at the entrance of his company office at around 8:30am. Sweaty and tired, whew, it will take Juan another 10 more minutes in taking the elevator going to the 23rd floor and then some walking on the hallway. Sounds a great exercise routine, isn't it?

A bus offering exclusive ride to a city business district

Juan riding an e-jeepney

At 8:45am, Juan is safely on-time on that day of work. He's now on his swivel chair and ready to do his job.

Juan and his Fellow Filipino Workmates
Whoops, unlike Juan, his workmates are still stranded somewhere between Taft Avenue Station, Ayala Station, e-jeepney terminal or outside the elevator lobby waiting for their time to ride in and out. Some of his workmates surely will not be able to make it on time today. Some will arrive between 9:01am and 9:30am, or even beyond.

Susan who’s living at Bulacan is at that moment still stuck at NLEX exit point where a minor accident just occurred. She will be late certainly and may make it at 10:00am.

Carlos, who’s only from the nearby Quezon City will also be late, because according to the morning news, train commuters at North EDSA station were requested to take alternative transportation options because the train encountered technical failures and has to take an emergency stop as part of the safety measure.

A daily view of EDSA

Tina, Juan’s supervisor who owns a car and happened to be just living in Pasig City, will also be late. Heavy traffic is on her way due to moderate rainfall somewhere along C-5 road.

And speaking of rainfall, yes, that's an additional spice to the Filipino commuting escapade. A slight rain can cause major roads in Metro Manila to be flooded and unpassable both to motorists and commuters. What a life of Juan!

Juan dela Cruz made it today, but in his five days of work in a week, one of those is when Juan will surely be late. And the always common reason – heavy traffic!

Juan on His Way Home
Now, it is six (6) o’clock in the afternoon and Juan is about to go home. If you were able to count how many rides going to work Juan has taken, going home is not as sweet as you expected; not just for Juan but for the millions of Filipinos working in Metro Manila and other highly dense cities in the country.

By the time Juan arrives home, it is already past 10:00pm. The kids are sleeping, and the dinner meal is already cold. Good thing Juan’s wife is still awake and they were still able to talk for a few minutes before the lights are turned off to sleep.

Riiiiinggg! Beeeepp! Cling! Cling! And it’s 4:00am again!

While the main character in this blog article is Juan who’s a name representation of the Filipinos, the situation and experience is very much the same for millions of Filipino commuters, even motorists. About 4 to 6 hours are being spent or allocated by ordinary Filipino workers in going to and from work, everyday, every week, each month, the whole year round. The real problems why Filipinos are enduring this situation over and over again, I believe those are already in the news and you have heard of it a thousand times.

Of when would this agony will end up, that is my question too. Of the many solutions, alternative options and recommendations given to aid the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, there is not even one that becomes a perfect-permanent fit. Same as you, I have my ideas too and let me put it this way.

In a mega city where millions of people are rushing to work, isn’t it just right to think that more cities should be developed to divert workers there?

I know that will take time, longer time. But the time to do that must be today.

Filipinos queuing up in a bus terminal going back home to Cavite

Train commuters waiting for next train to arrive at Boni Station

Alternative Solutions for Juan
But that is just my idea. At this present time, there are several options a Filipino commuter can do to alleviate the struggle of daily commuting. While one alternative cannot be said as better than the other, allow me to still suggest a few options.

Try the Angkas or Habal-habal option. This way of commuting is thru a motorcycle. Motorcycles are known to sift thru traffic congestion. Similar to taxi, the driver will take you on the place you want to go at a meter-based fee. Quite expensive but if time is gold for you, this one would certainly work.

Car pooling or Ride Sharing has been there for years. In this option, you will ride a vehicle on your way to work together with your friends or colleagues. You will set an arrangement with your friend driver so he will pick you up at a certain point. This alternative can be beneficial to you as well as with the vehicle owner in terms of travel cost.

Point-to-Point or P2P buses now caters a lot of commuters outside Metro Manila. Here, buses just have designated loading (Point A) and unloading (Point B) terminals. Since the bus will no longer pickup passengers along the road, commuting is faster than the usual ride. Also, the route is somewhat with less traffic congestion. The downside though is that the fare is almost double of the standard fare since the service is basically VIP or exclusive type.

A P2P Signage

Finding a bedspace or room sharing is also my recommendation. That is, if you will end up paying lesser when you are staying in Manila rather than enduring the hassle of daily commute, why not, go for it. The reality here is that you can avoid the two (2) to three (3) hours struggle in the streets. Stress-free though a bit heavier on the pocket.

Bedspace Advertisement

This one is neither an insult nor a top recommendation. You can ignore or skip it. But whenever the time allows, buying your own car can make a difference. I am not suggesting that you apply for a car loan, buy a second hand one, or buy it in cash. What I am saying here is that given the perfect chance, with budget available and financial aspect is stable, try this option. I have to be clear as well that I am not a car sales agent. The photo you are about to see is just for reference.

Cars for Sale

Finally, this recommendation is something applicable to everybody. Like Juan, our character in this post, a Filipino like you can also manage your time. Simple as that. Wake up early, plan your trips, and condition your body and mind about traffic, because for now "Traffic is a big part of life". And to relieve the stress from such unusual time management experience, make your weekends as relaxing as it can be.

There are many other options for sure. What is your idea or suggested solution for Juan dela Cruz? Leave a comment below.

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