How do people adapt to commuting in Manila?

How do people adapt to commuting in Manila?

What changed in the city over the years? And how did we respond?

Speak up: How much has commuting in Metro Manila changed over the years and how did we adapt to it? |  Photos by Chio Gonzales

How much of my life has happened inside of a car?… We live in cars in some cities, commuting across space either for our livelihood, or devouring fossil fuels for joy. It’s close to as much time as we spend in our beds, more for some,” Frank Ocean writes in his magazine Boys Don’t Cry.

We can all agree that getting around Metro Manila has gone from bad to worse. It’s a combination of a lot of problems, really. Besides traffic congestion, things like  inefficiency of public transport and numerous ongoing roadwork projects also add to the equation. Let’s not forget the expenses, loss of productivity, faulty drainage system, lack of security and even the anxiety we get from feeling like we’re wasting so much of our time.

We’re dealing with different things in our lives, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get by, and hoping to get our well-deserved rest after a really long day. Young STAR talked to five individuals to get a clearer picture of how much commuting in Manila has changed and how we Filipinos adapted.


Chesca De Mesa, 22, owner of The Craft Box PH and a fashion and lifestyle blogger
Gabe Piolo, 24, social media specialist and musician
Pamm Merrera, 31, professional hair and makeup artist
Cheryl Lee, 31, entrepreneur
Kris Rocha, 31, music photographer

YOUNG STAR: What’s your morning timeline on a typical day?

CHERYL LEE: My store is inside the village that I live in, so there’s really no need for me to commute. But I’m taking a diploma course on Pasong Tamo, and I take the MRT to school. I leave the house at 7:45 a.m. to get to my class by 9 a.m.

PAMM MERRERA: (My schedule) is very flexible since I’m a hair and makeup artist. I try to pick a time when it’s not too traffic. If (my car’s) not coding, I drive. But there are times that I’m just lazy so I take an Uber. When you’re doing other things, you just want to maximize (your time). When someone’s driving for you, that makes everything easier.

Traffic warriors (from Left): Cheryl Lee, Gabe PIolo, Kris Rocha, Chesca De Mesa, and Pam Merrera

What are some of the factors you consider when deciding what mode of transportation to take?

CHERYL: I usually consider the destination. If it’s a place where it’s difficult to find parking, I take Uber. But if I need to be in a certain place and taking a car will take me an hour, I’ll take the train ’cause maybe it’ll be faster. The MRT station in Magallanes is near my school, so it’s not that difficult to walk. Also, it’s southbound and everybody is going to work at the same time, so might as well sacrifice and get there in maybe 30 minutes.

KRIS ROCHA: For me, big factor yung safety. As a photographer, yung equipment namin hindi mura. Next is comfort. Imagine if dala ko yung bag ko, gear ko, and then I take a jeep or MRT. (Grabe) yung pawis. I’m working with celebrities and VIPs most of the time, so di ko ma-risk iyon.

GABE PIOLO: Main factor for me is the distance. Sometimes, I weigh kung ano yung better option. The other factor is accessibility.

CHESCA: Up until now, sobrang strict pa rin ng parents ko when I commute. I’m from the south in BF Homes. The tricycle is expensive, so I weigh if I should take a shuttle and tricycle. Sometimes, medyo same yung price, so I just take an Uber.

GABE: I also want to point out that sa south, wala masiyadong taxi. It’s either you go to a mall na merong waiting area…

CHESCA: …but (taxis are) expensive…

GABE: and usually kontrata.

Where you’re coming from is also a big orphan?

PAMM: I’m coming from Ortigas. To get out of the Galleria U-turn alone, it takes around 30 minutes. I get anxiety. It’s unfair ’cause wala akong nagagawa…

KRIS: We live in a residential area, so we don’t have guards like in a regular village. Bago ka makalabas, you have to either walk or ride a tricycle. Medyo hindi na safe now, so di ko na kino-consider maglakad. Kapag bakbakan talaga sa trabaho, ayaw ko na din mag drive after. So (I take an) Uber.

But before there was Uber, how did you guys deal with the commute challenges in Metro Manila?

PAMM: I’ve lived in the north, middle, and the south. During my college days, I didn’t even have the option to take a taxi. ’Di ka pa pinapayagan ng parents mo mag drive, then all of a sudden biglang… I had to learn how to drive in Manila. It was a big jump from what I was used to. I also had to learn to get along with people. If they’re gonna take the MRT, maki sabay ka. Wag ka aarte arte. Mas grabehan pala sa pang babae na cart. Parang mas gugustuhin ko pa dun sa mixed kasi sa girls nang babalya sila. Tulakan. (Laughs) Na-try ko na lahat, pero di ko na gusto balikan. Yung bus, it’s good for long trips, pero it’s really uncomfortable.

KRIS: Lumaki ako nag co-commute. College, nag LRT ako going to Taft. From the house, (sumasakay ako ng) trike and jeep. Pero yung traffic noon, di pa kasing crazy ng traffic ngayon. One time, nag jeep ako. Since busy ako, na-snatch yung phone ko. After nun, sabi ko di na talaga ako mag jeep. Wala pang Uber noon, so (I ride a) taxi every day. Medyo mahirap kasi I have to ride a tricycle pa para makakuha ng taxi sa labas.

GABE: One time, di kami makahanap ng cab, so naglakad kami. We saw this hotel (kung saan) may nagbababa ng passengers, so dun kami nag-abang. Umaabon pa ata nun. Sobrang sad kase ang dami naming bitbit…

PAMM: Kaya siguro ayaw kayo (pasakayin)… (Laughs)

GABE: Siguro… (Laughs) Sobrang hirap talaga especially in Makati.

CHESCA: Usually going home from Taft, there’s a shuttle going to Sucat pero nagsastart yun 4 p.m. pa. Sometimes, I wanna go home early. I tried taking the bus na paikot ng Zapote road in Las Pinas. Inikot ko na yung buong south, tapos I have to take a trike pa ulit.

CHERYL: One time, I was on Shaw and it was raining, Friday night, rush hour, and all the excuses not to go somewhere. My father-in-law wanted (to go to) Hizon’s in Malate for his birthday so I had to go there. I didn’t care about surge pricing, I just needed to get there safely.

We’re dealing with different things in our lives, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to get by, and hoping to get our well-deserved rest after a really long day. Young STAR talked to five individuals to get a clearer picture of how much commuting in Manila has changed and how we Filipinos adapted.

When do you guys consider surge pricing too much?

PAMM: Sometimes, I don’t even know how it works. (Laughs) At the end of the day, it all depends on what you get out of it.

GABE: Kapag may surge, usually tumatambay nalang ako. Antayin ko nalang mag 11 p.m. para bumaba (yung price). But if I really need to leave, di ko na iniisip.

PAMM: But sometimes it’s not really worth it. When you go tapos rush hour din, sana naghintay nalang ako ng isang oras manlang para kahit papaano nakatambay pa ako.

We can all agree that our travel habits changed over time? It’s like a thing in Manila that you have to allot at least an hour to get anywhere…

PAMM: Actually, even if from Ortigas, two hours… (Laughs)

KRIS: Three hours if going south pa… (Laughs)

GABE: Ako, I use Waze (to estimate the time that I should leave). Before, I try to leave the house at least an hour before, pero wala late pa rin ako.

PAMM: Even with Uber, sometimes you have to help the driver. As a commuter, you have to learn Waze and gauge (your way) from point A to point B as well. Even for foreigners, Filipino time is a real thing. They’ll adapt to it when they say longer kasi they know that kahit anong gawin natin, wala na tayong magagawa. We also learned how to entertain ourselves.

KRIS: I love sleep talaga. As a photographer, if mag-drive ako, di ako makakapag edit or email. With Uber, kaya ko mag-multi task.

In an ideal scenario, how would you prefer to get around Metro Manila?

PAMM: Siguro (it’ll be great if we had) more train (cars), faster intervals, and if it was easier for people to get in and out.

KRIS: Ako I love driving. So if hindi traffic and maraming parking slots, mas prefer ko to bring a car.

GABE: Minsan ang sarap lang din mag drive tapos wala kang iniisip. Kumakanta din ako. (Laughs) Pero sa train, sana magkaroon (ng station) sa south para hindi hassle mag commute.

CHERYL: If madaming gamit, better if you bring a car.

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