Life

Commuting in Manila is a Nightmare. We Spoke to People Who Miss It.

“I miss the times when the jeepney barker would say, ‘We can take one more,’ and I’d believe him but end up with half my ass hanging off the jeepney seat.”
May 26, 2021, 9:28am
manila commute traffic experience
Commuters ride on the MRT 3 train along the main road EDSA in Manila. PHOTO: TED ALJIBE / AFP

One of the few bright spots of the pandemic is that working remotely is now the norm for many. For those living in Manila—one of the most densely populated cities in the world—that means not having to leave the house two hours earlier to avoid the frustratingly long queues for the MRT, LRT, bus, or jeepney, just to get to work on time. Driving in Manila is a nightmare but public transportation is arguably worse

Cue flashbacks of standing in unimaginably crowded lines, waiting on broken trains, and anticipating pay cuts due to tardiness, then eventually giving up and booking a Grab taxi or Angkas bike. 

We hated it then, but now there’s something nostalgic about times when we rode shoulder-to-shoulder with absolute strangers and, if we were lucky, happened to have a short and sweet conversation with a fellow passenger. It’s a blessing to be able to stay home and avoid crowds these days, but an activity once marked by its inconvenience is now part of those pre-pandemic rituals many people around the world actually mourn. 

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So, VICE asked Manileños, Manileñas, and Manileñxs if they missed their chaotic daily commute too.

Rhea Mae, 30, Customer Service Manager

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Rhea Mae

“Aside from planning what snacks I should buy to avoid getting hungry while in transit, I miss the small, random talks with fellow commuters, or with the UV Express drivers when I'm seated up front. It was so much fun to hear stories about their pets, Cardo Dalisay [of the massively popular show Ang Probinsyano], or how our transportation system should improve. It’s more comfortable on the front seat because it’s not as tight as the back. Not all UV Express drivers are chatty, just some, and it’s usually the older ones. Maybe it’s also to avoid getting sleepy.”

Julian Ticzon, 26, Marketing Manager 

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Julian Ticzon

“One thing I miss were those random days when the rush hour lines were too long, so I would just look for a place to get a drink instead.”

Monica Narisma, 31, Accounts Associate 

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Monica Narisma

“I miss the times when the jeepney barker would say ‘Kasya pa isa (We can take one more),’ and I’d believe him but end up with half my ass hanging off the jeepney seat.”

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: gloverbh222, Pixabay

Bea Laiz, 22, Community Manager

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Bea Laiz

"Now that I think about it, I miss the mundanity. I don't miss anything about it specifically. Just that I got to do it."

Moon-Moon V., Jewelry Designer 

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Moon-Moon V.

“I miss people leaving me alone or transferring seats when I sat next to them.”

Rafa Salud, 26, Process Analyst

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Rafa Salud

“Actually, I miss the two-hour bus rides. I got so much done. Sometimes I’d work, then watch Netflix. I can’t do that now that I drive.” 

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Mara Rivera, Unsplash

Giles de Jesus, 25, Actor and Model

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Giles de Jesus

“The convenience. Yes, it’s convenient. And cheap. Now I have to drive everywhere. Gas and parking make my wallet bleed.” 

Nori Hernandez, 29, Art Director

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Nori Hernandez

“I miss talking to the people in my carpool and the UV Express dispatcher/owner. He’s gay and used to tell me stories every morning. He’d tell me about his life in the States, where he went wild and opened up—things he couldn’t do in the Philippines around his military dad. He even got a boyfriend there.”

Paolo Palanca, 26, Entrepreneur

manila commute traffic experience

Photo: Courtesy of Paolo Palanca

“The view from the MRT and LRT. It's higher up than when you’re in a car, so the perspective is much better. I remember on the MRT, I’d see the Pasig River run in both directions, with the water lilies and boats floating along. There was also that gigantic hole in the ground on EDSA cor. Ortigas in Wack Wack. The sunrises and sunsets were also nice from the train, but hard to enjoy when it was so crowded. At the Magallanes station overpass, there's a great view of EDSA and the trains. It was also nice to zoom past the bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

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