A name that invokes fear into the hearts of Manileños.
Epifanio de los Santos Avenue is possibly the most congested road in the Philippines, maybe Southeast Asia. With a combination of poor public transportation infrastructure, undisciplined drivers, and some who just drive so damn slow, the average speed on this highway is 15 kph. That’s 9.3 mph for you Americans, Liberians, and Burmese. In other words, HELLA SLOW. The traffic on EDSA has just gotten worse over the years that on Monday, the government implemented a new division of the Philippine National Police to manage the 6 major choke points of the highway, the Highway Patrol Group or HPG. This is ironic because 20 years ago the HPG ceased to exist since traffic management of EDSA was handed over to the newly formed Metro Manila Development Authority or MMDA. You can tell we like our acronyms.
So Monday, September 7th felt like a new day. HPG officers were deployed n the wee hours of the morning before the rush of commuters and all seemed well. Commuters reported that buses stayed in the bus lanes, cars that were illegally parked and people camping their stores on the road were moved away, and traffic flowed smoother and generally faster than it used to. People were happy and optimistic even if it meant a little compromise to actually follow the rules. Finally, progress was to be had.
But then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights happened.
Torrential rain happened right before rush hour and people were stuck on the road because of mini floods which made them un-passable. Let me tell you, you couldn’t see anything if you were driving. You had to have your high beams on, wipers on super fast, and driving at 20 kph with your reflexes sharp. People were texting our WhatsApp group since they weren’t moving on the road. HPG officers couldn’t do a proper job with the downpour and everyone just rushing to get off the road. Nothing could be done but wait and hope that you don’t have to use the bathroom. Guys, this wasn’t even a typhoon and El Niño is set to hit soon sooo… Global warming in full force? Manila’s Archbishop, Cardinal Tagle even issued an oratio imperata, an obligatory prayer against the El Niño phenomenon.
Hopefully the major traffic and flooding is an issue that the government can solve sooner rather than later and thankfully some people have found a way to make the situation feel lighter since I’m sure everyone is clamoring for a better way to get through a rainy day. Hence, EDSA Carmageddon Christmas tree!
The “Ber” months (September, October, November, and December har har so clever) generally mean the start of the Christmas season and Christmas shopping in the Philippines and everyone wants to get a head start to get it over (or oBer) with. See what I did there. While traffic is sucky, it’s a pretty cool thing to see the spirit of Christmas materializing. Some roads get extra brightly lit because they start selling parols or Christmas lanterns, kids come up to the car to sing carols, and everyone seems to generally be in a more giving mood. Unless you’re driving of course. Well, that’s something we really have to work on, fellow Manileños. All of us just want to get where we’re going so if we all just work together, we’ll get there eventually. At least faster than if we all try to screw each other over.
I’m writing this on a Friday afternoon glancing out the window every now and then hoping that the rains don’t hit. It’s pay day after all and most people are going out. I am too. I just hope to not get caught in bad traffic and to get to where I’m heading to safely.