Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Kyla Clarette Villanueva, a 19-year-old college student, has a one-word reaction to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assertion that there's no transportation crisis in Metro Manila: "Nakakagalit (enraging)."
Villanueva, like Panelo, resides in Marikina City. Like Panelo, she goes to Manila every day – she studies at the Far Eastern University (FEU), not very far from Malacañang Palace, Panelo's office.
The difference is, Panelo has a car – most likely, with a driver – and Villanueva commutes.
On Friday, October 11, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman will take on the challenge of militant youth group Anakbayan for him to commute before dismissing the plight of commuters. He said he'd do it away from the limelight, and without publicizing the details.
On Thursday, social media users were already dismissing Panelo's impending commute as a publicity stunt, challenging him further to do it on daily basis, for a week, even longer, so he would have a feel of what commuters really go through.
Aside from denying there is a transportation crisis in Metro Manila, Panelo said earlier: “May solusyon naman do’n eh. If you want to…arrive early to (sic) your destination, then you go there earlier.”
‘How early does he suggest I wake up?’
“It was a very insensitive comment. We all have different circumstances on why we commute, and for Panelo to easily say to just wake up early makes me think that he doesn't understand how difficult it is to commute,” Villanueva told Rappler on Thursday, October 10.
“Ano’ng aga pa ba ang gagawin ko para hindi na ako ma-late? ’Yung ’di na ako matutulog?” she asked. (How early does he suggest I wake up, early enough that I no longer sleep?)
Rappler asked Marikina commuters what they go through to get rides going to school or work, and back to their homes.
Villanueva, who lives in Sto. Niño, Marikina, used to get up at 4 am to prepare herself for her first class at 7:30 am in FEU Morayta.
She would walk 5 minutes from her home to the main road and take a jeepney or a UV Express van to the Katipunan Station of the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT2). She explained that most PUVs were already full by the time she got to the main road, so she would often walk another 15 to get to a PUV Terminal. From Katipunan, she would take the train to Recto Station, and walk to her school. The commute took at least an hour.
But, she said, “Ever since the LRT operations were suspended, the amount of people waiting doubled, [and so did] my time of waiting to get a ride.” That started last October 4, a day after fire hit two LRT2 rectifiers and forced the closure of 3 stations for the next 9 months.
Now, Villanueva's commute takes around 3 hours. Now, she wakes up at 3 am and leaves her house at 4 am.
In her latest commuting experience, it took an hour just to catch a jeepney. “Back then, the usual travel time from Marikina to LRT Katipunan would be around 15 to 45 minutes only. But, again, because of the traffic, it now takes about 1-2 hours,” she said.
Next option: More costly Grab, Angkas
Bryon Senga lives along Marcos Highway. A fresh graduate, he's on a job hunt, and the required commute from home to potential workplace is a big consideration for him. This means crossing out a few job opportunities in the Sta. Mesa, Taft, and Makati areas.
For now, he does research projects for organizations, and commutes for 45 minutes to an hour to attend meetings in Katipunan or San Juan. He's fortunate not to have to go during rush hour all the time.
From Marikina, Senga would take two jeepney rides to get to Katipunan. The traffic is really heavy around the SM Marikina area because of constructions that have been going on for months. Thus, he said, in catching jeepney rides, timing is key.
“May time slots na madaming jeep, may time slots na pahirapan sumakay, so minsan nag-e-LRT ako,” he said on Thursday. (There are time slots when jeeps are aplenty, but other times, it would be hard to catch a jeep, so I opt for the LRT instead.)
But since the LRT2 suspended operations from Santolan to Anonas, Bryon would book rides with Angkas or Grab. This option is more expensive by the hundreds of pesos, especially now that these rides are in demand.
"Before kasi sinasaktuhan ko talaga 'yung time na walang agawan masyado, ngayon napapansin ko super puno lagi tuwing morning. Do'n kasi 'yung usual na nag-e-LRT, nagdi-jeep, or 'yung bus na eh. Ako nag-a-Angkas. Medyo iniwasan ko rin kasi since alam kong mas lalala 'yung commuting experience," Senga said.
(Before I would try to catch a jeep when there wouldn't be a lot of passengers waiting, but now I've noticed that jeeps are always full in the morning because those who usually take the LRT now take jeepneys or buses. I take Angkas rides. I avoid going for jeepneys because I know the commuting experience will be worse.)
The same went for his trips to San Juan, which previously took more than a half hour via LRT2 from Santolan to J. Ruiz stations. Since he does not have that option anymore, he takes Angkas or Grab.
But he said, even before the LRT2 incident, it already took time get a ride: "Ang bilis magbago. 'Pag, let's say, 7 am ka nakaalis, wala pang agawan masyado. Pero after 15 to 30 minutes, agawan na sa jeep."
(The situation changes so fast. Let's say you leave at 7 am, there's not a lot of passengers around yet. But after 15 to 30 minutes, they're elbowing each other out to get onto a jeep.)
Will Panelo undertake this kind of commute? – Loreben Tuquero/Rappler.com