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.
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.
So, VICE asked Manileños, Manileñas, and Manileñxs if they missed their chaotic daily commute too.
Rhea Mae, 30, Customer Service Manager
“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
“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
“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.”
Bea Laiz, 22, Community Manager
"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
“I miss people leaving me alone or transferring seats when I sat next to them.”
Rafa Salud, 26, Process Analyst
“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.”
Giles de Jesus, 25, Actor and Model
“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
“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
“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.
Follow Romano Santos on Instagram.