Travel Metro: It’s Fun!

Posted on April 7, 2013

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            Using public transportation in Metro Manila is no romantic walk in the park.

The metropolis can reduce your wits to that of a lettuce if you’re not originally from there, and it could be a commute from hell if it is your first time using public transportation. It’s even worse with occasional storms, traffic and other commuters that could break the strongest of spirits. But you’ll get used to these things in time. The secret to not tiring of it so easily is to look past the mundane. So why don’t you think of your Metro Manila commute as if it were as good as a nice, relaxing Venetian gondola ride? So here it is: a self-proclaimed expert’s guide on getting around glorious Metro Manila for tourists and citizens alike.

Let’s just say that commuting can be a charming experience. No joke, foreigners do think that there is a certain charm in commuting in the Philippines. Why that is so, I do not know. But let’s just treat commuting here as a tourist-y experience.

Now, the expert: this writer. Being a student from the nearby province of Cavite, it takes me at least two hours to get to Quezon City. This means taking a lot of modes of transportation – except for planes, boats, spaceships or submarines. But with the hassle I face every time I commute from home, it feels like I have taken every mode of transportation known to man, on a round trip. So now, let me take you through my day commuting from Cavite to Quezon City – tour guide style.

The first challenge starts in waking up and actually moving towards the door.  My first class is 10 AM, so I have to wake up at 5 to fix myself up.

What to eat:

A medium to heavy breakfast is ideal, like a full meal of rice + tuyo + tomatoes + eggs. You will definitely need the energy. But if you are like countless students and other members of the working population rushing to beat the time, a mug of oatmeal is just fine. Just make sure your stomach has no other problems, like ulcer.

What to wear:

  1. Comfortable clothing

You will not regret it. Save that skimpy skirt and fitted sleeveless top for the club, you will do a lot of walking and shoving people later. Don’t make an effort to look expensive, either. You are commuting, not going to the Academy Awards. Don’t want to listen to me? Fine, don’t come home crying because you got robbed or harassed by perverts. Also, if it is not raining and you’re not in an airconditioned place, don’t bother wearing winter clothes. No one has ever heard of Metro Manila Winter Wonderland. Dress simply. If you’re going for the “just-got-out-of-bed-and-now-on-the-way-to-the-market” look, much better.

1. Comfortable shoes

Heels are Hassle. That is why you should respect women.

2. Minimal to no accessories

Too much bling is like wearing a sign over your head that says, “Hey, look at me, I’m rich!”

3. A look that establishes you as a Metro manila commuter, not an outsider

Outsiders are easy targets for the bad elements. Try not to look like one so people would leave you alone. Don’t look gullible; look as if you know what you are doing even if you don’t. Try to avoid eye contact, and listen to mom: don’t entertain strangers, especially if they look suspicious.

What to bring:

If possible, not a lot of stuff. Keep your things close to you at all times. Never show too much of your gadgets. If possible, bring a cheap, second-hand phone. In carrying handbags, keep the zipper to your front side, within your sight. When it comes to backpacks, it’s best to keep it to your front. Slashers and snatchers are very common nowadays. Bring a music player and headphones – nothing like music to brighten up an otherwise boring and tiring commute. And, for goodness sake, do not bring a transparent bag!

Now, you are all set for the journey. First, the tricycle. Wikipedia defines “tricycle” (or more accurately, motorized tricycle) as a common public utility vehicle (PUV) for small towns which can also be used for public transportation. Fare is usually about ten pesos, but some tricycles have the “special” feature. You ask the driver to “go ahead” without waiting for another passenger to share the trike. His costs more, about 20 pesos, but it’s your choice if you want to save money or not. A tricycle will get you around the barangay or subdivision, and into the highway to wait for the bus.

Oh, the public bus. City buses here are not like the ones you see in movies or music videos where you can easily sit hassle-free while looking out the window and reminiscing about life. No. Riding a public bus during peak or rush hours is hell. You can go to the bus terminal if you to be able to sit and avoid hassle, but since in this situation the highway is right outside the subdivision, you really have no other choice. You may want to travel to Nasugbu, Batangas in order to get a seat, but not everyone thinks that’s a great idea. Sometimes buses can be hard to come by, so it’s safer to allot some 30minutes (or one hour!) for waiting.

Never get on the wrong bus. This happened to me and I had to go around for what seemed like an eternity in Ayala Avenue looking for the mythical jeep that would take me to the MRT station. Anyway, I take the buses going to Pasay, or at least passing through Pasay.

Since you are most likely travelling during the rush hours, be prepared to stand in a bus that stops every five minutes. The trip lasts for an hour, depending on the traffic situation. To not embarrass yourself by falling down a lot (which still happens to me frequently), use valuable lessons from physics! Your feet must cover as much area as possible. Remember: an object is more stable with a wider base (hence tripods, etc.)

Never fall asleep if you are not an expert at magically feeling where you are going to get off, or if your stop is at the terminal. Also, be prepared to shove around people who are standing in the bus. I hit a lot of people all the time, and this gave me a lot of mean looks. To be safe, just don’t fall asleep. “Bukas-bag” gangs are everywhere. Sleeping through your stop is terrible, too – although it would definitely keep you awake through your commute. And it would be a learning experience walking around Ayala and Buendia trying to find the MRT station.

The Metro rail Transit or MRT is one, if not the most crucial way of getting around the metro. MRT, along with the Light Rail Transit System (LRT), is the blood coursing through the veins of Metro Manila. And every day is like a mosh pit.

I take the MRT from the Taft station to the Quezon Avenue station. I had to go through 13 stations so it’s best to find a seat quickly for the 30-minute ride.

This is probably the most relaxing part of your journey. Despite the hellishly long lines (especially in the Taft and North Avenue stations, unless you have a stored-value ticket card), mosh pits and tight-as-a-sardine-can train situations, MRT rides are quite enjoyable. You get to view EDSA, one of the most important highways in Metro Manila, in a boring roller coaster. Your music moments make it extra special, so make sure to listen to that music player to savor the moment. It is nice to just reflect about life while looking at buildings – just make sure nobody’s standing in front of you or people will assume you are looking at them and thinking thoughts best left unknown.

And now, to the jeepney. You can opt to take a taxi cab, if you’re part of the alta sociedad or just plain lazy to take a jeepney. But if you want to spend a whopping 10 pesos (student fare), you can take the jeepney. Just tell the nice conductors that you’re a “’studyante”.

tumblr_mbhbs6RNHY1qapm00o11_1280 From Quezon Avenue, I take the jeepney marked “U.P. Campus”. This is probably the second most enjoyable part of the trip. A jeepney joyride around one of the most beautiful campuses ever? Why not, coconut? The joyride is short-lived, though. I have to get off at the College of Arts and Letters. To explore more of the greens (and browns) of the U.P. environment, walking is always an option.

So there you have it – a guide for a charming 2-hour commute from Cavite to Quezon City. Venetian gondolas? San Fransisco trams? A train through the English countryside? Try the Metro Manila commute! It’s even more endearing than what you would have expected. Remember: it’s the journey, not the destination.

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