Hurry up… and wait



Ambassador  José Abeto  Zaide

Ambassador José Abeto Zaide

In the 60s, I was young and full of hope, commuting to school and back via public transport Mondays to Fridays from Tambo, Paranaque, via EDSA, to transfer at Cubao to catch the Marikina bus which went to Loyola Heights. It was normal and do-able.

In the 80’s, married and with a family, we lived in Malate. I walked to work at DFA on Padre Faura; while one daughter went to St Paul’s on Herran. the other to Manila Science, and ou

r two boys to Malate Catholic School.  (We spared the kids the purgatory route of commuting to Loyola Heights.)

Fast-forward to today: Traffic morphed exponentially and (depending on where one lives), it can take an hour (or two-and-a-half) to get to school or to work; and the same amount of time to return home.

A jeepney driver devotee has an inspiring prayer above his windshield in vernacular for his passengers, which reads: ‘When I die, I will go straight to heaven…because I have done my purgatory on earth.”


At his last State of the Nation Address, former President Benigno Aquino claimed credit for TPLEX, Stage 2 of Star Tollway, Cavite-Laguna Expressway, C6 Phase 1, Metro Manila Skyway Project (Stage 3), and NLEX-SLEX connector, etc.

On his assumption of office, President Rodrigo Duterte realized the carmaggedon he inherited and with the best of intentions, he asked Congress for emergency powers to untangle the transport mess. Midway into his presidency, the bill is still pending. Senator Grace Poe ripostes: “It is not the lack of powers, but the lack of a master plan and more aggressive action from the DOTr that bears emphasizing. We can give all the powers they want but if they have no master plan, they will just end up wasting money or, worse, still not being able to achieve anything.”

Everyone know thequotidian challenge of Metro Manila’s bumper-to-bumper traffic. In August, 2019, LTO reported 1,644,932 registered motor vehicles on NCR roads. (A quarter of all motor vehicles nationwide are packed into NCR). In 2018, the number of cars travelling along EDSA (251,628) dwarfed the number of public utility buses (13,356). We add exponentially every year (because nothing goes to junk). PUB vehicles comprised only 3% of total traffic along EDSA in 2017. Private cars take up 67% of road space.

A 2019 Asian Development Bank study gave Metro Manila the dubious distinction as the” Most Congested City” out of 278 in developing Asia.ADB proposed mass transport system as the solution. Metro Manila has four operational railway systems: LRT Lines 1 and 2, the MRT 3, and PNR. LRT 1 has been operational for 35 years; MRT, 20 years; and LRT2, 16 years.  In 2017 there were 516 MRT problems recorded – almost 10 a week. But of this number, 449 were offloading incidents, where passengers had to alight the trains and walk along MRT tracks. Our calvary continues.


Elsewhere and at another time, our night owls (bartenders, combos and musicians, ladies of the night, etc.) go about their business  –   starting off to work late at night and coming home early in the morning. They have ease of commuting and spend the time at work and/or play.

A more recent and happy phenomenon is the exponential growth of call centers, one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

The long-and-short of it is that there are many other available jobs other than the familiar 8-to-5 duties.  Think on it:  Highway construction and roadworks can be done late at night to avoid causing huge traffic problems. Construction laborers are responsible for installing traffic barricade digging trenches, clearing debris, and tending cement mixers

There are a hosts of other jobs which can be done at night and do not need to interface with others.  Factories sometimes operate with overtime or night shifts.  Why can’t factories operate night shifts as regular schedule, if it would mean for those who can adapt cutting down their 2 ½ hour commute to only 30 minutes?

  • Much less traffic—You’re not on the road for rush hour.Commuting is much quicker because you’re headed in the opposite direction of most other vehicles.
  • More personal business done—Do your errands during your off hours. Doctors’ offices, banks, stores, and post offices are open when you are not working, so you can shop and get appointments without taking time off your job.
  • More money—Night shifts often pay more than daytime shifts because they are harder to fill.
  • Less competition—Most people don’t want to work nights, so there are fewer jobseekers jockeying for overnight positions. Those who are willing to work the night hours often find that they have more opportunities to take on new responsibilities and develop new
This adaptation isn’t for everyone.  But if we could only shift 10% to 15% of our workforce to the wee hours, Manila could be so much more negotiable and liveable.

Graveyard shift is not for everyone.  But neither is our challenging traffic.