Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Misery

This is my column today April 15, 2014.


I attended a wedding Saturday afternoon at the Resorts World complex in Pasay City and got stuck for hours in agony as traffic at the area around the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 was awful.  Just getting through the toll gates from the Skyway was already like squeezing through a fine sieve – it seemed that the three gates were sorely inadequate to deal with the volume of vehicles trying to get into NAIA3 and Resorts World area.  Given that the Skyway has been operating for many years now, it seems inconceivable that they still haven’t been able to put in place mechanisms to deal with unusual traffic situations.  As a result, many passengers were not able to catch their flights out of NAIA Terminal 3.  Many of the guests in the wedding were also delayed.
As can be expected, getting out of the NAIA Terminal 3 area and into Fort Bonifacio for the reception was also an ordeal.  It took us almost two hours to traverse a distance of barely four kilometers.  From what I gathered, it was the same everywhere in Metro Manila.  The reblocking in EDSA near the Cubao area created a monstrous traffic jam.  At least there were MMDA traffic cops that tried to establish some semblance of order in EDSA, according to a friend.  In Pasay and Fort Bonifactio, it was bedlam as motorists tried to fight for every inch of space on the road.   
The traffic situation in Metro Manila has been exceptionally nightmarish in the last few days.     In addition to the various construction projects that are being undertaken at the same time, we’re also right smack in the middle of one of the hottest summer seasons. This is why I am really looking forward to Maundy Thursday up to Easter Sunday when the whole of Metro Manila becomes a ghost city and one can actually travel on EDSA and other major thoroughfares at fairly decent speed.  It’s a sad reflection of how things are in this country that we get respite from traffic problems only during Holy Week and when national boxer Emmanuel Pacquiao has a fight.  But then again, perhaps not this year, if most people choose to stay home as a result of the various warnings issued by government about how road repairs being pursued in places outside the metro are also resulting in monstrous traffic jams.  A friend told me that there are also major excavations and road repairs being undertaken along the national highway leading to the North so people going out of Manila to mark the Holy Week in their respective provinces will be forced to observe various forms of penitence along the way.
The really infuriating thing is that everyone, it seems, has thrown up his or her hands in the air as if there is nothing else that can be done to reduce the aggravation.  If we are to go by the recent actuations of our leaders, warning people about possible inconvenience seems to be the full extent of government’s expression of accountability to the people.  The lines at the MRT are long?  Traffic is bad?  Power rates are going up?  Disaster relief operations and rebuilding efforts are not proceeding at satisfactory speed?  Tough luck, but people will just have to wait longer because government is already doing what it can.  We’re all being told that our aggravations are necessary and that suffering and misery are natural pains associated with the quest for progress. 
I disagree, of course.  The aggravation that we are going through is caused by mismanagement and the utter lack of strategic thinking.  The long lines at the MRT terminals could have been avoided if only our leaders did something two years ago.  Actually, they may not be able to do anything now about the long lines, but there are many things they can do to reduce the aggravation among those standing in line.  A little empathy and concern for people would do the trick.
***
At a wedding reception dinner over the weekend, I threw the subject of the Reproductive Health Bill and the ramifications of the Supreme Court decision at the table for discussion.  People were trying to strike conversations to while away time as the newlyweds were, as has been the practice lately, very fashionably late for their own reception as they had to go somewhere for pictorial and to shoot additional footages for the wedding video.  I expected my tablemates—thinking middle class people—to weigh in with their respective takes on the matter.  I knew the couple to my right were active members of this big association of Catholic couples.  The most I got were indications that as far as everyone was concerned, the Supreme Court decision was the last word on the subject.  So either people are really tired of the issue and just want to move forward, or the law of inertia is in effect.  It seems people are waiting for something to happen to get galvanized into action.

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