A window to our souls


    I THINK I’ve written about this in this space before but I do not think I will ever tire of repeating myself: If you want to understand the Filipino, look at traffic and how our road habits are. Whether as a motorist – someone behind the wheel of a cargo truck, a PUB or PUJ, an expensive SUV or a Grab Angkas, or even as just an ordinary pedestrian.

    This is the truth: Our habits on the streets say a lot about who we are.

    First off (or Road Rule #1) is this: for the Filipino, might is right. That applies to trucks or buses barreling their way down our thoroughfares at high speed, sometimes with a few of the latter in the act of racing to the next bus stop in order to harvest the most number of passengers. It applies to the drivers or owners (or both) of expensive SUVs, better yet when they carry VIP plates, who become “invisible” to the usually apprehension-prone traffic enforcers who pick instead on the hapless motorcyclist or PUJ driver. And why not?

    It is rare that someone riding a 120cc motorcycle that’s made in China will tell a traffic enforcer “di mo ba ako kilala?” whereas apprehending an SUV could land the enforcer (and his superior) in hot water.

    Even poor pedestrians have to give way to vehicles despite the fact that they are crossing pedestrian lanes! Get out of the way, those with cars are passing!

    Oh, and this is where the “mga Anak ng Diyos” come in, those escorted by “wang wangs” who want to shove the rest of us mere mortals out of the way because they cannot be late.
    Might is right, and don’t you dare forget that.

    Hand in hand with Road Rule #1 is Road Rule #2: Rules exist only to govern the poor and the uninfluential. As stated above, the powerful become “invisible” to the enforcers, but the hapless Juan De la Cruz doesn’t get away with even the slightest infraction.

    Road Rule #3: always push for your “rights” even when doing so is bad for the rest of humanity. When is this most obvious? When the intersection light is green! A motorist would insist on moving forward because the light is green, even if due to traffic ahead it looks unlikely that he will be able to cross to the other side when the lights change. The result? When the lights do change, he gets stranded inside the yellow box in the intersection, blocking the traffic that is supposed to cross. Hence, a jam.

    Ask the stranded motorist why he did what he did and he will say “but the light was green.” Oh well.

    Connected to this is our inability to observe the zipper (or alternate) system of merging.

    The zipper system easily solves so much of the causes of traffic at intersections – “walang bigayan” as we say. Anyone who has driven in the US would know how this is second nature to motorists in America. But in the Philippines? The thinking is: “Bakit kita pagbibigyan t**g-ina ka!”
    Hence, even more jam.

    And then there’s Road Rule #4: Grovel. Aka magmakaawa. This is what you do when you’re caught red handed and the “di mo ba ako kilala” ploy doesn’t work. That’s when you beg – or maybe someone else with you – and cite a sick relative in the hospital who you want to see before the last gasp and that’s why you were speeding or why you crossed the red light or why you didn’t see the One Way sign. It’s also what a speeding bus driver does when he sideswipes an expensive SUV and comes face to face with Rule #1. He begs, mentioning his six kids in school who depend on his daily income for day to day survival.

    Isn’t that us, the Filipino? Rather than follow the rules and temper our exercise of our “rights” and be responsible for what we do, we are all of the above. (And even more!)
    And that’s why our country that used to be second only to Japan in Asia is now in the bottom half of the countries in this region. (Don’t believe me? Check out the 2019 World Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum and see for yourself. And worry, if not weep!)