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BLIND SPOT: Traffic Epidemic

A friend recently came home from a lengthy stay in Thailand; and over coffee in a big cup with my name on it, she was complaining of the heavy vehicular traffic in Naga. She didn’t know what she was talking about. She had her vacation during the semestral break, a time in which the jeepney, tricycle and pedicab drivers miss the population of uniformed pupils and students taking their rides, and the roads miss the school transport services that run through them at dawn and dusk. I was telling her, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You should wait when school resumes. Too bad, she had to go back to the land of tuktuks before she could experience firsthand how progress got us all stuck on the road. In Metro Manila, they’re all ranting about the traffic problem; and how it never seems to get solved. We’re standing on the principle that every problem has a solution, but in the case of traffic jams on the road, where has that solution been hiding all this time? As if it isn’t bad enough, the headache further throbs with more pain with malfunctioning rail transit system. Just a thought, why don’t they run out of something to repair or construct on the highways in the National Capital Region? Not only do they jam the traffic more, they’re also an eyesore. By the way, to resolve vocabulary, the word, traffic primarily refers to “the movement (as of vehicles or pedestrians) along a route” ( So, don’t be telling me, “There’s traffic on EDSA”, because there’s always movement of vehicles on that main avenue. I guess you mean there’s heavy traffic or a traffic jam. But I guess, in the evolution of language, in time, word definitions would change, and we have accepted the word to mean the event when cars get stuck on the road. Well, nowadays, this phenomenon which we thought is endemic in Metro manila roads now exists on the streets which we used to run around on with minimal concerns. While riding a jeepney to Centro, it suddenly occurred to me, wait a minute, this ride used to go so smoothly and I’d be getting off by Plaza Rizal in no time. A tricycle ride now moves in a stop and go motion; and on a clear weather, I would rather take a walk to SM. Hey, we’re not so left behind after all. How did we get here? How did we progress from smooth to stop and go? Once, I heard a Public Safety Office official attribute the traffic problem to the nature of roads in Naga City which he claims were originally constructed for calesas, not for mechanical transport. He further added that many roads could not be widened due to a law that prohibits modifications to centennial constructs. So you better not mess with my 19th century porch where the Katipuneros used to sip rice coffee in between their rumbles with the guardias civil. Following this premise, it could be inferred that local leaders then did not anticipate the possibility of American and European technologies rolling down the paths made for the galloping for horse drawn carriages. I guess that would be understandable when the main concern then was liberty and sovereignty; so who would ever thought of that then? Furthermore, this signifies that we are utilizing modern instruments on outdated settings – new technologies in old casings. With this setup, something is definitely bound to go wrong. Probably, the ne w equipment would not run efficiently as it should; or the old set containing them would start developing cracks leading to, God forbid, its breakdown. In a personal notion, local governments (anywhere for that matter) overlooked their opportunity to monitor the entry of vehicle usage or ownership in their areas. Vehicle ownership and/or expected vehicle entry and/or passage in a particular area would be predictors of potential traffic on thoroughfares. Governing bodies could have imposed policies limiting transport ownership/passage/entry proportionate to the length and width of roads in the given locality. Perhaps, in this way, favorable conditions of transport and travel would be ensured. But I guess, in the advent of modern technology, it never crossed anyone’s mind; not when everyone was too thrilled with the competence of the car, and the tremendous trade on trucks that no one thought would ever come to this point. Furthermore, I guess it would be too late to impose a policy like that by now, since such would rock the boat of the economic status quo; or is it? Maybe such causes similarly apply to other social problems – modern instruments on outdated settings and a failure to control entry and usage of new technology; new practices on old values and a failure to regulate entry of different substances and/or practices – just something to think about. “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 1:2

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