The LBM we need


    ‘We need the LBM (Laguna Bicol Mindanao) Expressway today. Actually, we needed it yesterday.’

    FOR the longest time road maps of the Philippines identify what is called the “pan Philippine highway.” And this highway is truly pan-Philippines – stretching from Regions 1 and 2 all the way to Mindanao via Calabarzom and the Bicol peninsula crossing into Samar-Leyte and then onto the Surigao provinces. For a while I think this has also been called the “Maharlika” Highway in that era when people were stumbling over each other trying to name everything, including the country, as “Maharlika.”

    Thank God that plan fell through because these days we should be referred to as “PI,” rather than “RP” or “PH.”

    But back to the highway.

    I remember when as little kids my brothers and I would join our dad on regular bus trips “home” to Laguna, to visit his paternal aunt and her husband in Alaminos. This would mean taking the BLTB bus from its terminal in Pasay City for a two-hour or more journey. In the 1960s and early 1970s this meant meandering through the towns of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa before crossing into Laguna via San Pedro, Biñan, Sta. Rosa, Canlubang and Calamba. The bus would stop at designated company stops and onboard would jump menfolk selling espasol and pinipig.

    I distinctly remember one day when the bus conductor polled the adults on the bus: were they willing to pay an extra P0.10 per passenger so that the bus would use the new Manila South Diversion road – the new concrete highway that connected Magallanes to Muntinlupa which meant we would bypass Las Piñas and all? More often than not the answer was yes and that cut travel time by maybe 30 minutes.

    And then the SLEX was built from Alabang to Calamba bypassing the Laguna towns, and in the late 70s and 1980s you could watch the rice stalks on the fields through which the expressway cut through turn from green to gold as harvest season approached. Those rice fields are subdivisions now.

    Anyway, at Calamba the expressway ended and it was back to and through the two-lane “national highway” that the bus moved: Calamba then Tanauan then Sto. Tomas then Alaminos with San Pablo next up. Despite the addition of the STAR tollway a decade or two ago, if you are to go by bus from Pasay to Bicol, it’s still via the old “national highway” that cuts through the towns I mentioned above towards Quezon and the Bicol provinces beyond San Pablo City.

    Imagine the traffic buildup through the towns on normal days. Now imagine a fiesta complete with a procession and all. Travel time becomes unpredictable.

    It’s been like that since when I was born. Seems it will still be like that by the time I decompose. Unless the massive construction of the NLEX and TPLEX for northbound

    “Filipinx” is duplicated in the south from Laguna towards Bicol (and Mindanao beyond), bypassing town centers and making travel a breeze both for those who do and do it have to pass into a town’s poblacion area.

    When will that happen, I wonder? If a Bicolana becomes president?

    But linking the country with a real honest to goodness freeway system need not be dependent on the regional roots of a president, yes?

    We need the LBM (Laguna Bicol Mindanao) Expressway today. Actually, we needed it yesterday.

    Let’s see if I live long enough to see real improvement not only in download speeds over the Internet but even in travel time between Manila and my father’s laid back and relaxed town just 75 kilometers southeast.