Traffic on my mind


    YESTERDAY was one of those days when, within a mere few hours I moved from one time zone to another. And you know how adjusting to time zone changes can be difficult especially as you grow old.

    I woke up at 5 a.m. in my hotel room in Iloilo – at the Courtyard by Marriott to be exact.

    The hotel is situated in Mandurriao, that district of Iloilo City that used to house the airport and is now a business district being developed by real estate giant Megaworld. The hotel in a way pays homage to the history of its site: its ground floor restaurant is named “Runway” and quite appropriately because it sits on what was once the runway. Across the street from the hotel entrance you still have the five-story old airport control tower; I hope Megaworld never tears that down and finds a creative use for it to forever remind future generations of what was and what could be.

    Anyway, I had early breakfast, returned to my room to freshen up, waited for my colleagues for our 8:30 a.m. shuttle to the new airport at Sta. Barbara, and by 9:45 a.m. we were checked in and just waiting to board. Boarding was ahead of schedule as was our departure and I was pretty pleased about that.

    Arrival, however, was slightly delayed because of air traffic in Manila. I thought we would land without any delay because after reaching Lubang Island we made the required turn towards Manila, but soon enough we veered left, flew over Bataan to circle for a few minutes before finally lining up for landing.

    The arrival air traffic was just a taste of things to come to mark my change in time zones.

    And I don’t mean this literally because we all know that Iloilo and Manila are in the same time zone: but comparing traffic conditions in both cities makes you feel one is in a different time zone than the other.

    Having a 7 p.m. appointment at Trinoma yesterday, I forced my tired old body into the shower by 4 p.m. after about 30 minutes of rest at home. I was in my vehicle by 4:30 p.m., and that’s when I began counting as I drove out of BGC via McKinley Road towards Edsa on my way to Quezon City. At 4:30 p.m. volume was already heavy, but if you knew how to weave in and out of lanes you could ride the wave and get moving.

    This drive will just take me five minutes from Makati to Cubao, I kept telling myself.

    From BGC it took me six 5-minute segments of a drive to get to Guadalupe. From there it took me another six 5-minute segments to get to the Ortigas flyover, and from there it took three more 5-minute segments to get to Cubao! Not bad. By the time I was parked at Trinoma I had spent only 18 5-minute segments on the road and I thought that was an achievement. And then I remembered how “juvenile” the traffic conditions are in Iloilo in contrast, and all of a sudden I felt this desire to return to Panay island, this time to stay there!

    One thought bothered me as I was crossing Guadalupe heading north and seeing the volume of vehicles ahead of me. What if the time came that we had to evacuate and leave Metro Manila behind? How would that go? Beyond the “duck and cover” drills, shouldn’t we have some sort of evacuation drills so that everything is orderly and no one panics?

    Then again, maybe I am dreaming to think that we can evacuate Metro Manila as orderly as the Americans evacuated New Orleans as Katrina approached. If you see pictures from that time you’d see a traffic jam, yes, but traffic was moving and in one direction and no one cares to break ranks or counterflow. Of course, the National Guard was present but even with them, had there been panic, they would have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of the evacuees.

    But it was an orderly exit.

    In our case, would it be chaos and panic amid traffic?