MRT HOLDOUT NO MORE


“Ayoko ng mainit, ayoko ng masikip, ayoko ng mabaho, ayoko ng putik! [I don’t like the heat, the crush of people, the bad smells, the mud!]” goes an oft-quoted line by actress Maricel Soriano in one of her movies. Now I’ve had my share of each, but I’ve gotten to that point in my life where I don’t have to take them on all at the same time. And so when the MRT was finally fully operational in 2000, my friends and family were all agog about taking the train everywhere. I was the lone holdout. I was perfectly willing to take a cab everywhere, considering it takes me from point A to point B in just one ride. If I could pay to avoid stress (what Maricel said, plus vertiginous visions of steep grey staircases), I would. But cashflow always has its limits.

One Friday night this May I called a boutique owner about the availability of crafting supplies in her Greenbelt 2 shop. Having just experienced scouring eBay for items, and anxiously awaiting news from a UK seller, I wanted to see which items I could save delivery costs on. Lo and behold, the very items I wanted were much more affordable here than if I had ordered them from Singapore! We’re talking made-in-Germany Addi Turbo circular knitting needles, which sells retail in the US for $15 a pair (here in Manila it’s half that price; in Singapore, it’s US$10, and I’d still have to add cost of shipping). If I could pay a reasonable price for a global product distributed by a local business that pays taxes and employs Filipinos and gives me instant gratification, I would do so in a heartbeat.

So the very next morning, wanting to put my cab fare budget into my craft supplies budget, I left for the Shangri-la MRT station on Shaw Blvd. Within an hour, I was able to: ride to Ayala Ave., buy my craft supplies, pay my cellphone bill, and ride back to Shaw. So many things accomplished in an hour! Amazing. My wallet was lighter by four P5 coins and two P1 coins (P11 each way) — plus more I didn’t count, for the Philippine National Red Cross (with its teen volunteers at the train stations always polite and smiling, how can I not share?). Yes it was a clean and safe ride, a bit warm despite the airconditioning, but this was a Philippine summer.

I could not imagine why I had held out from riding the MRT for so long. I just wasn’t ready before this, I guess.

I took the Ayala to Shaw route again after a breakfast meeting in Glorietta last June 5. I especially liked the view over Guadalupe bridge, and wanted to take a picture or a video with my cellphone but was afraid people would think I was violating their privacy. I was in the women-only train, which I was glad of, but I suppose if I planned the timing of my trips, any train on the MRT would work equally well. Some bloggers I met the next evening at Juned’s birthday dinner wanted to discuss the discriminatory quality of having a women-only train, but they did remember that wheelchair-bound passengers, pregnant women, women with young children and senior citizens were welcome to that train too.

Having lived abroad I took the ease of travelling by train or tube or tram or bus for granted. Blind passengers with seeing eye dogs, even paraplegics driving motorized wheelchairs, had enviable mobility. In countries where public transport leaves and arrives according to schedule, where my safety was relatively guaranteed, I didn’t need to think twice. Given the current rise in oil prices, I’m pleased Filipinos have public transport options like the MRT and LRT. Of course, I never intend to take the train on a rush hour. Never. I long ago promised myself not to arrive anywhere in a bad-hair, short-tempered state if I could help it.

I hear there’s a continuation of the MRT route planned, from SM City North Edsa towards Fairview and ending in San Jose del Monte (Bulacan), announced in the news early this year. But first I want to try going to Divisoria from Shaw (Shaw northward to Araneta Center interchange, switching lines to the LRT ending at Doroteo Jose). Yes, my motivations are craft-related, and it’ll be an adventure.

In the meantime, I leave you with this nifty site ParaSaTabi.com, which has been giving out online public transportation routes within Metro Manila since 2005. Many thanks to UrbanRail.net for the above image.

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