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I don’t really know how traffic got to this point.  It just seems like one day, it turned into this big mess, where it now takes three hours to get from north Edsa to the south. There’s no such thing as rush hour anymore, and I’ve never seen so many cars on Edsa, even before the break of dawn.

It must be a manifestation of years of traffic mismanagement and neglect that have reached a breaking point.  It’s like a ceramic bowl with small cracks that we keep using, until one day it just breaks into pieces.

We have technology to thank, which makes travel around the city more manageable and bearable. With Waze, the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app, Manila motorists can still maintain their sanity, and estimate their time of arrival at a destination given the default route that gets you there in the shortest time possible, though not necessarily the shortest route in terms of distance. It also gives you alternate routes and their respective estimated times of arrival. In a way, it is a tool for punctuality, and allows us to manage our time more efficiently.

Waze also introduced me to a lot of inside streets or eskinitas and routes I was totally unaware of or would never have dared to pass for fear of getting lost.  While on this journey to the innermost parts of the metropolis, I felt like I was going back in time to the era of Lino Brocka’s 1975 film Maynila, sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Light).  While it feels somewhat similar, the conditions in this urban jungle have greatly deteriorated over the last few decades.  There’s way too many people living in the same number of houses, so much so that residents are spilling out of their abodes and have taken over the streets. You’ll see vendors not on sidewalks but by the roadside, teenagers and young adults playing basketball on the street, young children playing on the road with stray cats and dogs.

The sight is actually quite scary, especially if one tries to imagine what this will lead to in the next five to 10 years. If government decides to maintain the status quo, we will reach our country’s breaking point, and that would be far worse than our traffic problems today. Our safety will be in peril if life becomes too difficult for majority of our countrymen.

I hope our politicians try Waze, too, so that they can see with their own eyes the current social reality. It is a good barometer of economic progress. Economic indicators tell us how well our economy is doing in numbers, but we also need to reconcile this with snapshots of the daily lives of our masses. After all, as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Image from www.pexels.com

This article originally appeared on Asian Dragon’s November-December 2015 issue, available for download on Magzter.

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