It’s been one of the constant things people ask me time and time again, “Why do you travel that way?” And then the usual follow up question which really is more of a statement than a question, “Isn’t that such a long way to go?” Some people can be really sincere sometimes, but what most people are really saying is ‘Isn’t that an awful waste of your time?’ Some people even give me a tone like I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. Like I’ve not been traveling that way nearly all my life. Like I’m the only person in the entire archipelago traveling that way.
You see, I live in Bulacan. That’s located north of Metro Manila. Currently, I work in the City of Makati. That’s more than 15 kms away from Bulacan. My travel time should be just a little over an hour but Manila traffic is one of the worst in the world. During rush hours – Manila reality – that’s between 6 in the morning to 9 in the evening, so that means my travel time would be 3-4hrs. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m incredibly grateful to God I work during the night.
Every time people ask me about it, I try my best to be polite. I’ve decided a long time ago, it’s better that way. Being rude can be very exhausting for me. I can be very sarcastic, but sarcasm for me is based on the type of people I deal with. You can’t be sarcastic with regular Filipinos. They tend to be very kind. They won’t get it. It can be funny the first few times but it can get old really fast too with my countrymen. Then again, there are those worthy of sarcasm. Hahaha!
So before I stray away from what I really wanted to say, I travel the way I do because I don’t want to miss anything this gift of life has to offer. And to share some of the things that made traveling Metro Manila a little bearable for me than most. Please understand I’m not really one of those people who made it my habit to complain. I do, however, speak my mind to make sure I understand things that aren’t quite clear to me. I’m writing NOT to make people feel I’m superior to them in any way and to demand that I am someone they should emulate. It is my hope that these blogs would be helpful.
When I travel the way I do, I see lots of things. I hear different kinds of sounds. I feel all sorts of things. I smell the most unbelievable scents there are. There’s always something interesting happening. It’s exciting! It thrills me.
I leave home past 9 o’clock in the evening. That means I catch the last train ride to work which leaves North Avenue station at 9:55pm. Most of the time, I have no problem. The only time I get a problem is when the van driver from Bulacan decides he’s going to drive forever. And I mean, like, for the rest of his life. To be fair, there are times too when EDSA decides to be very selfish. Those nights when it seems to want all the cars in the world stuck in it just because it wants them all there. When that happens, obviously, I miss the last train ride. So I take the bus.
Now, when it comes to buses in EDSA, you have to be really smart and picky. I would have less than an hour to get to work from Quezon City to the City of Makati. That means I have to go through four major cities in Metro Manila before reaching my destination. Did I mention less than an hour to get there?
That means I can’t just ride any bus. To make sure I don’t get stuck with annoying bus drivers who doesn’t seem to know how to do their job properly because they would rather stay in EDSA than bring people where they need to get to, you need decent bus drivers. And awesome conductors!
So this is for people who commute both daytime and night time. This is NOT for those who have their own cars. Unless, you’d rather ditch your car and follow my instructions. Hehe.. Here are my recommendations when going on a commute in Manila along EDSA:
1. Take the Cher bus, Northbound or Southbound. This is my first choice and I highly recommend it. It’s painted green & yellow. It’s an air-conditioned bus. Awesome air conditioning, by the way. Safe to say, it’s a well-maintained bus. The bus drivers are highly qualified & effective. You have to be alert when you’re trying to catch this bus though. This bus is such a snob. If you’re not in the right place, because they’re law-abiding bus drivers, you’ll lose your chance. If you don’t have a lot of time in your hand and want to be where you need to be, Cher is the best option for you.
2. Take buses that has “Pacita” in their signboard if you’re Southbound. These are provincial buses and are air-conditioned buses too. They travel well, fast & no rude conductors. These buses aren’t as snob as Cher, but they are really good with following the law too. Of course, don’t forget the MMDA bus codes as well. Very important if you don’t want to end up walking along EDSA.
3. Lastly, take ordinary provincial buses like Roval if you need a ride that’s faster than a speeding bullet. Hahaha! Provincial buses are really fast. Works for me because I like fast driving and I’m not one of those girls who care so much about their hair style. Just be mindful of people who will sit beside you. Beware of pickpockets especially during the night. But even so during the day.
If you’re like me, and thankfully it doesn’t happen very often, I enjoy it when I witness cat fights on trains. Hahaha! Here in the Philippines, there’s a special coach for women. And even though I don’t get to sit often, I like it better there. Actually, I usually give my seat away to other ladies. I feel like I sit at work long enough. So when I travel back home, I prefer standing.
But on a serious note, because I travel that way, I get to appreciate every bit of beauty. We, Filipinas, are really so beautiful. Incomparable. Incredibly beautiful inside and out. I’ve always felt like we are never the weird looking type. We’re very simple in our ways. But then maybe that’s just me.
I know that trains can be romantic according to popular belief. And I have my fair share of encounters with ‘romantic’ men, so to speak. But no matter how handsome a guy maybe, and no matter how the ladies around me faint because of what the handsome fellow did, I always get annoyed. Or try so hard not to laugh. I’m really bad when it comes to that sort of thing. I’ve always believed that the only time I will find something romantic is if it’s done to me by the man I love.
Now, while there can be romances and beauty on a train, there can be loads of unbelievable, unbearable, unbeatable smells on it too. And that’s one of the funniest things ever. Always. It’s not something I look forward to but I’m always caught off guard when they make their presence known. You know how it can be sometimes on trains? Those times when you’re pretty much like sausages inside and then the person you’re next to breathes toxic fumes? They didn’t have to open their mouths. That can be a very devastating time. Life-threatening even. Just be careful with those. Avoid it by pressing in to the middle of the train where usually the air conditioning is best and there can be lots of space. For some reason, people want to stay by the train doors. Apparently, most people really would rather do things the hard way.
Now, sometimes it can happen that the buses I need in just won’t show up. Obviously, because I’m picky. At that time, of course, the only other option is to take a cab. About cabs here in Metro Manila, just be careful. I had just one scary experience with a bad taxi driver. I made it my choice a long time ago, that would be the last. I’ve been hearing lots of really bad stories in the past, and I mean you can still hear them these days, and that people now have taken it as an everyday life experience. But there was one time, I wasn’t careful & mindful. I experienced something terrible, at least for me.
He was wearing eyeglasses on a rainy day. He started yelling at me after I asked him, and very sweetly if I may add, to take the flyover for us not to experience anymore delays because I don’t want to be late. It got me so scared, I couldn’t say anything. By the time, I got inside the Frontera Verde Compound, he was still yelling at me. I was so scared & angry, I threw my money at the passenger seat. And then went out of the cab but then he grabbed my hand and hurled insults at me and told me he won’t let me out of his cab. I started yelling for help. When he realised where he brought me, he finally let go. And hurriedly drove out of the compound. The experience heightened security in the area. At least, that’s what we were told when I was still working there.
So from that time on, I never rode a cab anymore unless it was a company cab. So because I don’t want anyone else to experience the same thing, here are my tips about taking the taxi here in Metro Manila:
1. Take a company cab.
A company cab has the name of the company at the top of the car. Make it a habit to take down the plate number of the cab which you should see inside the car and the name of the cab company. Equally important is the time you took the ride. The moment you get inside the car, send a text to your emergency numbers.
2. If you’re not in a hurry, don’t ride a cab which has the word “Taxi” at the top.I understand that’s pretty much all the taxi in Manila. But please keep in mind, it doesn’t matter how good looking the car is. If you’re not in a hurry, and you’re alone, my advice is not to take those. Not that it means, you will get into trouble. Drivers of cabs like that ask for extra charges and can be very rude. Not all cab drivers are bad though and not all would negotiate a fare on top of the flag down rate. But company cab drivers are careful, polite and won’t ask for an extra charge.
3. Speaking of charges, if you want cashless rides then go for Uber. There’s Grab taxi too. They still take cash but I’d still prefer company cabs. I’m not really a big believer of sleek, easy and “stylish” whatever or something new. I can be very suspicious sometimes. And not just because something came from America or is “imported” doesn’t mean I’ll be all over it too. That’s just me though.
Hopefully, these are helpful pieces of information to everybody. Especially, when you’re traveling night time, like me. Stay safe always. And be alert, people. Enjoy Manila!