The VICE Guide to Right Now

Young Filipinos Share Their Craziest Experiences in Manila’s Notorious Public Transport

From faking injuries to getting punched, commuting in the city is never easy.
September 27, 2019, 3:44am
manila traffic edsa commute
Photo via Unsplash user Eldon Vince Isidro.

It’s 2019 and Metro Manila still lacks a reliable public transportation system. Long lines for a ride on a bus or jeepney stretch along busy roads daily. The Metro Rail Transit (MRT) experienced over 500 glitches in 2017 alone. Close to 400,000 vehicles pass through the metro's main highway EDSA everyday.

While this has been happening for a while, most Filipinos still haven’t gotten used to the 3-hour commutes that are only worsened by humid weather or intense flooding. Sometimes, people are forced to resort to extreme measures just to get to their desired destinations.

Earlier this month, people were seen climbing through a bus window just to catch a ride on the already packed vehicle. This was caught on video and instantly went viral, with many commenters sharing their own transportation nightmares.

It’s an experience shared by everyone living in the city, so VICE reached out to other Manila residents to find out the wildest things they’ve experienced in their daily commute.

Cara, 32, Advertising Account Executive

VICE: Hi Cara, what’s the wildest thing you’ve done or experienced to get around Manila’s bad public transportation?

Cara: I borrowed a sling from my classmate in college. He was an athlete and had just recovered from an injured arm, so he happened to have one in his bag. It was rush hour and I wanted to be home early since I still had to study for a major test the next day.

I was already so tired from school and I couldn’t imagine having to fight my way for a spot on the train, so I wore it and faked that I was injured. When I got to the train station, it was cramped, as I had expected, so every time someone would brush my arm, I would make a face, as if in pain.

The guards directed me towards the PWD (persons with disabilities) section of the train and although there was space for me to sit, I still chose to stand. A wave of guilt came over me and although I got home early, safe, and unbothered, I would never do that again.

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Vehicles traversing Manila. Photo via Unsplash user Eldon Vince Isidro.

Mia, 18, Writer

VICE: Hi Mia! Any crazy experiences while commuting in Manila?

Mia: I was on my way to school, rushing for a final exam, but the train was full. I didn’t have time to wait for the next train because unlike other countries, we don’t really follow a strict schedule here. Sometimes it comes in 5 minutes, or 10, or worse—it’s a skip-train and you have to wait again. So I squeezed myself into the train car as soon as it arrived at the station. But since people were fighting their way in as well, I fell in between the train and the platform.

My right leg was stuck and I couldn't move. The guard was stationed at the front area of the platform, so he didn’t see me. People on the train were screaming, but no one bothered to help pull me up. Suddenly, I heard the beeping noise that signals that the train doors were closing, but I was still there, still in shock, preparing myself mentally to lose half of my body.

It’s a good thing a classmate, who was also going to school, suddenly got to the platform and ran to pull me up. The guard eventually took notice and signalled the train conductor to stop. I was approached by the authorities to sign release forms for documentation purposes but none of them asked me if I was OK.

But you know what, I rode that same train the next day because I didn’t have a choice.

Jaime, 27, Architect

VICE: Hi Jaime, how's your commuting experience?

Jaime: The stretch where I usually ride the bus can be intense. It’s along Ayala Avenue, which is in the business district Makati. Commuters there really have no mercy. They don’t care if you’re a woman, pregnant, or a person with a disability. It’s so rare for someone to give way.

In more than one instance, I witnessed fights break out while in line or while getting on the bus. Your mental state changes during rush hour and all that matters is that you secure your seat on the bus.

jeepney manila

A jeepney in Manila. Photo via Unsplash user Yannes Kiefer.

Shallah, 27, Director

VICE: Hi Shallah, any memorable commute-related stories?

Shallah: This isn’t extreme, just a sad story. I was supposed to have dinner with the Stevie Wonder and it was Friday, rush hour and payday. A triple threat! I looked out my window and just gave up.

Isa, 25, Law Student

VICE: Hi Isa, any bad experiences while commuting in Manila?

Isa: I couldn’t get a seat on the bus or book a ride home through a ride-sharing app, so I walked around 10 kilometres to an area where I could get a bus on a rainy day in Makati. Oh, and did I mention that my umbrella was broken, so I cried most of the walk in my wet socks.

Mich, 22, Graphic Artist and Animator

VICE: Hi Mich, what are some of the extreme things you've done to beat Manila's transportation problems?

Mich: I have tweeted my exact location to thousands of strangers who follow me on social media to see if anyone who was in the area and on the road could give me and my friend a ride. It works.

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A train in Metro Manila. Photo via Unsplash user Eugenio Pastoral.

Roy, 25, Sound Engineer

VICE: Hi Roy, any bad experiences while commuting in Manila?

Roy: I was punched in the stomach one time during the MRT rush hour since a guy wanted to get on the train first. I was still able to sneak myself in. Aside from that, I usually stand and latch on to the back of a jeepney for an entire hour-and-a-half—even on weekends!

Jen, 21, Social Media Assistant

VICE: Hi Jen, what has Manila's transportation problems made you do?

Jen: I had to take multiple types of transportation just to get to my destination.

The train was full so I took a bus, but I was still nowhere near where I needed to be. I got down the bus but since no apps had available cars, I took a public van to continue my journey. I was going to a house in a gated community, so I was dropped off at a gas station on the main road. I then used an app to book a motorcycle that drove to the neighbourhood’s gate. When I got there, I realised the house I was going to was on the other end, so I had to take a tricycle.

*Interviews were edited for clarity and all names were changed to protect privacy.

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